Arsenal may want to avoid Manchester on August 28 in the future. On the 10th anniversary of an 8-2 thrashing at Old Trafford, they reached another historic low on the other side of the city.
As Manchester City surged to a victory that gives Pep Guardiola the extraordinary record of 31 points from a possible 33 against Arsenal, his former assistant’s problems mounted. Humiliated and eviscerated, Arsenal are in dire straits.
Mikel Arteta has overseen Arsenal’s poorest start to a season for 67 years. They have yet to get a point or a goal. Indeed, they got a red card before either, with Granit Xhaka dismissed in disgrace, ensuring there was no recovery after a wretched start.
Perhaps they could be grateful that City signed neither Harry Kane nor Cristiano Ronaldo but the margin of victory was emphatic without either. Arsenal found Ferran Torres and Gabriel Jesus problematic enough, as each carried on where he left off against Norwich to secure a second straight 5-0 win.
Jack Grealish earned a first assist for a new club, while Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Rodri stroked the ball around in midfield, with two scoring.
City made a false start to the season against Tottenham but found a second date with north London opponents more to their liking. They were outstanding, even if the perfectionist in Guardiola said: “It was nice winning but we have to be better." But City had 25 shots to Arsenal’s lone one and those kind of numbers would long have felt implausible.
“It is time to reflect and look in the mirror and try to change the dynamic,” Arteta said. “I question myself and I have to try and have the right people around me and look at every decision I make.”
And those best-laid plans were in ruin inside a quarter of an hour. He had reverted to the 3-4-3 formation he used when beating City in the 2020 FA Cup semi-final. History did not repeat itself. Indeed, the closest thing to a sequel was when Gundogan almost scored two headers in quick succession.
The first did count, the German escaping in space behind Calum Chambers to meet Jesus’ deep cross. It was the fourth goal the Brazilian had set up in two games as he savoured his reinvention as a right winger. City’s top scorer last season, Gundogan is continuing in a similar vein.
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Then Silva curled in a low cross that a series of stretching Arsenal defenders could not reach. Torres did, timing his run and guiding his finish in. He doubled his tally with a late header from Riyad Mahrez’s cross and while Torres may lack the scoring pedigrees of Kane and Ronaldo, they were strikers’ goals and his display supported Guardiola’s belief that is turning to in a centre-forward. “That is why we didn’t need a striker,” Guardiola said. “He makes movements like the best strikers in behind, like Jamie Vardy. He is a good finisher.”
The third goal illustrated part of Guardiola’s ethos, with a goal that stemmed from Ederson’s ability to pass the ball out from the back. He found Torres, who picked out Grealish. A fast, direct dribble from the summer signing later, he had found Jesus, who tucked in his first goal of the season. Ederson had almost taken a policy of playing out from the back a little far earlier, Emile Smith Rowe charging down a pass and almost turning it in.
“We have to play 60 minutes with 10 men against the best team in the league,” Arteta lamented but that was Xhaka’s fault after he jumped in two-footed at Joao Cancelo. The resulting red card felt inevitable to all but Arsenal.
City had still more room to excel against 10 men and, teed up by Torres, Rodri guided in a shot from outside the box. Torres made it five and, but for Bernd Leno’s saves from Raheem Sterling, it would have been more.