Starting XI: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Coquelin, Ozil, Iwobi, Walcott, Alexis
Subs: Ospina, Holding, Gibbs, Elneny, Oxlade-Chamberalin, Lucas, Giroud
Manchester City mounted a second half comeback to defeat Arsenal 2-1 at the Etihad.
Theo Walcott gave the Gunners an early lead, however, Arsene Wenger’s men fell apart after the break as goals from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling sealed the points for the home side.
After the late disappointment on Tuesday night it was imperative that Arsenal made a quick start at the Etihad. And we did, scoring with our first attack.
Bellerin, given the ball by Cech after a dangerous cross into the box, bound up the pitch and found Alexis Sanchez five yards outside the City area. Walcott, sensing an opportunity, darted into the area and when the Chilean fed him a delightful reverse pass he took a touch to control before calmly slotting past Bravo. It was a decent finish under pressure from Pablo Zabaleta for his 11th goal of the season. (1-0)
City came back strong. De Bruyne picked out Sterling who threw himself at the ball but could only head wide. Yaya Toure could do no better when a set piece came his way. Given our recent record in the air, we dealt with the danger well.
Arsene Wenger’s men kept their shape and stayed compact to restrict the home side from working intricate play in dangerous areas. The game plan was obviously to allow the home side possession and then to try to break fast once the ball had been retrieved. That said, with an early lead to protect we didn’t go about turning the screw.
It wasn’t until the half hour mark that Cech was forced into a real save of note and it was a strange one; the keeper acrobatically diving to prevent a Gabriel clearance that had cannoned off the back of Bellerin’s head from flying in the top corner.
Arsenal picked up the tempo again. A short corner found Monreal who picked out Walcott whose header went wide. Soon after Bellerin flashed over on the angle. It was to be the last of our attacking intent before the break, perhaps conscious of what happened in the dying minutes of the first half at Goodison Park – we looked a little nervy.
Having worked so hard to protect their lead, Arsenal threw it away inside two minutes of the restart.
David Silva played the ball over the top of the Arsenal defence and Sane, who looked to be offside, found himself one-on-one with Cech. The Germany international slid the ball home at the near post. On the touchline Wenger was apoplectic at the missing flag. (1-1)
The previously muted Etihad crowd suddenly found its voice as City penned Arsenal in looking for a second. Cech had to be quick off his line to stop Sane from grabbing a second. Sterling and Silva fired wide from long-range.
The Gunners were all over the place at this point. There was no structure to our play on the ball as passes went awry all over the pitch. Off it, we kept losing challenges.
Cech made another decent stop to turn a deflected De Bruyne effort around the post. Just after Sky flashed up a stat that revealed Cech’s 33 passes were the most of any player in yellow – it said a lot.
Moments later City got the second their dominance deserved. A long ball from De Bruyne found Raheem Sterling who took on Monreal, cut onto his left foot and fired low past Cech at his near post. (2-1)
City hit the post as they looked to kill the game. Things continued to go badly for Arsenal as substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain, on earlier for Iwobi, had to go off injured. Elneny joined Giroud, who replaced Coquelin, on the pitch. Both did more complaining to the referee than anything else.
Finally, we started to play again, albeit tentatively. Walcott should have done better when he looked for Giroud but instead sliced high and wide. Into stoppage time and we’d still not had another shot on target since taking the lead. Somewhat pathetic really.
The defeat sees us drop to 4th in the table and nine points behind leaders Chelsea. It may still be early in the season, but that’s a big gap to close down if you’re hoping to win the title.