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Dublin: 3 °C Monday 21 January, 2019


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The Gunners are out for revenge after suffering a 6-3 battering at the Etihad last season. They are seeking to reduce the gap between them and City to eight points while a victory for the hosts will bring them to within two points of Chelsea once again.

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Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to our coverage of today’s clash in Manchester. It promises to be a terrific clash and our appetite has been whetted even further with the release of the official line-ups.

Manchester City XI: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Fernando, Navas, Silva, Milner, Aguero.

Arsenal XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Alexis, Giroud.

So, the good news for City is that Kompany and Aguero return to the starting lineup. It’s the Argentine’s first start since the 6th December while the Belgian defender has been out since the dying moments of the clash with Leicester on 13th December.

James Milner is also back while Samir Nasri is out due to injury.

A headache for Arsene Wenger. Mathieu Debuchy picked up that shoulder injury against Stoke and faces weeks on the sideline so Hector Bellerin replaces him. Aaron Ramsey is also back in midfield with Tomas Rosicky on the bench.

So, Gunners fans…are you a little worried by the starting XI?

A few quick bits for you pre-match.

The last time Arsenal won at Manchester City was in October 2010. Their team that day featured Squillaci, Djourou and Chamakh. They won 3-0. I reminisce here.

Also, Graeme Souness had an interesting perspective on the North London side earlier.

Alexis Sanchez ‘in a very good moment’, Manuel Pellegrini tells Sky Sports’ Geoff Shreeves.

Lots of focus on the showdown between Sanchez and Aguero. Interesting to see if the latter will struggle, even slightly, with his fitness after such a long lay-off.

The former, meanwhile, has carried this Arsenal side through this campaign. If they’re to get something from this, he needs to crop up again with some magic.

Thierry Henry, who has made an excellent debut as a Sky pundit today, has said Coquelin and Ramsey have to protect Mertesacker today. When pressed if that type of role suits the Welsh midfielder, Henry passionately responded by saying it’s irrelevant if it suits Ramsey or not – that the team needs him in a certain role today and that’s all that matters.

Almost ready to go here, folks. Predictions?

KICK-OFF! And we’re underway.


YELLOW CARD! Well, it’s a good start by City who are making some great runs from midfield. And Laurent Koscielny is already on a yellow after a late challenge on Fernandinho.


We’re all looking forward to the inevitable battle…


Already, Arsenal are very happy to sit back and not commit too much. They’ve kept a nice shape early on and Wenger, talking pre-game, did talk about offering something more defensive.


City have mis-placed a few passes in central zones and Arsenal have been quick to get the ball back and move it forward quickly. They’re playing on the counter attack and Alexis Sanchez popped up moments ago on the left side after Cazorla found him. But the options in the middle didn’t offer much movement and the Chilean wasn’t best pleased after he was dispossessed.


No chances for either side so far. Arsenal only with 30% possession in the opening 15 mins or so. But that’s the game-plan. Keep patient, keep the shape and try to push City on the counter. Certainly worked so far.


Sanchez charges straight at the heart of the City defence after spotting a gap. But there’s not much support and he’s eventually swallowed up.


CLOSE! First decent opportunity and it falls to the guests. Demichelis dives into a challenge on the left side but Oxlade-Chamberlain gets there first. He whips in a cross to the near post where Giroud looks to divert the header goal-wards. But Kompany gets close and does enough as the effort goes wide of the upright. Dodgy from Demichelis, though.


From the resulting corner, the ball is helped back into the area and Hart is off his line to deal with it. But with Mertesacker lingering, the goalkeeper elects to punch it clear instead of clutching it. Some more pressure around the box from Arsenal subsequently but City do clear their lines eventually.


PENALTY! Wow. What a moment. Monreal attacks down the left and exchanges a one-two with Giroud. As the full-back takes the touch away from Kompany, the defender comes across him and brings him down.


GOAL! Cazorla! The Spaniard steps up to the spot and expertly dispatches it. Cat. Pigeons. But Arsenal deserve their lead. Smash and grab but City should know better. Disciplined performance from the guests so far.


Manchester City seem to be having some problems in figuring out how to deal with this Arsenal approach. They haven’t registered a shot yet and David Silva hasn’t been able to find those pockets of space that he thrives in. Meanwhile, Aguero has largely been anonymous. So far, a terrific away display here.


We touched on Ramsey before the game and what Henry said about him in studio. He’s just done brilliantly to track a run after City nicely built some momentum down the right side. Zabaleta whipped in a dangerous cross but it was Ramsey who was there to get a foot in and break up the play. Disciplined and exactly what they need here today.


The best we’ve seen from City so far. Fernandinho makes the most of Ramsey being caught a little high and rampages forward. He passes to Milner who gets to the by-line but can’t find a blue shirt. The ball comes back to him though and eventually it’s hoisted towards the six yard area where Aguero can’t direct his header on target.


YELLOW CARD! Arsenal have just dropped off in the last few moments. And they’re caught out in the middle of the field when they cheaply give it away. Aguero’s skills takes him away from Ramsey, who goes through him and brings him down. And, for his troubles, he’s dished a yellow card.


YELLOW CARD! Vincent Kompany hasn’t had the best of afternoons. He conceded the penalty and he’s gone in the book now after a challenge on Giroud. Just moments before, it seemed like Giroud had caught Zabaleta with a nudge but referee Mike Dean waved play on. Kompany is incensed and rages at Dean, who asks him to relax. Seems very harsh to book him though.


