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MATCH REPORT: Man City 1 – 0 Arsenal

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

Attendance: 51,694

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.

Steve

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

How seriously should Arteta take the FA Cup?

Two real basic schools of thought:

1) Arteta should rest everyone. The league is our priority. No need to risk players in the FA Cup.

2) Arteta needs to play everyone. Keep the momentum. Winning breed more winning.

Rest them all

Tonight we face Manchester City away, and I really can see the pros and cons of both arguments.

We need to keep rotating the squad. Give key players a break when we can. Especially the likes of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Thomas Partey (injury issues), Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka (over playing) and Eddie Nketiah (only striker).

We need to go “all-in” on the league and give these players a weekend off.

And even if they did play, City will probably beat us anyone, which will be even more damaging.

Play them all

Winning breeds winning.

We stick out our first team and give ourselves the best chance of going through.

Beat City in the cup then confidence will be high when we play them twice in the league. Play a 2nd string and get dicked, it will eb away at that confidence.

Our last game was Sunday. That was 5 days ago. Our next game is next Saturday, over a week away. There is no need to rest players. We have a week without them playing.

And we should be looking to win as many trophies as possible. The FA Cup might end up as a consolation prize for us if we do not win the league. We have to stay in it to give ourselves the best chance of winning it.


My view? Probably half way between both.

We need to play our strongest possibile team, but also need to give a few players a break.

Matt Turner will get a run out in goal, whilst Takehiro Tomiyasu should start ahead of Ben White in defence.

White certainly does not needs a break, but right back is an area where we can make a change without seeing a drop-off in quality. A run out for Tomiyasu keeps him fresh.

Kieran Tierney should come in for Zinchenko on the left. The Ukranian has had his injury issues so two weeks without football will not be a bad thing.

Despite the accuisation of Jakub Kiwior, I would not expect him to start tonight. Nor should Rob Holding start. I would stick with William Saliba and Gabriel. Keep that strong middle.

Mohamed Elneny will come in for Thomas Partey.

Partey is the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League and our chance to be Champions is linked directly to his fitness. No need to risk him in either the FA Cup or Europa League this season. Just have him fit for the 19 remaining Premier League games.

Although this is what I had written before Elneny’s injury. I think we will see Lokonga given one last chance to show he has a future.

Martin Odegaard and Granit Xhaka should both start.

Odegaard did not play in the World Cup and the drop off from Xhaka to Albert Sambi Lokonga is too great.

Lokonga’s future needs to be questioned and we saw in the Oxford game the difference in class between him and Xhaka

I would make one change in the front 3, with Leandro Trossard coming in for either Eddie Nketiah, Bukayo Saka or Gabriel Martinelli.

You can probably make an argument for all 3.

Saka has played the most for club and country this season. Nketiah is our only out and out striker. Trossard was mainly bought in as Martinelli cover and competition.

I would probably go for the later.

I think Trossard for Martinelli will be the most likely substitution when we are chasing a game.

Left wing is Trossard’s most natural position, and Martinelli is less of a threat than Saka.

We saw the sub work to great affect against Manchester United on Sunday, and I can see if becoming a regualr 70 minute change.

So how seriously should Arteta take the FA Cup? I am 50/50, As is the team I would select:

Turner
Tomiyasu Saliba Gabriel Tierney
Lokonga
Saka Odegaard Xhaka Trossard
Nketiah

Keenos

Eddie Nketiah owed an apology

Is it time to put some respect on Eddie Nketiah’s name and apologise for the disprespect some fans have given him over the years?

In 2020, I wrote a blog about how time was running out for Eddie. That it was time for the torch to passed to Florian Balogun to replace him as the “young Arsenal striker” in the squad.

He was 21 years old and career had stagnated. At the time I said:

Nketiah is a goal poacher, but his problem is a modern striker needs to be able to do more – whether that be creating, holding the ball up or running the channels.

Balogun was younger and tearing up the youth leagues. The time felt right for him to step up and become Arsenal’s 3rd choice striker (at the time Arsenal have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette leading the line).

3 years on and he is now showing himself as being a very good 2nd choice striker.

When he came in for Lacazette in the back end of last season, I was impressed.

He had developed his hold up play. His work rate had improved and he was running those channels. Everything I had asked for in 2020. Nketiah was much improved.

That led him to get a new contract as Mikel Arteta made it clear – Eddie would be our 2nd choice striker.

Despite his form in the back end of last season (5 goals in the last 7 league games, some still moaned. The following is some of the comments I have colated from one individual that will remain nameless:

“He is stealing time from Balogun. Should never be in an Arsenal kit. He’s woeful.”

“Eddie being offered a new deal is ridiculous if true. Especially at £100k a week.”

“Nketiah isn’t a top 4 striker.”

“Nketiah isn’t a Premier League striker.”

“Get Dominic Calvert-Lewin”

“Nketiah isn’t a Premier League striker. If you honestly think he is then maybe football isn”t for you. He goes to Palace and won’t be their [first choice] striker or back up.”

“It’s not my monty so I’m not spending it. Nketiah is one of the worst strikers in the league and it’s telling that the likes of Palace are in for him. If you think he is good enough for Arsenal that’s fine. You’re allowed to be wrong some of the time.”

“Nketiah should never be starting games for Arsenal. Play Pepe through the middle. Anything is better than Nketiah.”

“He [Nketiah] is absolute shite. One of the worst players in recent years to pull on an Arsenal shirt.”

“If he [Nketiah] had not come through the academy, he would be getting dogs abuse like Xhaka did/does and the likes of Eboue did.”

0200200111002

That is the goal return from Eddie Nketiah in his 12 Premier League starts since coming in for Lacazette at the back end of last season.

12 games
Scored in 6 of them
9 goals

Ok, so he might not be Erling Haaland. But who is?

Look at Chelsea’s struggles in recent years to sign a decent first choice striker. At Tottenham trying to recruit someone to cover Harry Kane. At Manchester United who have just loaned in a fella from Burnley.

A lot of the credit has to go to Eddie.

He could have remained “just a poacher” and signed for Palace. Lived the easy life off the back of just scoring goals.

But he wanted more.

Eddie got his head down and has improved every aspect of his game. And it is fabulous to see.

I recently wrote how Arteta now has a double striker dilema. That a decision needs to be made in the summer over Eddie and Balogun.

Balogun is doing bits in France. 10 goals in his 18 games for Rennes. But very few would argue that he should now come in for Eddie.

Whilst I do not feel the need to apologise for my Nketiah blogs – everything was correct at the time and he has improved those aspects of the game; many people will have to look into what they said in the past and apologise for it.

Gabriel Jesus will come back in for Eddie when he is fit. But we now know we have a solid 2nd choice striker.

Good job Eddie!

Keenos