Arsenal (0) 0 Manchester City (1) 1
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 21st December 2021. Kick-off time: 4.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Pablo Marí, Kieran Tierney; Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Nicolas Pépé; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Gabriel Magalhães, Dani Ceballos, Alexandre Lacazette, Willian Borges da Silva, Cédric Soares, David Luiz, Emile Smith-Rowe, Mat Ryan; Gabriel Martinelli
Yellow Cards: Granit Xhaka, Hector Bellerin
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 45%
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Assistant Referees: Marc Perry, Dan Robathan
Fourth Official: Andy Madley
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Peter Bankes; AVAR Timothy Wood
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
Good to see Kieran Tierney being fit enough to make the starting line-up today, along with Pablo Marí, but unfortunately Thomas Partey is still injured and is unavailable for selection. Amongst the substitutes this afternoon is Alexandre Lacazette, Dani Ceballos and Emile Smith-Rowe, who are ready to spring into action if needed. Let’s Go!
Within two minutes, the imminent danger of the visitors became clear and obvious when Raheem Sterling opened the scoring with a header after receiving a cross from Riyad Mahrez, which completely unbalanced us so early on in the game. Manchester City certainly had the bit between their teeth, as they had three or four serious goalscoring chances within the first ten minutes, in which they came extremely close in punishing us further. Although we had difficulty in imposing ourselves on the match, our players did try to do their best to pass their way out of trouble; in fact it was in one of these breakouts when Bukayo Saka was unlucky not to hit the target, after some great work out on the left by Kieran Tierney, which unfortunately was deemed to be offside by referee Jonathan Moss. The visitors completely dominated proceedings, so much so in fact, it seemed as if a second Manchester City goal seemed inevitable. However, just before the half hour mark, Kieran Tierney ran into the City half, cut inside and hit a strong shot on the half volley, only for Ederson to smother the ball quite easily; in fact, most of our breakouts have come from Kieran Tierney on the left hand side, and his speed and crossing ability (not to mention his excellent shooting prowess) has been the best part of the afternoon for us. Just before half-time, Hector Bellerin won a heading challenge in the City penalty area, only for Nicolas Pépé to pick up the loose ball, and his subsequent shot went into the visitors’ side netting. In injury time, we found some strength and agrression from somewhere, asked questions of the visitors’ defence and our confidence had grown in stature, but unfortunately we went into the break one goal down.
The second half started exactly the way the first half began, with the visitors pressurising us, looking for the second goal, but our defence held firm, and managed to play ourselves out of trouble. We certainly gave a better account of ourselves in this half, with our players looking for goals, making the match an end-to-end affair. We certainly looked stronger in this half, with more belief, fight and awareness, and although City were having their chances, we managed to hold firm. Both teams were looking solid and tough, looking for chinks in each other’s armour as the game advanced. The match started to get scrappy with several Manchester City players ending up in the referee’s book, quite deservedly, for petulant and aggressive behaviour towards our men. Emile Smith-Rowe and Alexandre Lacazette replaced Martin Ødegaard and Nicolas Pépé with eighteen minutes of the match remaining, in order for us to be more proactive in grabbing the equalising goal. Almost immediately, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled the ball back for Bukayo Saka in the middle of the visitors’ penalty area, who changed direction quickly, but unfortunately, he slipped on the wet surface, allowing Fernandinho to clear the ball away. David Luiz replaced Rob Holding under the terms of the new concussion injury substitution rule with seven minutes of the match remaining, and a couple of minutes later, Dani Ceballos replaced Mohamed Elneny to put more pressure on the City defence. In the end, it made no difference, as the score remained the same as it was after the first two minutes of this match.
Although we lost today, we should not be too downhearted. Having conceded a goal in the first two minutes, we struggled for most of the first half to compete, but in the second half we got back into the match and although we did not score, we created chances, which on another day, would have led to an equaliser. Manchester City are one of the best teams in Europe at the present time, and to lose by only one goal is no disgrace; we were beaten by the better side in terms of formation, discipline, and ruthlessness. We also know that we are several players away from getting to this standard, but one day we will. We travel to Greece to play Benfica on Thursday, and if we take lessons from today’s match, then we should become victorious and move onwards to the next stage of the competition, but today was just one of those things against a very, very good side, that’s all.
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: Benfica at Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus, Attica, Athens, Greece on Thursday, 25th February 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.