Thank you Raheem Sterling! In what was the biggest must-win match this season, the young English winger was able to find the back of the net at a crucial moment and propel Manchester City to all three points against Arsenal. Despite a very average first half, City were able to make some tactical changes and really stepped up their game in the second. The final 45 minutes were the type of football most supporters expected under Pep Guardiola.
The result means that depending on Monday’s Merseyside Derby, City could spend Christmas in second place in the Premier League. Now there’s still the seven-point mountain to catch Chelsea but make no mistake, this result against Arsenal could be a platform City use to build on and make a real push towards Antonio Conte’s team.
City came out off the blocks trying to overload the midfield and with the formation and personnel they used that was always going to be possible. Kevin De Bruyne, Fernando, Yaya Touré, and David Silva are some of the best players in the league and were able to win possession for most of the night. The issue City were always going to have is who was going to score without a recognized striker on the pitch. De Bruyne has shown ability to score, but he turned provider on more than one occasion.
The burden of goal scoring would fall on City’s young wingers, and both Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling stepped up in spades. The two youngsters were terrific and when City needed it most both were calm, composed, and ultimately goal scorers on the evening. Going forward, if these two can play like we saw here, City will give every single team they play lots of problems.
Below are our ratings for each City player who saw the field against Arsenal. Of course we’ve also selected the Man of the Match and it was not an easy choice considering all the great performances we saw on Sunday.
Claudio Bravo: 6.5
The Chilean keeper shouldn't be to blame for Arsenal’s lone goal. Bravo was certainly more sensible with his passing in this game and should be commended for simplifying slightly for his defense's benefit.
Pablo Zabaleta: 6.5
A tragic one for City’s Argentine defender. What looks to be a knee injury got the better of Zabaleta after the first half against Arsenal. Before that Zaba was on his way to a strong game, but now City’s deputy captain may miss a few games.
Nicolas Otamendi: 7.0
If anyone can take the blame for Theo Walcott’s goal it is probably Otamendi. At times in the first half the Argentine looked out of position, but like most of the City squad he really turned things around and become a rock in the second half.
Aleksandar Kolarov: 7.0
It really isn't fair to continue to berate Kolarov for his lack of pace. City supporters know it’s an issue and the defense has to do their best to hide this deficiency. Luckily that’s exactly what happened in the second half of this game and Kolarov played quite well.
Gaël Clichy: 6.0
Personally I’m still not convinced Clichy is the answer for the rest of the season at left back, but for right now if he helps City continue to pick up points then I’m all in on the Gaël Clichy Experience.
Yaya Touré: 7.0
Look at what a few months off did for this man. Yaya Touré was exiled and essentially not in the team and now he’s just casually running the show in the middle of the park against title rivals. At this point it’s hard to see a starting XI without the Ivorian.
Here’s another man who hasn't had the best performances this season, but woke up in a huge way in this one. Based on the starting lineup and formation it was clear if Fernando had a good game then City had a chance to win, and boy did the Brazilian have a fantastic game. Whether it was making tackles or springing the attack this was an all-around great performance from the defensive midfielder.
David Silva: 8.5 (Man of the Match)
When the day comes and David Silva is no longer with Man City, the club will lose a legend. Perhaps one of the most technically gifted players ever to wear Sky Blue, Silva was phenomenal against Arsenal. Winning tackles and pressing with an urgency not seen for some time from the Spaniard were all in addition to his exquisite passing and dribbling that helped set up City’s opener. His pass to Sané was only bettered by one other pass on the day.
Leroy Sané: 7.5
The young German finally scored his first City goal and it was perhaps the most important of the season to that point. Sané was a menace all day whether it was down City’s right or left attacking side. Guardiola must have loved what he saw and we might see more of Sterling and Sané together in starting lineups.
Raheem Sterling 7.5
This was the most important goal of City’s season to date. Sterling was fine in the first half but really stepped it up a notch in the second half when he played more on the right side. No surprise that’s where his goal came from as well.
Kevin De Bruyne: 8.5
Remember when I said only one pass was better than David Silva’s? Well if it wasn't obvious, Kevin De Bruyne was the one to make it. His crossfield ball that eventually led to Sterling’s winner was simply amazing. De Bruyne looks like the best bargain in City’s history, despite what he cost — a lot.
Bacary Sagna: 7.0
The Frenchman delivered a solid second half performance and should give City supporters confidence with the injury to Zabaleta.
Jesus Navas: 6.5
Navas was his usual pacy, hard-working self, but he still struggles with the final ball. Navas most certainly has an important place on this team, however.
Kelechi Iheanacho: 6.0
The young Nigerian came on to see the game out and as a result did not have time to earn marks.