Gary Neville has said he thinks Kompany seems a bit heavy-legged. It’s hard to disagree with that. Certainly not as commanding as usual.


HALF-TIME! Well, with just 36% of the ball, Arsenal’s tactics have worked a treat. In front thanks to Cazorla’s penalty, it was a brief foray into City’s area that yielded an immense return. For the hosts, not much to shout about. David Silva has been shut down while Sergio Aguero has struggled to gain much of a foot-hold. Coupled with the fact that Kompany has been poor, Manuel Pellegrini has much to dwell on.

CITY ABOUT TO MAKE A CHANGE? Steven Jovetic is deep in discussions with Brian Kidd on the pitch at HT. Is he set to be introduced?

In the Sky studios, Thierry Henry says it was a penalty and that Kompany was caught out by the one-two and ‘knew what he was doing’. Graeme Souness agrees but adds the Belgian disguised it very well. What do you think?


SUBSTITUTION! Jovetic (on) – Milner (off)

So, the Montenegrin comes on and David Silva, it appears, will drift to the left-side.


SECOND HALF! We’ve restarted here, by the way.


CLOSE! David Ospina is forced into his first save. They break into the final third at pace and it’s slipped wide to Aguero. He turns onto his left foot and tries to curl it to the far corner but the keeper gets his hand to it and turns it around for a corner.


What a start to this second half as both teams are attacking at will. Arsenal were disciplined in the opening period but City are rampaging forward now and finding space. Already, Silva has stretched things in his new wide role and Arsenal need to get their shape back, quickly.


CLOSE! Now it’s Navas who cracks a shot towards goal and Ospina parries it. It came from another run from midfield from Fernandinho. And Arsenal are all over the place. It’s not clear why they’ve afforded City so much space since the second half started. They really need to take their breath and re-organise things.


Alexis Sanchez pops up on the left side and does well to evade Zabaleta. He races towards goal but strikes across the ball instead of bending it towards the far corner. It flies across the face of goal and City escape.


There’s an inevitability to this. Jovetic has popped up in pockets, Silva is just in a free role and the whole Arsenal system that served them so well in the opening period seems to be crumbling.


CLOSE! And just as I write that, it should really be a second for Arsenal. Sanchez combines with Giroud and Ramsey is free at the far post. But it takes them a long time to feed it to him and when it arrives, he thumps it over the bar. A really good opportunity.


YELLOW CARDS! There have been a couple of bookings in the last few moments too – Fernandinho for City and Bellerin for the away side.


VERY CLOSE! How did that stay out? Navas picks it up wide right and there’s a couple of blue shirts in the middle waiting for the cross. When it’s rolled in, it looks certain that either Aguero of Jovetic will tap it to the net but it’s Koscielny who deflects it wide of the far post with his boot. It could easily have been an own goal. Arsenal living so dangerously.


SUBSTITUTION! Lampard (on) – Fernandinho (off) 

City need a goal. And Lampard may just get it for them.


SUBSTITUTION! Rosicky (on) – Oxlade-Chamberlain (off)

Interesting change.


GOAL! Giroud! Well, that’s unexpected! Arsenal earned a free-kick after some superb work from Alexis Sanchez, whose skill made some space deep and he just charged towards goal before being brought down. From the set-piece, it seems City never got set up for it properly and Giroud moved across the dropping ball and nodded it inside the far post, Fernando unable to challenge him in the air.


CLOSE! Action at both ends as Sanchez forces Hart into a parry when he cracks one from outside the area. Then, City break forward and it’s worked to Navas wide right. He smacks it first time but Ospina gets down well at his near post to make a comfortable stop.


Still, Arsenal were under enormous pressure prior to scoring that second. It seemed like City were bound to score.


SUBSTITUTION! Dzeko (on) – Navas (off)

Expected once Arsenal grabbed a second.


CLOSE! They’re not out of this, City. Jovetic fires in a snap-shot that just misses the near post. It took a deflection on its way but Ospina deals with the corner and eases the pressure.


SUBSTITUTIONS! Gibbs (on) – Sanchez (off) and Flamini (on) – Ramsey (off)

This is strange. Wenger makes the changes but he’s gone with 5 at the back with Monreal the third centre-half. Risky?


Just a few moments ago, Aguero’s frustrations got the better of him and he tugged on Gibbs’ shirt as the sub raced up the left wing in support of his team-mates. Summed up City’s day here.


CLOSE! It should be a third for Arsenal. A few minutes ago, Rosicky played a superb pass in midfield. He does the same again here and slips in Flamini, who gets in behind Clichy. He holds him off, Clichy drops to the ground and Giroud is in the middle. But the midfielder takes another touch instead of sending it across first-time and Kompany gets across to make the block.


FULL-TIME! Well, who was expecting this? Arsenal, with such a poor record against the top teams, delivered a terrific display here. The first half was as good a performance from the Gunners as we’ve seen in a long time. Disciplined, focused and patient, they allowed Silva and Aguero little space to work their magic. They took their chance when awarded a penalty and City had little answer to their approach.

But the second period was much different and they began to commit more men forward, allowing City the freedom to create. Somehow, they didn’t concede and when Giroud headed home their second goal, it gave them much-needed breathing space. They controlled the remainder of the game and didn’t shirk as City forced plenty of corners. Instead, they did what was needed and this is a firm statement. The next step for Arsene Wenger is to oversee his side delivering this type of performance on a regular basis.

Thanks for staying with us this afternoon. There will be plenty of post-game reaction and analysis on the site a little later on.

About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan