Manchester City (0) 1 Arsenal (0) 0
FA Cup Fourth Round
Etihad Stadium, Ashton New Road, Manchester M11 3FF
Friday, 27th January 2023. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-3-3) Matt Turner; Takehiro Tomiyasu, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Fabio Vieira, Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka (c); Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah, Leandro Trossard.
Substitutes: Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Martin Ødegaard, Gabriel Martinelli, William Saliba, Jakub Kiwior, Albert Sambi Lokonga, (Marcus Vinicius Oliveira Alencar) Marquinhos, Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Yellow Cards: Rob Holding, Oleksandr Zinchenko
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 46%
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistant Referees: Constantine Hatzidakis, Neil Davies
Fourth Official: Robert Jones
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR John Brook; AVAR Harry Lennard
For tonight’s game here at the Etihad Stadium, Mikel Arteta has made six changes from the team that beat Manchester United last Sunday. A welcome full debut from Leandro Trossard, and it is also good to see our new defender Jakub Kiwior on the substitute’s bench tonight too.
Arsenal kicked off the match and within two minutes there was a bit of an escape for us when Rob Holding and Erling Haaland were wrestling just outside our penalty area; the City man got beyond him and went down just outside the box but fortunately the referee gave the free-kick to us. A few minutes later, some wonderful play by new boy Leandro Trossard on his debut, when he left John Stones standing with some good skill and cut it back for Takehiro Tomiyasu, whose drive inside the penalty area was well saved by Stefan Ortega to deny our man the opening goal of the night. There was a bit of a drama when Erling Haaland shoved away Rob Holding and ran some forty yards towards our goal. Matt Turner raced out of his box to stop him bearing down on goal, but the ball fell to the City man though and his twenty-five yard overhead kick went over Matt Turner, but was cleared by Takehiro Tomiyasu. We were doing a good job not letting the home side settle too long on the ball, and as such, is causing them some frustration in some areas. We won a free kick on the edge of the penalty area, and as the ball came loose, Bukayo Saka’s first-time shot from twenty yards went straight at a defender, and as the game started to settle down, both sides are looking for gaps and spaces to exploit. After twenty minutes, the best chance of the match so far fell to us, when Leandro Trossard nipped into the penalty area and blasted in a shot which Stefan Ortega parried away. So close. After a Kevin de Bruyne shot that shaved Matt Turner’s right-hand post, Erling Haaland went down to the floor following a challenge from Rob Holding, and both coaches used the hiatus for some impromptu coaching on the sidelines. After the restart, we were unlucky not to score when Leandro Trossard burst down the left wing, crossed the ball into the middle for Eddie Nketiah to guide the ball narrowly past the right-hand post. A bizarre Kieran Tierney ricochet launched the ball towards his own goal, Erling Haaland barged past Gabriel but our man diid enough to put him off and the City man shot wide, thankfully. Just before half time, Rob Holding received a yellow card for holding onto Erling Haaland’s shirt; he needs to be careful, as it is the last thing we need is for him to get his marching orders from referee Paul Tierney. There were two minutes injury time, in which not too much of note happened, and we went into the break feeling that we had the run of them at places in this half.
The home side get the second half under way and unsurprisingly, William Saliba replaced Rob Holding, and in a double substitution, Albert Sambi Lokonga replaced Thomas Partey as well. Takehiro Tomiyasu did very well to head a long Stefan Ortega clearance back to Matt Turner before Erling Haaland could run on to it. City put us under pressure for the next few minutes, and after Matt Turner punched a ball clear, he went to ground in our penalty area, but after some attention to him by our medical staff, he carried on playing. Just before the hour mark, Fabio Vieira had a chance to score, but his volley went wide, and although both sides are having some good chances, the match was starting to level out a bit, and after the ferocious start to the match, things were looking a wee bit pedestrian now. Somehow, in the space of a minute, the home side hit the post, and shortly afterwards, a Nathan Ake shot beat Matt Turner to open the scoring for the Mancunians. Immediately, Mikel Arteta made two substitutions, with Kieran Tierney and Leandro Trossard being replaced by Gabriel Martinelli and Oleksandr Zinchenko. With fresh legs out there on the pitch, we came close to scoring when Eddie Nketiah had the ball taken away from him at the last minute, sadly. The goal certainly livened things up somewhat, and with twenty minutes of the match remaining, we are trying hard to get through the City defence, but we just could not break through despite all of our best efforts. Bukayo Saka was replaced by Martin Ødegaard, who unceremoniously received the captain’s armband from Granit Xhaka. Unfortunately the substitutes and stopping for fouls and the suchlike have broken the continuity of the game, and as such, the crowd are sensing that this match could still go either way tonight now. It appears to be that we are finding it hard to break out of our half, and City are applying the basic rules of game management utilising the possession game. With the clock running down, we had two corner kicks in succession, but sadly they went nowhere. Gabriel Martinelli had two really good chances to score, but was denied when Stefan Ortega flew out of his goal to save at his feet; we certainly look a different team since he came onto the pitch. Oleksandr Zinchenko received a yellow card for a messy challenge, and as the match slipped into four minutes of injury time, our chances were becoming very few and far between now. The match petered out to its natural conclusion, and with it, our exit from this year’s FA Cup.
All in all, yes, it was a bitterly disappointing result, but there was not a lot between Manchester City and ourselves when it comes right down to it. We had our chances, we played very well, particularly in the first half, and at the end of the day, a draw would have been a fairer result to take away from the Etihad Stadium tonight. There were good things to take away from the match; an impressive performance by Leandro Trossard, Matt Turner made some truly amazing saves which literally kept us in the game at one point, and Takehiro Tomiyasu’s positional play was exceptionally good. Still, all things considered, we did the best we could on a cold Friday night in Manchester. Who knows what will happen when we meet in the Premiership again in a few weeks’ time?
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: Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday, 4th February at 12.30pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. 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