Despite being on the receiving end of several questionable refereeing decisions, the Gunners displayed resilience and tactical adaptability to secure three points that could prove vital in this season’s title race.
First half drama fails to deter Arteta’s men in a critical victory against City
Arsenal managed a crucial win over Manchester City, further establishing themselves as contenders after pushing the Citizens hard in last season’s title race.
The game wasn’t without its controversies, as the officials turned a blind eye to multiple questionable decisions against the Gunners.
Despite this, Arsenal’s performance ensured that goalkeeper David Raya didn’t have to make a single save in the entire match.
Tense opening moments
As the first half unfolded, it was clear that Arsenal were not going to have an easy night.
Arsenal find their groove
Ten minutes into the game, Arsenal seemed to shake off their early-match jitters.
Their passing improved and they started to dominate possession. However, a poor decision from the linesman saw Ben White incorrectly flagged for offside.
It was a taste of what was to come from the officials.
Things heated up when Mateo Kovacic was booked for a shockingly bad tackle on Martin Odegaard.
John Brooks on VAR reviewed the studs up, ankle high tackle that was so late you could barely see the ball, but maintained that a yellow card was sufficient.
Then, Kovacic had another, go, this time studs up, albeit lower, on Declan Rice.
This clear yellow card was not a second yellow.
Remember, this is the same referee who previously issued two yellow cards to Gabriel Martinelli in just five seconds, and at the same time without telling Martinelli he was getting the first yellow—one for attempting to block a throw-in and another for a slight nudge in the back.
How Mateo Kovacic remained on the pitch, especially given the nature of his two tackles, only Oliver and Brooks on VAR know.
The decision is even more infuriating when compared to Takehiro Tomiyasu’s second yellow earlier in the season when he hardly touched a player who threw himself in front of the defender.
I imagine Arsenal already have their spam filter set up to automatically trash yet another meaningless apology from Howard Webb and PGMOL which will no doubt be sent on Monday.
With fans angry, again, at simple decisions going against Arsenal once more, the half ended with neither side breaking the deadlock.
Tactical changes bring the win
Arsenal made their second half intentions clear when they brought on Gabriel Martinelli at the break, replacing Leandro Trossard. Gooners everywhere said their prayers to Dennis that we weren’t going to make Martinelli’s hamstring explode. He made us all explode, instead.
After a frantic opening to the first half, it settled somewhat into a game of chess, each side trying to force the error or find the move that would unlock the door to all the points and the top of the table.
With Arsenal shaving things, Guardiola turned to his bench not long after the hour for a triple substitution that was testament to the job Arsenal were doing. Amongst the players taken off, Kovacic left the field, where at least he couldn’t also score the winner.
Five minutes later, Arteta played his hand with his own triple change that would win the game.
On came Kai Havertz, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Thomas Partey for Eddie Nketiah, Oleksandr Zinchenko, and Jorginho.
Havertz took up a place at centre forward as Arsenal looked to assert themselves on the game once more.
A landmark win with a taste of vengeance
As time ticked by and both sides cancelled each other out, Arsenal’s subs struck.
Gabriel Martinelli with three minutes left on the clock, Kai Havertz getting the assist from Tomiyasu’s nod after Thomas Partey’s pass.
The Brazilian’s deflected shot made it 1-nil to The Arsenal.
The Emirates, and Mikel Arteta, went wild.
We all did.
Arsenal lineup vs Manchester City
Raya, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Rice, Jorginho, Odegaard, Trossard, Jesus, Nketiah.
Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, Kiwior, Partey, Smith Rowe, Vieira, Nelson, Martinelli, Havertz.
Manchester City lineup vs Arsenal
Ederson, Walker, Dias, Ake, Gvardiol, Kovacic, Lewis, Bernardo, Foden, Alvarez, Haaland.
Manchester City subs
Ortega Moreno, Phillips, Stones, Grealish, Doku, Gomez, Akanji, Nunes, Bobb.