Manchester City 1-0 Arsenal
As Premier League matches go, few will remember this match as a particular spectacle.
Entertaining it was but the excitement came in bursts.
As Premier League 22020 results go, however, it could prove to be of crucial importance in the title race.
Manchester City may have had defensive frailty since influential skipper Vincent Kompany departed just over a year ago, but they remain the most aesthetically pleasing side on the eye in an attacking sense and that will give them a chance in many encounters.
While they only scored one goal here against an ever-improving Arsenal, the fact they kept a clean sheet, a rarity of late, was enough to give Pep Guardiola victory against his former number two, Mikel Arteta.
Highlights of the game
The team news had not been that encouraging for City.
It was already known that player of the year Kevin de Bruyne would miss the clash after being substituted in his country’s Nations League match against England last weekend.
What’s more, Aymeric Laporte and Benjamin Mendy were late injury exclusions, the latter out for up four weeks, while Guardiola also revealed striker Gabriel Jesus is set to miss months of action.
So the return to the starting line-up of Sergio Aguero (out since June), and Portugal internationals Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva could not have been better timed as City faced the challenge of the revitalised Gunners.
Arsenal, bidding to win four of their opening five league matches in a season for the first time since 2013-14, weren’t without difficulties themselves as Rob Holding tweaked a hamstring during the warm-up, which meant David Luiz was drafted into the starting line-up.
When the Premier League highlights did begin, the most crucial of all arrived in the 23rd minute.
Riyad Mahrez turned infield and found Agüero, who pressed forward and fed youngster Phil Foden. While his right-foot shot saved was pushed away by Bernd Leno, Raheem Sterling was on hand to fire home what proved to be the winner.
At the other end, goalkeeper Ederson had to be alert to keep out young Bukayo Saka and then superbly denied Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang – Arsenal’s match-winner against them in last season’s FA Cup semi-finals – before saving a Pepe header at the start of the second half.
Chances remained few, though, and even the introduction of Arsenal’s £45 million deadline day recruit, Thomas Partey, late on did not prevent City from holding on for a deserved victory, without ever looking totally comfortable.
It was the win that mattered most for City and the importance of the strike by Sterling – made captain for the day with De Bruyne injured and Fernandinho on the bench – could be clear some time from now.
City are unbeaten in 10 Premier League meetings with the Gunners – scoring at least twice in each of them – since a 2-1 defeat in December 2015 (won eight, drawn two).
Arsenal have now lost seven league matches in a row versus the same opponent for the first time since against Ipswich between 1974 and 1977.
The Gunners’ solitary victory in their past 10 away league games against City came in January 2015.
City have earned 28 points from their past 11 home league games against other established top-six teams, only losing to Manchester United in December 2019.
Sterling has scored an unrivalled 35 goals among Premier League players in all competitions since the start of last season.
He also has had a hand in each of City’s last five goals in all competitions (four goals, one assist) and has been directly involved in six goals in his last five Premier League appearances against Arsenal (four goals, two assists).
City have conceded just one goal in their last six Premier League games against Arsenal, keeping a shut out v four different managers in this run (Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery, Fredrik Ljungberg and Arteta).
City goalkeeper Ederson has kept 53 clean sheets in the Premier League since his debut in August 2017, 15 more than any other goalkeeper in this time.
Guardiola is yet to drop a point against the Gunners in five encounters at Etihad Stadium since he succeeded Manuel Pellegrini as City manager in 2016.
It’s a bumper schedule for City who launch their latest Champions League campaign on Wednesday at home to Porto before a quick turnaround as they take on West Ham next Saturday lunchtime (October 24).
Arsenal go to Rapid Vienna on Thursday teatime in the Europa League and then welcome Leicester City to the Emirates next Sunday evening.
Make sure you study the SBOTOP Premier League 2020 betting odds for a range of offers.
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