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Knocked Off the Summit, and Yes, it Hurts

Man City knock Arsenal off top spot despite De Bruyne absence as 50-goal  Haaland helps down Fulham | Evening Standard

Man City defeated Fulham yesterday to finally go to the top of the Premier League, for the first time since February 2023, when they defeated Arsenal at that top of the table clash. The win at Craven Cottage put Man City on 76 points, with a game less than their title rivals, Arsenal, who are currently on 75 points. Man City has a favorable run of West Ham (H), Leeds (H), Everton (A), Chelsea (H), Brighton (A) and Brentford (A), while Arsenal has Chelsea (H), Newcastle (A), Brighton (H), Nottingham Forest (A) and Wolves (H). In this title run, Brighton can play the role of party poopers, but with teams having their own ambitions, like trying to stay within the division. 

Arsenal had been at the summit of the Premier League for a considerable chunk of this campaign and looked odds to win their first title in 19 years, but when the ill-fated run of four winless games has come back to haunt the Gunners as the pendulum has swung to Man City’s favor, and unfortunately, the Cityzens have the experience, depth and quality to see this one out. Kevin de Bruyne was the star of the show when Man City waltzed past Arsenal to cut the gap to two points, but he wasn’t even available for selection against Fulham, and Julian Alvarez, who played in his stead, turned out to be the Man of the Match. That’s where the quality and depth comes to the fore. Arsenal on the other hand, has been without William Saliba for quite some time, and Mikel Arteta has confirmed he has not improved, but his replacement, Rob Holding, has been culpable for some of the frailties suffered in the Arsenal defense. 

It’s not like all Arsenal’s defensive problems rest solely on Holding’s shoulders, as Thomas Partey has stunk all over the place, Granit Xhaka has had his bouts of illness, and the once dependable Gabriel has not covered himself in glory. When you add the glaring unnecessary errors leading to goals, like Aaron Ramsdale against Southampton, you can see why there has been a capitulation in grand style. 

What’s more painful with the dropped points is the fact that the teams that robbed points off Arsenal have gone on continue their struggles elsewhere. West Ham came back from two goals down against the Gunners went on to lose to Liverpool and Crystal Palace. Southampton had lost to Brentford, Man City and Crystal Palace before sharing the spoils with Arsenal, only to continue their losing streak against Bournemouth and Newcastle. 

Arsenal’s only hope of winning the Premier League at this point is to depend on other teams to take points off Man City, which wasn’t what we as the supporters hoped. With Arsenal leaving other competitions quite early, the expectation was for Mikel Arteta’s men give their all to ensure they went past the finish line in the Premier League. Sadly, it didn’t turn out that way and it seems only a second place finish, since 2015/16 is on the cards, but there will be that air of disappointment, bearing in mind that Arsenal had been at the top for pretty much the entirety of the season.

Arsenal has been knocked off the summit, and yes, it hurts.


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Man City 4-1 Arsenal: Led the Sprint, Losing the Marathon

(Video) Rob Holding pulls goal back for Arsenal vs Manchester City

Holding scoring Arsenal’s consolation goal

Match Report – Match Highlights – Post-Match Press Conference

Final Result: Man City 4-1 Arsenal (De Bruyne 7′, 54′, Stones 45′, Haaland 90′ | Holding 86′)

Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; White, Holding, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Partey, Xhaka (Jorginho 60′); Saka (Nelson 80′), Odegaard (Smith-Rowe 71′), Martinelli (Trossard 60′); G. Jesus (Nketiah 80′)

It was always going to be an uphill task, following Arsenal’s atrocious and shambolic record at the Etihad, or against Man City in general, with the Gunners losing 11 consecutive games to their hosts. The shaky results prior to the visit of the Etihad didn’t inspire confidence and Arteta trusted that his strongest XI would have what it takes to battle it out against the best team in the land.

Early on, Man City broke the deadlock when John Stones lofted a cross field ball that got to Erling Haaland with Rob Holding stuck in on him. The Viking forward still managed to tee up Kevin de Bruyne who had Gabriel and Ben White to beat, but with the Arsenal defenders backing up instead of charging onto the Belgian maestro, KDB picked his spot and side-footed the ball past Aaron Ramsdale to send the Etihad into delirium.

Man City piled on the pressure when Haaland got the better of Holding, which was pretty much the theme of the day, and slotting the ball to KDB’s path. The Belgian made mince meat of Gabriel and smashed in a shot from close range, but White was on hand to make a superb block. Haaland received the ball, charged in the box and showed some quick feet to waltz past Holding and Oleksandr Zinchenko, but his strike wasn’t clean and Ramsdale made a good save.

Thomas Partey was having a stinker and his frailing performance was on show when he allowed Ilkay Gundogan to ease past him on the byline, allowing the Man City captain to tee up Haaland on the edge. The Norwegian’s shot was smothered superbly by Ramsdale who used his feet to clear the ball before Haaland reached over to make a rebound.  

