(3-4-3) Bernd Leno; David Luiz, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Hector Bellerin, Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka, Bukayo Saka; Nicolas Pépé, Willian Borges da Silva, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Alexandre Lacazette, Alex Rúnarsson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah.
Yellow Cards: Thomas Partey
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 43%
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Assistant Referees: ian Massey-Ellis, Constantine Hatzidakis
Fourth Official: Anthony Taylor
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Stuart Attwell; AVAR Andy Halliday
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restructions
For our first match in thirteen days due to the international break, Mikel Arteta returns to the Etihad with a strong, hungry team that thankfully includes Kieran Tierney, who has been pronounced fit after self-isolating due to a coronavirus scare in the Scotland camp, and our new £45,000,000 Deadline Day new boy midfielder Thomas Partey, who is on the substitute’s bench, and in theory could make his debut in this pressure cooker of a match. Let’s go!
Unfortunately, Rob Holding had pulled his hamstring in the warm-up, and was replaced in defence by David Luiz at the last minute. The home side had the best of the early exchanges, with penetrating advances into our penalty area, which we found difficult to contain. Nathan Ake found Bernardo Silva on the left, who crossed the ball into the our 18-yard box, but thankfully Kieran Tierney headed it away. The pace of the match was quickening, and we managed to break out into the home side’s half with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang flicking a clever ball into the path of Bukayo Saka, but sadly the City defenders robbed him of a chance to open the scoring. Although most of the action was in our own half, we soaked up the pressure well, and we started to pass the ball between ourselves with confidence. After twenty-three minutes, Sergio Agüero picked the ball up in midfield, stopped and waited for support, and then passed the ball to Phil Foden, who ran inside and although his shot was parried away by Bernd Leno, striker Raheem Sterling was on hand to open the scoring in City’s favour. Shortly afterwards, both Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pépé were desperately unlucky not to score with two good efforts, and in return, Manchester City came back at us aggressively. With six minutes remaining of the first half, Bukayo Saka was desperately unlucky not to score with a clever shot on goal, that saw Ederson push the ball away for a corner; a few minutes later, Ederson made yet another important save when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looked certain to equalise. As the half was finishing, referee Chris Kavanagh denied us a certain penalty when Kyle Walker’s high kick appeared to catch Gabriel, but despite appeals by our forwards, nothing was given, and so we went into the break in deficit.
We started the second half in fine form when Nicolas Pepe headed goalwards from a superb Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cross but Ederson easily retrieved his effort, which led to a period of intelligent football from us. The match started to level out for a while until we had a superb chance to equalise when we had a free kick awarded to us after Ruben Dias was deservedly booked for an extremely late tackle on Bukayo Saka. David Luiz took the free kick which sailed over the City bar. In order to give us more bite up front, Willian was substituted for Alexandre Lacazette after sixty-nine minutes, which was a good move by Mikel Arteta. The home side started to create chances, but thankfully none of them came to fruition; with sixteen minutes of the match remaining, Granit Xhaka made way for Thomas Partey, making his debut in an Arsenal shirt, along with Eddie Nketiah, who replaced Nicolas Pépé. This seemed to lift everyone, when just a few minutes later, a superb pass into the box by David Luiz was just over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s head as we continued to press City for the equalising goal. Two minutes from the end of the match, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was desperately unlucky to be adjudged in an offside postion when receiving an accurate pass from Bukayo Saka, and by now the game started to level out, and the only incident of note was when our debutant was booked by referee Chris Kavanagh for a silly tackle just a minute or so before the final whistle.
Okay, it was disappointing, but looking at the stats, maybe it wasn’t that bad after all. Forty-three percent possession, we both had eight shots off target (with City hitting the spot five times to our three); six corners apiece, with City committing fifteen fouls (with four bookings) to our ten (and one booking). We kept our structure through most of the match whilst keeping out Manchester City for large parts of the game. Thomas Partey looked good, and overall, score withstanding, there were some good points to take forward into Thursday’s match in Vienna.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Rapid Wien at Allianz Stadion on Thursday, 22nd October at 5.55pm(Europa League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.