Photo via Alex Livesey/PA
After an international break halted play for the last two weekends, Arsenal returned to play against Manchester City. Midfielder Thomas Partey was in the squad on the bench to make his Arsenal debut after the club signed him on the Premier League transfer deadline day. (result)
Due to a hamstring injury, defender Rob Holding was a late-scratch from the starting lineup, was replaced by David Luiz, who infamously allowed Man City to score several goals off his blunders in their 3-0 loss at Man City back at the start of “Project Restart.” Man City came into this match missing four key players, including Kevin De Bruyne, Benjamin Mendy, Gabriel Jesus and Aymeric Laporte. Sergio Aguero returned to action for Man City who had been out with a knee injury since mid-June.
The start of the match saw both clubs figuring each other out. Riyad Mahrez had a shot go wide about seven minutes into the match and Man City had several corners to set up chances but were cleared away by Arsenal. Man City dominated possession early as Arsenal did not have a single shot attempt in the first 25 minutes of the match.
In the 23rd minute, Mahrez set up Aguero’s run into the penalty area. He found Phil Foden, whose shot was saved by Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno. Raheem Sterling tap in the rebound to give Man City a 1-0 lead. Arsenal came right back as Bukayo Saka had a good shot on goal but it was saved by Man City goalkeeper Ederson. On the proceeding corner, Willian set up Nicolas Pepe with a header that went wide.
Man City went on the attack a minute later and Mahrez’s shot was saved than missed the rebound shot. His corner was safely caught by Leno. In the 34th minute, Gabriel’s pass was controlled by Man City in their attacking zone. Aguero set up Foden with a good chance but once again, Leno made the save.
The 40th minute saw Kieran Tierney and Saka combine to set up a chance but once again, Ederson made the save and the corner kick produced no threat to score. Ederson saved another chance from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a minute later. After a late chance failed, Man City headed into halftime up 1-0. Man City won the possession battle 65-35% but Arsenal was able to set up many chances on the wings, especially the left wing with Tierney and Saka leading the way. However, the midfield was still lacking as they have the last few years against the top clubs in the Premier League. The first half showed why Partey was their top target this transfer window.
Arsenal started the second half strong as Aubameyang set up Pepe with a header but it was saved by Ederson. However, the half would see the two clubs locked in a stalemate as neither club set up quality chances to score. Luiz had a free kick in the 69th minute but it was skied over the net. Pepe’s free kick in the 82nd minute was just wide as he would be immediately subbed out for Eddie Nketiah. Partey made his debut as he subbed in for Granit Xhaka. Man City would win 1-0 as they were not threatened after the first chance of the second half.
For Man City, brilliance from Aguero and Sterling would be enough as they overcame injuries and sloppy play to pick up three points, winning their second match of the season after dropping points in their previous two matches.
For Arsenal, this was a disappointing result. Man City was injured and did not play like the Man City we are accustomed to seeing. The second half was supposed to see Arsenal push for the equalizer they didn’t get in the first half but instead, Arsenal played as lackluster as I have ever seen them. The difference between the end of the first half and the entire second half was night and day. It was disappointing to see Arsenal pose no threat in the first 25 minutes of the match as well. This match shows how badly Partey is needed as he gets implemented into the squad full-time. This was the 29th straight road loss against the top-six Premier League clubs, showing how far Arsenal needs to improve.
Man City and Arsenal kicks off their European campaigns as Man City opens Champions League group stage action against FC Porto while Arsenal faces Rapid Wien in Europa League group stage action.