With the pressure intensifying, Mikel Arteta was hoping that he would go into the break with a single deficit, but it was not to be thanks to VAR folks doing their thing. De Bruyne swung in a dead ball that was nodded in by an unmarked Stones, but the linesman’s flag ruled out the goal for an offside. On further review, White’s trailing foot put Stones onside and the goal stood. What was shocking to see how Holding, who was supposed to be marking Stones, was nowhere near the ball or his marker. It’s rather unfortunate that our demise as a defensive unit coincided with his arrival in the squad to fill in William Saliba, but I just hope Arteta takes cue from this and gives Jakub Kiwior a shot in his stead, and search for a right-sided center back this summer. I believe he have had enough Holding for the campaign.

The game clincher arrived in typical Arsenal capitulation fashion with Martin Odegaard cooking up a very weak pass that was meant for Thomas Partey but de Bruyne anticipated it, fed Haaland, moved to the edge of the area and received it back from Haaland before placing it past Ramsdale to make it 3-0. Gabriel and Holding were in sixes and sevens with this Man City attacking play. It was laughable on second viewing and what made it worse for me was Holding’s positioning for the goal. He literally paved the way for Haaland to thread in a simple pass to de Bruyne who wasn’t going to grant Ramsdale any mercy.

Arsenal got a consolation when Leandro Trossard showed great movement on the right and cut in before feeding Holding on the edge of the area. The defender picked his spot and placed the ball past Ederson to burn his clean sheet, making it six in 21 appearances for the Brazilian goalie. 

The game was put beyond doubt when Stones’ header was picked up by the returning Phil Foden who controlled the ball superbly and teed up Haaland for a one time finish to take his tally in the Premier League to 33 and his total in the campaign to 49. His numbers this season have been downright ridiculous. You know, them Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in their peak levels.

This marked Arsenal’s 12th consecutive loss to Man City, their longest losing streak to any club in their history. What makes this loss worse is the fact that Arsenal has dropped points for the fourth game in a row, the same kind of pathetic run they had in February, but unlike early in the campaign when they had a chance to regroup and gain more points with seven wins on the trot, the implications of this bad run of form is far reaching, as it is going to cost Mikel Arteta and his team their title dreams. Arsenal’s last Premier League triumph was 19 years ago. I guess the wait will have to continue. 

In the course of the season, Arsenal has played some impressive football and were odds on to seal the Premier League title, but Man City remained on the prowl, stayed within touching distance  and were not fazed by the massive amount of points they were trailing the Gunners, because they had the experience, depth, and most importantly, quality, to see themselves through. Arsenal on the other hand, were overly and understandably reliant on the first team, who produced the goods on a consistent basis, but when the injuries crept in, it crippled the squad. In those moments when Gabriel Jesus suffered that long term injury from the FIFA World Cup, Arsenal had to dig from within to get the goals that took them over the line in games, but Eddie Nketiah worked to the best of his ability, and eventually lost his place to Leandro Trossard, who showed his quality and led the line till Jesus returned. 

In central midfield, Arsenal has been lucky in regards to the fitness of Odegaard, Xhaka and Partey all season long. Yes, Partey had that brief stint in February were he had a rib injury scare, and with Mo Elneny suffering a long term injury and Albert Sambi Lokonga not up to scratch, Arsenal had to make a deadline day deal for Jorginho, who really isn’t a world beater, but he had the experience to do his thing. The real deal would have been to get either Moises Caicedo or Declan Rice, and I hope they sort that out this summer. As for Odegaard / Xhaka’s replacement, Fabio Vieira, he has been very underwhelming in his first season in England, but the quality is there and he’s like a diamond in the dirt that needs to be sharpened before we can get the full package. 

Arsenal didn’t have such a luxury at the back, as the unfortunate injuries to William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu put the team on the lurch, and its really unfortunate to see how the introduction of Holding to the backline coincided with these terrible run of results. In this same period, Partey has not covered himself in glory, as the protection to the backline has been non-existent in weeks but as a team, the defensive frailties have taken center stage and the team has been punished for it. It’s even worse when you add the errors leading to goals, like Partey’s lapse in concentration against West Ham, Gabriel conceding a penalty, Ramsdale passing the ball to Carlos Alcaraz, among other plethora of shambolic displays at the back. 

Arteta wants the lads to forget about the result quickly and move forward to the next game against Chelsea, while Ramsdale says the lads wouldn’t give up. However, we have to wake up and face the music, knowing that a second place finish is probably the best outcome, and it was by our own doing. We were the ones that have played very poorly in recent weeks and this is the repercussion.

Arsenal led the sprint for the Premier League title, but Man City is odds on to win the marathon.


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Man City Preview: All or Nothing

Man City has been a dominant force in English football for quite some time now, and that dominance has seen Pep Guardiola’s outfit win four of the last five Premier League titles, with that Liverpool win in the 2019/20 season being the only blip, and as expected, Man City finished as the runners up. The club has also won four of the last six League Cups and one FA Cup in the 2018/19 season, following the win in the 2010/11 campaign.

