Manchester City fell 2-1 to Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, but a few correct calls could’ve turned it around. The Sky Blues were the better team on the day, should have had a goal and a penalty in the first half, missed good chances in the second half, and eventually fell to the Gunners after extra time. This one hurts.
Let's take a deeper look into City's performance on Sunday.
Claudio Bravo didn’t have a great day at the office, but some of his dribbles were fantastic. He looked more confident on the ball, which should’ve been an encouraging sign for the Chilean keeper, but his performance mirrored his disappointment of a season. He only made one save, which was from a weak header that went straight to him. Other than that, he struggled: two goals conceded and only a 62% passing accuracy rate, which has been his only strength this year.
The center-back duo of Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany was not bad, and they did everything they could to stop the Arsenal attacks, and they're not at fault for the goals. They tried hard.
Jesús Navas did well in the attack, but was poor defensively and got away with a possible penalty for a bad challenge on Alexis Sánchez. Gael Clichy didn’t do much to give City a chance in the match and couldn’t stop Arsenal’s play on the right wing.
Although the three attacking midfielders weren’t on the top of their game, the holding midfield kept City in the match. Fernandinho isn’t always recognized by the numbers, but this match was different. His bullet header into the crossbar was one of City’s most threatening chances, and he made three tackles and won four aerial duels.
Fernandinho's partner in midfield, Yaya Touré, was the man of the match for City. His shot on target was tipped onto the post by Petr Cech’s, and Yaya provided the assist for Sergio Agüero’s goal with a perfectly placed 40-yard long ball. When Fernandinho holds down the midfield with his defensive prowess, it allows Touré to move forward with the attack and create chances with his passing ability. That’s what happened on Sunday.
Elsewhere, the attacking midfield wasn’t as sharp as usual. David Silva was creating chances during his short period on the pitch, but he was subbed off in the 25th minute because of a knee problem after a challenge from Gabriel. Hopefully it won’t be too serious with the Manchester Derby coming up.
Kevin De Bruyne had five key passes during the match, but none of them led to goals. Leroy Sané wasn’t nearly as effective as he has been with his play on the wings, and he couldn't manage a shot throughout the game. Raheem Sterling looked energetic as a substitute for Silva, but none of his three shots were on target.
We’ve got to hand it to Sergio Agüero. He’s scored in last six matchs, and he’s continued to provide City with a chance of success in the face of adversity. With the imminent return of Gabriel Jesus, it will be interesting to see what the Argentine's role will be, but one thing's for sure: Agüero continues to deliver.
Overall, this season will end up as a disappointment for Manchester City in most people’s eyes. But maybe, just maybe, this loss could be a blessing in disguise. City need to focus on the Premier League, and securing a top-four finish is the only way Pep Guardiola can possibly stop this season from being a nightmare.