Buidling Dreams Together


Gabriel Martinelli The Hero As Arsenal Down Manchester City At The Emirates

A late goal from Gabriel Martinelli saw the Gunners end their 11-game Premier League losing streak against Manchester City.

Arsenal made three changes from the midweek defeat to RC Lens in the UEFA Champions League. Ben White and Jorginho replaced Takehiro Tomiyasu and Kai Havertz as Eddie Nketiah featured ahead of the injured Bukayo Saka whose 87-game starting streak came to an end.

Pep Guardiola also elected to make three alterations from their win in Leipzig on Wednesday. Nathan Ake and matchwinner Julian Alvarez came in for Manuel Akanji and Jack Grealish. Mateo Kovacic started in place of the suspended Rodri in midfield.

The first league meeting between last season’s top two looked to be a tantalising prospect but this game tilted on a knife edge. Arsenal started slowly with City controlling the ball and penning the Gunners back in their own third.

In the fifth minute, Phil Foden’s in-swinging corner was met at the back post by Josko Gvardiol who saw his bouncing effort cleared off the line by Declan Rice. Alvarez helped the ball back into the box for Erling Haaland to flick into the path of Nathan Ake who sliced his effort over from six yards out.

Nerves lingered in the North Bank with David Raya looking shaky on the ball. The Spaniard allowed Gabriel’s back pass to roll across his body for what felt like an age as Alvarez got half a boot to it with Raya fortunate that the ball only hit the side netting.

Arsenal began to progress up the pitch and take advantage of City not having a natural holding midfielder. Oleksandr Zinchenko’s pass was met by Nketiah who drove down the left to cut inside but fired well wide of Ederson’s far post.

Kovacic Controversy

The most controversial moment of the game came soon after with Kovacic fortunate to remain on the pitch. The Croatian’s late challenge on Martin Odegaard went to VAR who deemed Michael Oliver’s award of a yellow card the right decision.

The Croatian midfielder was late in his tackle and his studs were showing as boos erupted around the Emirates as Arsenal felt hard done by.

Just six minutes later, Kovacic was at the centre of the action again, putting in another late challenge on Declan Rice.

The referee was quick to wave away the Gunners’ protests. It was an unnecessary challenge from the former Chelsea man who was previously sent off against Arsenal in the FA Cup Final back in 2020. The Croatian was lucky that VAR couldn’t change the outcome.

Momentum Shift

The second-half started completely different from the first with the introduction of Gabriel Martinelli sparking much-needed intensity in Arsenal’s play.

Declan Rice started to drive forward down the left-hand side, creating overloads to force Rico Lewis and Bernardo Silva wide to create more space in the centre.

Rice’s work saw Arsenal begin to win the ball higher up. He stole the ball from Lewis to supply the lively Martinelli who drove his shot into Ederson’s hands. The crowd raised the noise levels as their team began to push City back.

The key moment of the game was Arteta’s quick response to Guardiola’s triple substitution. The champions brought on John Stones, Matheus Nunes and Jeremy Doku who was tasked with offsetting a tiring Zinchenko.

Without hesitation, Arteta made a triple substitution of his own with Takehiro Tomiyasu, Thomas Partey and Kai Havertz injecting more height and physicality. This proved an inspired move as all of Arteta’s ‘impactors’ combined for Martinelli’s matchwinner.

In the 86th minute, Partey’s diagonal ball was headed down by Tomiyasu into the path of Havertz who held up the ball well before releasing to the onrushing Martinelli. The Brazilian’s effort deflected off the face of Nathan Ake and into the net to send the Emirates wild.

Saliba and Gabriel gave Haaland a rare bad day at the office. Image: Arsenal Official Instagram.
Slow And Steady Wins The Race

Neither side looked anywhere near their best with both teams failing to demonstrate the free-flowing football they embody.

It was a game where both teams’ defensive structures shined. City set up in a 4-1-4-1 out-of-possession with Bernardo Silva used as a defensive midfielder with Arsenal displaying a 4-4-2 off the ball.

Both approaches had their benefits. Due to City’s central dominance, Arsenal defended narrowly to congest the half spaces and nullify Alvarez and Phil Foden.

In contrast, City often engaged man-oriented presses high up the pitch with Lewis and Kovacic pinning Jorginho and Rice. This forced Arsenal to circulate the ball wide and go long to Nketiah. This worked well as their back four’s height advantage allowed them to regain control of possession effectively.

However, the away side did little with it. It was strange that Doku didn’t start the game considering his brilliant form. They lacked natural width with Gvardiol used as more of an attacking full-back which didn’t work.

Consequently, this played into Arsenal’s hands with Jorginho’s inclusion providing extra cover in the centre. They lacked creativity and speed out wide meaning Arsenal could control their penalty area with ease.

On this occasion, Arsenal stopped City from playing. The partnership of William Saliba and Gabriel was sensational.

The pair restricted Erling Haaland to an XG of zero. City’s talisman cut a frustrated figure as he failed to register a shot for the 94 minutes. City’s total of four shots was their lowest ever under Guardiola and the lowest of any side he’s managed since Barcelona back in 2010.

Barrier Broken

Overall, this was a mature and measured performance from the Gunners. They didn’t play an emotional game and remained calm despite a wobbly start to the match. They’ve triumphed over City in the league for the first time since 2015 and it will no doubt give them a massive boost.

As for City, it’s rare to see them be so passive. At times, they looked short of ideas with Foden struggling to influence his side. They missed Rodri in the middle of the park and failed to trouble White or Zinchenko out wide.

The win leaves Arsenal joint top of the league with Tottenham Hotspur going into the international break with City moving down to third after back-to-back league defeats for the first time since 2019.

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