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Dublin: 8°C Wednesday 30 September 2020
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PROJECT RESTART IS go.

The Premier League is back – Aston Villa and Sheffield United are currently playing at Villa Park – and that’s followed by tonight’s main event, Manchester City against Arsenal.

City’s ambition at the start of the season was to be still considered as champions come June…although not in these circumstances.

If they lose tonight, Liverpool can seal the title with a win against Everton on Sunday.

City don’t have a whole lot to play for in the league – they will almost certainly finish second – and so they have bigger battles to fight in the FA Cup, Champions League, and Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The result of the latter will be of significant interest to Arsenal, who still harbour hopes of snatching a Champions League place next season.

Although Arsenal are ninth, they have a game hand are eight points from fourth-placed Chelsea and just five from fifth-placed Man United, a position that will be enough for a seat at the top table in Europe if CAS uphold City’s European ban.

Oh, and this also carries the storyline of Mikel Arteta facing his old boss, Pep Guardiola. Remember good ol’ managerial intrigue?

Kick off at the Etihad is 8.15pm, and team news follows next…

Team News 

Man City

Sergio Aguero returns on the bench for City, with Gabriel Jesus leading the line. Teenager Eric Garcia partners Aymeric Laporte at the back, with Leroy Sane fit for a spot on the bench along with other luminaries Bernardo, Rodri, Fernandinho and…Scott Carson. 

Arsenal 

Mesut Ozil doesn’t even make the bench for Arsenal, if you want to talk about some of the things that not even a once-in-a-century pandemic will change.

There are a string of big names on the bench – David Luiz, Nicolas Pepe, Alex Lacazette, Sead Kolasinac and, to more literally, Ainsley Maitland-Niles – with Eddie Nketiah picked to start up front and Pablo Marí making a Premier League debut at centre-half. 

Kieran Tierney starts after a season interrupted by matters other than just the pandemic. 

This game will, of course, be played behind closed doors, and City have dressed up the empty stands with flags and banners. 

manchester-city-v-arsenal-premier-league-etihad-stadium Source: Dave Thompson/PA Wire/NMC Pool

It’s absolutely lashing it down in Manchester! 

Meanwhile, Arteta intrigues us all by saying he will explain Ozil’s absence after the game. 

Sky – with a boom mic at a two metres distance to curb the spread of a once-in-a-century-pandemic – ask Pep if it’s strange to be facing Mikel Arteta. There are a few stranger things going on tonight, I reckon. 

The rain is very heavy, and the patter off the banners around the stadium is pretty audible as Arsenal amble out onto the field. 

The teams can’t come out at the same time, so City will follow momentarily. 

Both teams are out now, and we are moments from kick off! 

Before we start, the players and officials will observe a minute’s silence in the centre circle for victims of the coronavirus. 

Pep Guardiola sadly lost his mother to the virus. 

Glyn Pardoe, a former Man City player, is also remembered. 

1Mins

Just before the whistle goes, and the players and referee on the pitch take a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

2Mins

Blimey, Arsenal have the ball in the net through Nkieth, but he’s marginally offside from a booming Leno kick. 

4Mins

Mendy skids a cross low from the left for Raheem Sterling, which Pablo Mari comes for…and misses, instead swiping his boot into Sterling. 

City have a free-kick just outside the box…

4Mins

Leno does well to push De Bruyne’s free-kick over the crossbar, and City have the game’s first corner. 

5Mins

City took the corner short but the return pass to De Bruyne was hit too quickly, and he’s offside. 

8Mins

Granit Xhaka is on the turf and being tended to by the Arsenal medics, having twisted his ankle. He’s being stretchered off, with Dani Ceballos set to come on in his place. Quick reminder that teams are allowed to make up to five substitutes across the rest of the season. 

8Mins

Jesus wins a corner off Mari. 

9Mins

It’s cleared to the edge of the box to Mahrez, who tries a volley that’s deflected wide. It hit Hector Bellerin, but the referee Anthony Taylor doesn’t agree, and so it’s a goal kick. 

13Mins

De Bruyne drives through midfield and slips a ball through for Sterling, whose attempt to find Jesus across the box is cut out by the Arsenal defence. 

13Mins

Nketiah diverts a Saka cross just wide of the near post. 

15Mins

Now Ceballos is in a heap on the ground, having been caught in a challenge with De Bruyne. He’s fine to continue. 

