Arsenal – Man City: Manchester City’s depth delivered a 13th-straight Premier League win, stretching their league unbeaten run to 17 with a 1-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
Raheem Sterling’s goal 76 seconds into the game was all City needed to climb 10 points clear of second-place Leicester City, as Man City gears up for a midweek UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg versus Borussia Monchengladbach.
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Arsenal put just one of seven efforts on target but did limit City’s true chances to two early ones, one which ended up in the back of the goal.
The Gunners sit 10th with 34 points. Rob Holding was probably Arsenal’s best player but will be better remembered for being the Gunners’ first concussion substitute.
Three things we learned from Arsenal – Man City
1. Arteta reveals Pep’s plan: Mikel Arteta may not have known that he was breaking news in his prematch interview when he noted that Pep Guardiola’s goal was always to play without a true striker and it’s inspired some interesting discussions about his system and where the game may be going for Guardiola. The interchangeable nature of City’s attacking components in front of a now-steady diamond of Rodri (or, on Sunday, Fernandinho) at defensive mid, two of Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, and John Stones at center back, and Ederson in goal brings an even scarier element to the nightmare City presents to defensive units.
2. City’s depth flex readies for Champions League: The game became a bit of a slog and we should credit Arsenal for limiting the damage (and we will below). But how about City doing the thing without starting Rodri, Kyle Walker, Phil Foden, Sergio Aguero, and Laporte. Only Gabriel Jesus was put into the match, giving De Bruyne a rest as Guardiola prepped for Borussia Monchengladbach. Must be nice.
The rest of the way for City, you ask? Find the guards of honor: Four-straight league matches at home: West Ham, Wolves, Man United, Southampton. Then Fulham and Leicester City away, followed by Leeds and Villa at home, Palace away, Chelsea home, Newcastle away, Brighton away, Everton at home.
3. Arteta backs up Guardiola’s December defense of him: Man City has allowed four goals since mid-November and Guardiola knows that his team is a force. And back on Dec. 22, it felt like the Man City boss was merely sticking up for his former student after his side waxed Arsenal in the League Cup.
Arsenal is 6W-2D-3L in the league since then, albeit with a not-too-tough schedule. Also consider the Man City – Arsenal series for Arteta. Wins are more important to a club like Arsenal, but Arteta has led the Gunners to an FA Cup semifinal win over Man City and lost a pair of tight 1-0s wedged around that 4-1 League Cup loss.
Man of the Match: Kevin De Bruyne
A welcome return for the reigning PL Player of the Year. Three key passes, three shots, and not too many signs of rust.
Arsenal – Man City recap
City was ahead in no time, Mahrez’s cross put in the goal by Sterling to remind Mikel Arteta of the task at hand.
Then we had a “Welcome back KDB” moment as De Bruyne spied Sterling with a silly pass but the English winger was swallowed up by Bernd Leno and three defenders as he took his time to sort a shot.
Arsenal found some life after conceding, but was thwarted by City and the offside flag. Ederson was called into duty with a long Arsenal attempt at the half-hour mark.
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Leno made a great palm save on Ilkay Gundogan when cued up by Sterling.
If we’re honest, Arsenal seemed to accept its fate as no worse than a one-goal loser as much as Guardiola was okay collecting three points without pushing anyone onto the field ahead of midweek versus Borussia Monchengladbach.