Pep Guardiola’s arrival in 2016 has come with a huge wave of success, with the Catalan manager amassing an impressive 11 trophies including almost winning the Champions League two seasons ago. This campaign hasn’t been any different, with Pep guiding Man City to an FA Cup final showdown with eternal rivals, Manchester United, as well as a semifinal berth with a measure of revenge in their minds, when they take on the UEFA Champions League defending champions, Real Madrid, and of course, the Premier League two-horse title race with Arsenal. 

Mikel Arteta signed two key players from Man City last summer and their collective experienced galvanized the way the team plays, offering a different perspective from how Arsenal used to operate as an attacking unit. In Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the Gunners had a forward that was more or less a poacher, waiting to feed off the ammunition supplied from his teammates in the final third, and in Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal got a defensive forward that tried to focus on buildup play, rather than finishing. Both strikers departed and Arsenal signed Gabriel Jesus that revitalized the attack with his determination, team work, creativity, sultry skills and work rate, even though his finishing leaves a lot to be desired. Oleksandr Zinchenko, however, was a God sent, as his presence in the team has seen him occupy two positions, left back and central midfield, adding some dynamism to the plays of Granit Xhaka and Gabriel, and if you add Gabriel Martinelli’s output, making Arsenal’s left side of attack as potent as the right side that primarily features Ben White, Martin Odegaard and Starboy, Bukayo Saka.

After what has been a roller coaster of a season, Arsenal visit the Etihad Stadium tonight knowing that anything less than a victory might all but seal their Premier League title winning fate, as a direct repercussion from the terrible results the Gunners have garnered in the weeks leading to this all-important clash with Man City. 

This is a particularly wretched fixture for Arsenal, with the Gunners losing 11 consecutive top-flight games to Manchester City, their longest losing streak versus any opponent in the club’s league history. Pep Guardiola’s City side have won all six Premier League home matches against Arsenal by an aggregate score of 17-3. Both sides have already met twice this season, with Man City knocking Arsenal out of the FA Cup in the fourth round and sweeping the Gunners aside in their Premier League clash in February. The Cityzens are particularly in a hot streak at home, winning all 11 games this calendar year, and you’d have to go back to their clash against Brentford before the FIFA World Cup for the last time they dropped any points in their home turf. In Erling Haaland, they have one of the world’s most potent finishers, with the Viking chieftain just two goals shy of breaking Alan Shearer and Andy Cole’s 34-goal Premier League record. The cyborg has scored 48 goals thus far this season, which is more than the amount of goals Manchester United have scored in the Premier League this campaign. 

Arsenal has been unbeaten in 10 games, following that messy 1-0 loss to Everton in Sean Dyche’s first game in charge, but they followed that with seven wins in a row before a disappointing run that saw Arsenal drop points against Liverpool, West Ham and most recently, Southampton. Arsenal can take solace from the fact that Man City concede a lot of goals with Ederson keeping just six clean sheets in the last 20 games he started between the sticks. Mikel Arteta will be looking to break his hoodoo against Guardiola, as he has lost all six Premier League clashes with his former mentor.

To team news, Man City will be sweating over the fitness of Nathan Ake that has been nursing a thigh injury. Guardiola had the luxury of resting the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, John Stones, Ruben Dias and Rodri in the FA Cup semifinal win over Sheffield United, so you’d expect them to all start tonight. 

Arsenal still has the same absentees from previous encounters, and its very likely that we might not see William Saliba in action this season, as his back injury remains a challenge. The medical staff are hoping surgery might not be required to mitigate the issue, but his chances of featuring again this campaign might be slim to none. Takehiro Tomiyasu and Mo Elneny are still out, and Granit Xhaka will be having a fitness test to confirm his availability for tonight’s clash.

Man City vs Arsenal Predicted Lineups

Man City: Ederson; Akanji, Dias, Laporte; Stones, Rodri; Mahrez, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Grealish; Haaland

Arsenal: Ramsdale; White, Holding, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Xhaka, Partey, Odegaard; Martinelli, G. Jesus, Saka.

Injury / Suspension Updates

Man City: Nathan Ake (thigh)

Arsenal: Mohamed Elneny (knee), Takehiro Tomiyasu (knee), William Saliba (back), Granit Xhaka (illness)

Form Guide

Man City Form

  • Last Five Games:  W W W W W
  • Last Result: Man City 3-0 Sheffield United (Mahrez 43′, 61′, 66′)
  • Leading Goalscorer: Erling Haaland (48)

Arsenal Form

  • Last Five Games: W W D D D
  • Last Result: Arsenal 3-3 Southampton (Martinelli 20′, Odegaard 88′, Saka 90′ | Alcaraz 1′, Walcott 14′, Caleta-Car 66′)
  • Leading Goalscorer: Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka (15)

Gooner Daily predicts a 2 -2 draw.

Kick Off – 8.00pm (GMT +1) at Emirates Stadium.

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