17Mins

Aubameyang forces Arsenal’s first corner off Kyle Walker. Saka to take..

17Mins

City deal with the corner at the near post. 

20Mins

City are hogging the ball here, as Arsenal drop off. They hold firm, however, and Tierney does well to win the ball from Mahrez. 

Ceballos then tries to spin a ball behind for Nketiah, but Walker cuts it out. 

22Mins

Walker saunters into the box and to the byeline, and pulls it back…and it’s missed by everyone! 

Pablo Mari, meanwhile, is on the ground, and he seems to be injured too. Arsenal might have their five subs used by half-time. 

23Mins

While we haven’t had a goal in almost two hours of restarted Premier League football, some hope of that changing arrives as David Luiz replaces Mari. 

26Mins

Nice combination by Arsenal down the right sets Saka away, but his low cross for Aubameyang is cut out by Ederson. 

He rolls the ball to de Bruyne, who inexplicably gives the ball away, and Aubameyang curls a long-range shot over the crossbar. 

28Mins

De Bruyne drives at the Arsenal defence again, then checks his run and almost picks out Mahrez to his right, but it’s brilliantly cut out by Ceballos. 

Okay, these words might mock us, but Arsenal look really well organised and committed thus far…

31Mins

Saka stands a cross to the back post which Walker wonkily chests back to Ederson, forcing the keeper to dive to his right to prevent a corner. 

33Mins

De Bruyne snaps a shot from distance that’s blocked down, and Arsenal come away with the ball. It’s not exactly being played at a frenetic pace, this. 

33Mins

Nketiah is dragged to the ground by Garcia as Arsenal again test the City defence with a ball over the top. Anthony Taylor curiously unmoved. 

34Mins

Sterling cuts inside from the left and bends a low shot goalward, which Leno does well to push behind for a corner. 

35Mins

Leno saves again, this time from a David Silva shot in the area. Terrific save at the end of a gorgeous, flowing City move. 

37Mins

De Bryne looks one of the rustier players out there, and he’s given the ball away again to thwart his own side’s attack. 

Arsenal are playing on the counter now with City increasingly dominant, and are playing long balls for Nketiah through the centre and Saka on the right. No joy yet, however…

38Mins

Another big save by Leno! City are clicking through the gears: De Bruyne spreads a delightful pass to Mahrez who is oceans of room in the area, but Leno comes off his line to spread himself and block the shot. 

40Mins

Big miss by Sterling! 

De Bruyne has found his groove, and he threads a ball through the Arsenal back line for Sterling, who dinks a shot from 12 yards…over the bar. 

It’s all City now. 

41Mins

Bellerin hoists a ball over the top of the City defence for Saka, who is…offside. 

44Mins

Arsenal win a free kick wide on the left and midway into City’s half.

Saka whips to the back post and it evades everybody, including a lunging Mustafi. 

46Mins

City win a free-kick as Mustafi clatters into the back of Jesus. 

There will be three minutes of added time at the end of the first half. 

45Mins

GOAL! Man City 1-0 Arsenal 

Raheem Sterling scores his first goal of 2020! 

De Bruyne plays a – bad- ball into the box but David Luiz makes a complete hames of it, allow the ball to skid off  leaden leg and behind to Sterling, who lashes the ball in with a volley at a narrow angle! 

45Mins

HT: Man City 1-0 Arsenal

We’re playing a game in an empty stadium with disinfected footballs after weeks of wrangling over restarting the league amid a once-in -a-century pandemc…and David Luiz is still dropping clangers. 

Some things never change. 

City started slowly but have been utterly dominant for the last half an hour or so, deserve to be in front and would be further ahead were it not for Bernd Leno. 

Back in a jiffy! 

45Mins

Peeeeeeep! 

We’re underway for the second half at the Etihad. 

There have been no changes.  

47Mins

While teams can make five subs, they can only make them at three stages during the game, aside from half-time. 

That means we’ll be seeing a triple-substitution from Arteta if he does want t0 empty his bench. 

48Mins

De Bruyne rakes a ball over the top for Mahrez – it’s an outrageous pass – but Mahrez’ touch is slightly too heavy and it rolls into Leno’s arms. 

50Mins

Penalty City! 

Red card Arsenal! 

Oh God, David Luiz. He gets turned by Mahrez and then drags him down in the box. 

Taylor gives him a straight red card saying he made no attempt to play the ball, and his horror performance becomes a horror cameo. 

