Exciting Arsenal fall short against Manchester City

Manchester City's Ruben Dias (left) and Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale battle for the ball during

Manchester City's Ruben Dias (left) and Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale battle for the ball - Credit: PA

Arsenal kicked off the New Year with an unfortunate 2-1 loss to champions elect Manchester City, but showed encouraging signs with a superb performance. 

Controversial refereeing decisions and VAR aside, the Gunners put together an exciting display, taking the game to City, pressing high to limit them on the ball, and defending compactly with both 10 and 11 men.  

Off the ball, Arsenal worked their socks off. For a 10-minute period in the first half they kept Manchester City penned into their own half, unable to escape and launch a counter due to the high press and ball retention of the Gunners.

It was a passage of play we have been accustomed to seeing from City, not against them. 

Key to the display was Thomas Partey, who had a man of the match performance, bossing the middle of the park with his ball recoveries and press resistance, outplaying each of City’s midfielders on the day.  

Arsenal's Bukayo Saka (left) and Manchester City's Nathan Ake battle for the ball during the Premier

Arsenal's Bukayo Saka (left) and Manchester City's Nathan Ake battle for the ball - Credit: PA

It is a shame to lose the Ghanaian to AFCON with a difficult month ahead, particularly as he is hitting his best form in an Arsenal shirt. 

Perhaps what was most surprising from Arsenal was the threat they offered in attack.  

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Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli caused a multitude of problems for City’s back line through their variety in dropping deep to receive the ball as well as their willingness to dart in behind and stretch the defence.  

The wingers’ success was facilitated by Takehiro Tomiyasu and Kieran Tierney, both of who offered a solid defensive platform to allow Saka and Martinelli freedom ahead. 

Ben White and Aaron Ramsdale were also excellent at facilitating Arsenal’s wingers, pinging balls into the channels time after time despite the City press.  

Whilst the result did not go Arsenal’s way, and they certainly contributed to their own downfall, it is hard not to be excited by their performance as a real measure of progress under Mikel Arteta. 

It was the type of performance which shows what Arteta is building towards at Arsenal, and one which fans should expect of the team in big games moving forward. 

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