Manchester City secured a 3-0 win over Arsenal at an empty Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, as a David Luiz horror show helped make the Citizens’ Premier League return a pleasant one.
While it was Arsenal who ever so slightly edged the possession stats, City had the better chances. First Raheem Sterling was denied, then some slick passing found space for David Silva, only for a fine save from Bernd Leno keeping the scores level.
But the German has no control of his defenders. Namely, David Luiz. The substitute’s woeful attempt to control Kevin De Bruyne’s pass was calamitous at best, with his effort falling kindly for Sterling to slam home.
New half, fresh start? Think again. Luiz wasn’t quite finished, this time choosing to haul down Riyad Mahrez in the penalty box and get himself sent off. I won’t tell you whether De Bruyne scored his spot-kick or not. I needn’t bother.
From this point forward both managers were aware that the contest was over. And even when injury put City down to ten men, they still added to their tally through a beautifully worked Phil Foden goal.
Contest? What contest?
Key Talking Point
When City’s star players turn it on, there is little anyone can do. Boasting a midfield of with Ilkay Gundogan at the base, with Kevin De Bruyne and Silva either side, they pose a formidable opponent.
It’s often said that games/leagues are won on good defences and/or potent attacks, but when you’ve got a midfield as good as City’s, you’re in good stead to win any game, any time, any place.
That’s the case for Pep Guardiola, who knows having the likes of De Bruyne in his ranks is a joy few managers are able to boast. Sure, on this occasion, one particular opponent helped City along their way, but we’re talking about the world’s finest midfielder making the Premier League look like a walk in the park.
If City are to win the Champions League this year and wrestle the Premier League title away from Liverpool next season, then the Belgian has to stay. He can win football matches on his own.
Starting XI: Ederson (7); Walker (7), Garcia (7), Laporte (8), Mendy (8); D. Silva (8), Gundogan (8), De Bruyne (9*); Mahrez (7), Jesus (6), Sterling (8).
Substitutes: Foden (7), B. Silva (7), Fernandinho (7), Rodri (6), Aguero (N/A).
It may have taken a bit longer than normal for Kevin De Bruyne to put his stamp on proceedings – which, given the length of time he’s been out, is expected – but when he did, he was the Belgian magician we all love to watch play the game.
The timing of everything he does is…well, just sublime. The passes are astonishing, and his ability to foresee the game unfolding before anyone else isn’t human.
Stop being so bloody good Kevin, you’re making everyone else look bad.
Key Talking Point
What was your immediate reaction? What did you think when you saw Mikel Arteta’s lineup? If you’re answer is anything other than ‘shocked’, then I do not believe you.
But while the youngsters were given an opportunity to express themselves and make up for their manager’s faith in them, there was simply no point in them bothering.
Individual errors have been Achilles heel of Arsenal for an excruciatingly long period of time. More often than not it’s from defenders, and almost always it is David Luiz.
The Brazilian didn’t start the match, but even with his brief 30 or so minute cameo, he managed to gift Sterling a goal, gift De Bruyne a goal and get himself sent off. Arteta can try to weave his magic, set the foundations for the future and change the fortunes of the club, but he’s powerless to prevent pitifulness. He’ll be seething after this, and rightfully so.
Starting XI: Leno (7); Bellerin (6), Mari (N/A), Mustafi (5), Tierney (4); Xhaka (N/A), Guendouzi (5), Saka (6), Aubameyang (4); Nketiah (7*).
Substitutes: Ceballos (5), Luiz (0), Lacazette (5), Maitland-Niles (6), Nelson (N/A).
It was not an easy day for Eddie Nketiah. Leading the line against the champions was an almighty task, but he certainly gave it his all on Wednesday night.
Leno could easily have got the nod for keeping the score respectable with some fines saves, but in an effort to lift the glum mood in the Arsenal camp, let’s praise a young English striker for his efforts. He did try.
Arsenal are back on the road for their next Premier League fixture when they take on Brighton on Saturday, meanwhile City return to home soil on Monday for the visit of Burnley.