Given the fact that the aggregate score of this fixture in the last six outings now stands at 17-2, I don’t think many Arsenal fans were expecting much last night.
The Gunners came into the game following a 101 day break, giving them plenty of time to think about what was on offer in the last 10 of their Premier League fixtures.
Eight points away from a Champions League spot with a game in hand against the Champions, it was always going to be an uphill battle, but one we at least hoped to show some fight.
Two early injuries, a red card and subsequent penalty amounted to another crushing 3-0 defeat to Mikel Arteta’s former employer, which will no doubt leave him asking questions of just how much needs to change before Arsenal can be considered a top side again.
If you didn’t get a chance to watch the game, here’s how I felt the players performed…
8 – Bernd Leno
Once again, Leno stopped this from becoming a cricket score thanks to a series of decent saves. He’s bringing more to his game at the moment, running out at strikers with confidence and commanding himself between the sticks so that these players know who is in charge. The issue he’ll find is having a different back four in front of him for the forseeable future.
6 – Hector Bellerin
Quiet from Bellerin, which isn’t surprising given his strengths lie in more of an attacking presence and I’m pretty sure only ventured into City’s half on five occasions. All jokes aside, nothing dazzling about Bellerin’s performance. 92% pass accuracy, winning his duels and the fact he was never dribbled past shows he was switched on. He’ll thrive in other games, but not against teams like City.
5 – Shkodran Mustafi
Mustafi would be walking away from this one quietly content that nobody was pointing a finger at him. In fact, since Arteta arrived the German has managed to subtly reaffirm his place in the starting XI. With 82%, he had the worst pass success rate of all of our defenders, but did manage to lay his body on the line for the majority of the game. Nothing he could’ve done about the first two goals, but his positioning was way off for the third. There’s going to be a massive dependance on his ability in the coming weeks.
3 – Pablo Mari
A game that won’t be added to the scrapbook of his time at Arsenal. The Spaniard was forced off in the 23rd minute due to a calf issue, meaning he may have already played his last game in an Arsenal shirt due to him being on loan from Flamengo. Before his night ended early, he managed just 18 touches of the ball and gave away a very dangerous free-kick that would’ve seen City take the lead if it wasn’t for Leno’s heroics.
7 – Kieran Tierney
Before a ball was kicked, this was certainly one of the highlights for Arsenal fans. Tierney featured in his first competitive game since early December. With his three clearances and just as many tackles won, he managed to keep Riyad Mahrez pretty quiet in the first half. Following Luiz’s sending off, Tierney was forced into a positional change and didn’t look uncomfortable when playing in the middle of defence. Better things to come once he settles in to things.
0 – David Luiz
Quite frankly a performance that doesn’t even justify the time I’m taking to write this paragraph. After getting subbed on in the 23rd minute, Luiz managed to do just about everything wrong. Out of position with a sloppy touch gifted City the opener, which was then closely followed up with the Brazilian conceding a penalty and being sent off. He’ll now suffer a two match suspension and won’t be available until our FA Cup tie away to Sheffield United.
5 – Matteo Guendouzi
With Xhaka injured in the early stages, the pressure fell on Guendouzi’s shoulders to try and be the long ball distributor we needed against a City side that were adamant on chasing us down. I would report on his offensive stats but, there simply aren’t any. Always looked like he was on the back foot and didn’t have the time to find the right pass. There’s a spot open up in the middle of midfield with Xhaka injured, so perhaps we can see the Frenchman convince Arteta he’s the right man for the job.
4 – Joe Willock
It would be easy to forget that Willock featured last night, and he’s beginning to question many fans on whether he’s the right midfielder to lead us into the new generation. Willock has the quality but is not a big game player. He thrives when we’re on top, but hides away when things look bad. When he did get the ball, he did nothing wrong. But again, this was not the best game for Willock to spring into action.
n/a – Granit Xhaka
Seven minutes, that’s how long Xhaka lasted. One rolled ankle and suddenly we were watching the midfielder being stretchered off. Whilst he may not be in everyone’s starting XI, having players like him at the moment are vital if we want to try and string a few results together at the same time as giving everyone a rest. We’ll sweat on the fitness test in the meantime.
6 – Dani Ceballos
Despite the reports, I get the feeling that Ceballos is a player looking to be rewarded with another season at the Emirates. Coming on as Xhaka’s replacement, the Spaniard was active throughout, throwing his body weight around a little too much at times. Two tackles and three interceptions won, it wasn’t a performance that would cast doubt on him starting against Brighton on Saturday.
5 – Ainsley Maitland-Niles
It look as if after all these years, Maitland-Niles is going to get his wish of playing the centre of midfield. Often a last-minute back-up to fill in at right-back, the youngster is reaching a stage of his career where he needs to start showing if he’s got what it takes to be here for many more years. He was handed just over 24 minutes and in that time managed one clearance and a 100% pass accuracy rating.
6 – Eddie Nketiah
The future Arsenal no.9? It certainly looks that way given the amount of playing time Arteta has handed the youngster since he was recalled from his loan spell at Leeds United. Nketiah didn’t really do anything wrong last night, but didn’t really get a chance to try and change the game. When the ball did drop at his feet, he was often joined by four City defenders who quickly turned over possession. He managed one shot in 66 minutes and is likely to get another chance on Saturday afternoon.
5 – Pierre Emerick Aubameyang
If we’re all fed up, you’ve got to think how this guy is feeling. Nothing really happened all night for the striker turned left winger. Whilst many have called for him to play as a central striker, Aubameyang has thrived out on the flanks so I don’t think it’s time to change anything like that. Again, this wasn’t a game for the strikers, they just couldn’t get the ball fed into them. He managed two of Arsenal’s three shots at goal. It’s his birthday today so I won’t be too harsh.
4 – Bukayo Saka
Difficult to recall what Saka added to the game, but once again his evening was ruined by injuries and sending offs to other players. The 18-year-old put in 90 minutes, half of those being at left-back following the change in defence. There are rumours flying around that Saka’s been thriving in a #10 role during training, so there could be some dramatic changes in the coming weeks. Will he sign a new contract? Let’s hope so.
5 – Reiss Nelson
When you have 20 minutes to make an impact on a soaking wet pitch, with 10 men and losing the game by two goals, it’s going to take a little more than Reiss Nelson to spark a recharge in this Arsenal side. Would like to see how he can develop over the next few games, I feel like he’s more dangerous on the left hand side where he can cut in.
4 – Alex Lacazette
Again, the striker had just 20 minutes to try and turn the game around, but it was always going to be a losing battle when City could flood the midfield. The real test lies in the next few weeks and how much he wants to stay at the club. You get the feeling its him or Aubameyang to walk out the door, so at least one of them needs to start performing.