Manchester City 3-0 Arsenal
Exactly 100 days since a ball was last kicked in the English top-flight, here was a reminder why, amongst so many new elements of the game, some things remain refreshingly the same.
Whether there are spectators or not, whether there are three or five substitutes allowed per Premier League game, whether the goal areas are sanitized and temperature checks conducted, there will always be a player considered the clown prince of defenders.
In this, the return of the unknown, step forward David Luiz who, as far as his critics were concerned, was at his buffoonery best.
There is no doubting the Brazilian’s talent on the ball but, as far as defensive aberrations go, here was a display which showed why Arsenal will surely cut their losses when the player’s contract runs out at the end of the campaign.
Highlights of the game
On for the injured Pablo Mari – the luckless Arsenal’s second injury inside the opening 24 minutes – Luiz quickly reverted back to his error-strewn ways and was responsible for the first two goals in Operation Restart.
It was the second minute of first-half stoppage time when Kevin de Bruyne clipped a ball through which Luiz failed to clear and on raced Raheem Sterling, who let it bounce before thrashing it beyond Bernd Leno.
Then, just six minutes after the restart, Luiz hauled down Riyad Mahrez in the penalty area with an arm around the shoulder.
A straight red card was as inevitable as the way the classy De Bruyne smoothly passed in the resulting spot-kick.
At that point, I felt sorry for Leno, who had already been forced to produce a fine stop to tip over a de Bruyne free-kick early on before denying Sterling and then David Silva, in his final season as a City player.
The only relief for the Gunners was that City were comfortably in control after establishing their lead and didn’t have to push on from the 50th minute as they cemented their grip on second spot.
Aside from Luiz, the other talking points surrounded injuries and the combined approach for equality.
To lose Mari so soon after Granit Zhaka was forced to leave the field on a stretcher after going over on his ankle could be put down to bad luck.
But for City, in the closing stages, to also see a player (Eric Garcia) depart on a stretcher after an accidental collision with his own player, will add fuel to those who believe players are more susceptible to injury and feel the game has returned after too little training.
Either way, it contributed to 11 minutes of stoppage time at the end of the contest during which City added a deserved third. Two substitutes combined with Sterling, after Sergio Aguero’s shot was turned onto the post by Leno, Phil Foden thumped home the rebound.
The SBOBET Premier League 2020 betting odds on a home win were as such, even I could not get my prediction wrong(!).
The decision of Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta to leave out Mesut Ozil, although the German international was not injured, also added fuel to the speculation he and the club may part company this summer. Meanwhile, this performance will not have convinced Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang that his future lies in north London either.
The Gabon marksman may have netted 49 goals in 76 Premier League appearances to date, but he provided no Premier League 2020 highlights in a lifeless showing from the visitors.
Before kick-off, all 22 players and referee Anthony Taylor observed a minute silence to mark those who have lost their lives during the Covid-19 pandemic and took a knee to observe the Black Lives Matter movement.
Indeed, player names on shirts were replaced by Black Lives Matter, while a sleeve patch will feature on shirts for the remainder of the league season.
That was the closest Arsenal got to City for much of the evening. The gulf in class was otherwise evident.
City have won their last seven league and cup matches against Arsenal, their longest winning run versus the Gunners.
De Bruyne has been directly involved in eight goals in his past eight Premier League starts against Arsenal, scoring five and assisting three.
Arsenal have lost their last six meetings with City; they last had a longer losing run against an opponent between 1974 and 1977 (Ipswich Town – seven in a row).
They have won just one of 12 top-flight fixtures this season against teams currently above them in the table (drawn five, lost six).
Pep Guardiola has never lost a home match against Arsenal in his managerial career, winning seven of eight games.
Luiz is the first player to be sent off, concede a penalty and commit an error leading to an opposition goal in a Premier League match since Carl Jenkinson for West Ham v Bournemouth in August 2015.
The last time that a player was sent off, conceded a penalty and committed an error leading to an opposition goal in the same game after coming on as a substitute within the top five European leagues, was in March 2011 by Iván Córdoba for Inter Milan v Brescia in Serie A.
This was Sterling’s first goal for City in 2020 in his 28th attempt this calendar year. He is the first player to score a goal in the month of June in the English top-flight since Walter Rickett, for Sheffield United against Stoke on June 14, 1947.
Such is the frenetic schedule of the restarted Premier League campaign that both clubs are in action quickly again.
Arsenal travel to the south coast to face Brighton on Saturday afternoon (June 20) before yet another away day on the south coast, this time at Southampton, a week tomorrow (June 25).
City welcome Burnley to the Etihad next Monday night before a trip to Stamford Bridge to meet Chelsea three days later.
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