Manchester City moved back up to second place in the Premier League thanks to a crucial come-from-behind 2-1 win at Etihad Stadium against Arsenal on Sundat afternoon. The Citizens were dominant throughout and showed great character to turn it around after falling behind early courtesy of a defensive error. Sure, there are things for Guardiola to work on, but for now all that matters is that City aren’t letting Chelsea pull any further ahead.
After an improved display in midweek against Watford, the City back four got off to a shaky start as their lack of shape and inability to push forward as a conhesive unit allowed Alexis Sánchez the time and space he needed to thread Theo Walcott through on goal within the first five minutes of the match. Walcott has an excellent record against City and his composed finish left Bravo with no chance.
Now City had a mountain to climb, and while they were on balance perhaps the better side, they struggled to create clear-cut chances to rival the one they conceded so early to Theo Walcott. It was clear that Guardiola had work to do at half-time if he wished to see his side turn the game around.
To Guardiola’s credit, whatever he said at half-time seemed to work. Just as City made a plethora of defensive mistakes for the game’s opening goal, Arsenal went to sleep for a split second and that was enough for the hosts to take advantage. Having regained possession in the centre of the field, David Silva split the Arsenal defense with a glorious lobbed through ball and Leroy Sané finished with aplomb to bring the score level within minutes of the restart.
Momentum was now irrefutably on City’s side; Arsenal were on the ropes and could have been behind soon after the equaliser if not for some fine goalkeeping from the timeless Petr Čech. However, City were not in a mood to be denied and Kevin de Bruyne sprayed a sublime pass Crossfield to find Raheem Sterling, and the winger cut inside past the flat-footed Monreal to smash the ball past Čech at his near-post.
Man City: Bravo; Zabaleta (Sagna), Otamendi, Kolarov, Clichy; Sterling, Fernando, Touré, Silva, Sané (Navas); De Bruyne (Iheanacho)
Goals: Sane (47’), Sterling (72’)
Arsenal: Čech; Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin (Giroud); Walcott, Özil, Iwobi (Chamberlain) (Elneny); Alexis
Goals: Walcott (3’)
- Irrespective of the final scoreline, Guardiola needs to address his defensive depth – and fast. Another lazy start from the City backline could have cost them even more ground in the title race, and made the match far more difficult than it could have otherwise been.
- On this form, it might not be long before Leroy Sané establishes himself as a regular in Guardiola’s team. He was City’s brightest attacking threat in the first period and he displayed great intelligence to beat the Arsenal defense (and offside trap) for the equalising goal. More of the same please Leroy!
- While City continue to be linked with a number of attacking players, this performance suggested that Guardiola has all he needs at his disposal at the moment. Even without Aguero and with Iheanacho on the bench, City created a lot of chances and were clinical enough in front of goal.
- Coming from behind against a top team like Arsenal is great, but City need to keep this momentum throughout the festive period. The question is: will rotation help or hinder the side in this tough stretch?