51Mins

GOAL! Man City 2-0 Arsenal (De Bruyne) 

And De Bruyne sends the ‘keeper the wrong way. 

David Luiz has imploded and has brought Arsenal down with him. 

55Mins

Sterling slides in late on Mustafi and leaves him in a heap. 

He’s limping about now. 

One quirk of the new rules and the old Luiz – if Arteta wants to sacrifice for an attacker for a defender now, and wants to bring on anyone else, he has to do it all in one go. 

55Mins

Arsenal have put Tierney at centre back, with Saka leaving the right wing to go to left-back. 

This could get fairly ugly. 

60Mins

23 minutes: David Luiz comes on. 

44 minutes: David Luiz makes an error leading directly to Man City’s first goal. 

50 minute: David Luiz is sent off and concedes the penalty that leads to Man City’s second goal. 

What’s his player rating? Zero? 

61Mins

Sterling gets his legs in a tangle and fails to make the most of a De Bruyne pass. 

City are utterly, uttery dominant. 

65Mins

The pace of this game has dropped now, and City are just popping the ball among eachother. 

They carve Arsenal open on the right with Silva linking up with Walker, but his cross is cut out by Ederson. 

65Mins

Double change for City: David Silva and Mahrez off for Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden. 

68Mins

Willock gets into the box and stands up a cross to the back post, but it misses everyone. 

Triple change for Arsenal – Nketiah, Guendouzi, and Willock are off, and replaced by Lacazette, Maitland-Niles and Nelson. 

70Mins

De Bruyne fizzes a volley at Leno, picking up a pass from Sterling. The ball bounces behind for a corner. 

And that, sadly, is his last action in this game. Rodri and Fernaindho are on, with Laporte taken off too. 

71Mins

This is just a training game now. City have all of the ball. 

73Mins

Arsenal haven’t won an away game to one of the big six since 2015! 

Sky flash that up in screen as the players take a water break, evidently badly needed in the searing heat of a soggy, Manchester night. 

75Mins

We’re back underway. City are still knocking the ball about, and Arsenal are still chasing shadows. 

77Mins

Oh dear. Tierney is booked for clattering into Gundogan with a challenge so late it may have started before the pandemic shutdown. 

78Mins

Sterling winds up a huge, run up to the free-kick…and then strokes it right to Gundogan, who drills a low shot at Leno. 

79Mins

Rodri is booked for a late tackle as Sergio Aguero is introduced for Gabriel Jesus. 

81Mins

Ederson comes out of his area to head clear a ball and flattened Eric Garcia in the process. It looked ugly in real time and the referee has immediately stopped the game as the medics come on to tend to Garcia. 

Hopefully it’s not too bad. 

85Mins

Garcia has still hardly moved, and he is now being lifted onto a stretcher. 

87Mins

Garcia still hasn’t moved. 

88Mins

Smattering of applause from the couple of hundred people in the ground as Garcia is finally stretchered off. 

89Mins

City have used all their subs so we’ll finish this out as 10 v 10. 

90Mins

There will be 11 (ELEVEN) added minutes here, as a result of Garcia’s injury. Perhaps Arsenal have a chance to thieve a deeply undeserved point? 

90Mins

GOAL! Man City 3-0 Arsenal (Foden)

Erm, no. 

Foden lashes a shot into the roof of the net as he latches onto an Aguero shot that came off the post. It caps off a gorgeous passage of play, and you can stick a fork in this game. 

It’s done. 

90Mins

Bernardo cuts in from the right on his left foot and curls a shot wide of the far post. 

90Mins

Aguero finds the side-netting! 

Arsenal are a rabble now, Foden picks him out in the box and aiming for the near post – think of where he scored that goal against QPR – but skews the shot wide. 

90Mins

A sum total of zero shots on target for Arsenal so far. 

90Mins

Arsenal have a chance! Nelson sprints to the end line, pulls the ball back smartly for Aubameyang, who sees his shot blocked behind for a corner. 

90Mins

The corner came to nowt. 

90Mins

FT: Man City 3-0 Arsenal 

That’s it, City win and Liverpool will have to wait another few days at least to win the title. 

After a relatively competitive opening quarter-hour, City took over and converted that dominance to show on the scorebard once David Luiz appeared on the field. 

The games are back! But much about them haven’t changed – Arsenal are miles off the pace. 

Thanks for following us, bye! 

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About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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