In a remarkable change of events, Arsenal scored a 1-0 victory over Manchester City, a win that could potentially have a profound impact on the Gunners’ fortunes in the Premier League. Before this match, Arsenal had faced 15 straight Premier League encounters with Manchester City without a win, dating back to January 2015.
Arsenal vs Manchester City:
The enormity of this success was not missed by the Arsenal supporters, who had undergone a terrible 12 consecutive defeats in their previous clashes, including two devastating losses in the previous season when Manchester City claimed their fifth title in six seasons.
The ecstatic emotions at the Emirates Stadium following Gabriel Martinelli’s deflected 86th-minute winner were a release of eight years of pent-up rage, a moment that felt like busting through a long-standing glass ceiling. However, it’s crucial to remember that Manchester City were not at their best on the day, something we will dig into later in this piece.
Nevertheless, Arsenal had to battle with the absence of their talismanic winger, Bukayo Saka, who missed his first league game in 88 consecutive appearances. Despite this setback, they found a way to defeat the defending champions, a triumph that could act as a spark for rebuilding their self-belief.
Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta, recognised the significance of this success, noting, “I don’t know if it was a barrier, but it was something we needed to go through. To beat them, we have to lose against them, we have to lose perhaps the way we lost at the Etihad. We lost in two different ways during last season, but here we were in better form.
The team exhibited amazing maturity today, that comes from experiences. Sometimes you need that to develop a better team. Certainly, it sends a message to the team to keep believing in what they’re doing because they’re a terrific set of guys.”
For much of the game, Sunday’s encounter was a tense, tactical duel and at moments, it bordered on being dull. Surprisingly, this victory represented Arsenal’s first clean sheet at home in the league this season. Arteta noted that their leaky defense in past matches was due to their propensity to attack early, leaving themselves susceptible. However, they demonstrated a more balanced approach against City, restricting their opponents to just four shots and only one shot on target.
The defensive duo of William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes successfully neutralized the threat offered by Erling Haaland, with Declan Rice making a stunning 13 defensive interventions during the game. Haaland, who is known for his goal-scoring prowess, ended the encounter with an expected goals figure of 0.00.
While Arsenal celebrated their triumph, questions were raised about Manchester City’s capacity to survive without crucial midfielders Kevin de Bruyne and Rodri. De Bruyne had been important in City’s triumphs over Arsenal in the previous season and his absence was palpably felt. Rodri’s absence, particularly in away games, has proven to be significant for City. They have now lost five of their previous eight league away games in which Rodri hasn’t started. Their overall victory record lowers dramatically when he is not on the pitch.
Pep Guardiola praised Rodri’s value, saying, “Rodri is an essential player like the other ones, for the fact that the last years he played a lot of games. The Carabao Cup game was a little bit different but the game against Wolves was significant, today as well. We know it. It doesn’t matter, but when he is not there, we need to find a method to do it.”
Guardiola’s choice to start Bernardo Silva, Mateo Kovacic and Rico Lewis in center midfield may have smothered Arsenal, but it also hampered City’s creativity. The absence of Rodri’s defensive presence was apparent in this tactical approach.
Despite a few heated moments throughout the match, including Kovacic’s tackles on Martin Odegaard and Rice, Arsenal managed to seal the victory with both teams fielding 11 players throughout the game. Guardiola, although accepting the defeat, remains faith in his team’s capacity to bounce back, recalling their ability to erase an eight-point disadvantage to Arsenal in the previous season.
Arsenal’s 1-0 victory over Manchester City signifies a turning moment for the Gunners, breaking a long-standing hoodoo and providing a much-needed boost to their confidence. While City suffered issues owing to the absence of important players, the win showed that Arsenal is capable of competing at the highest level. As the season progresses, both teams will need to regroup and adapt to preserve their competitiveness in the Premier League.