Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 October 2020

Raheem Sterling hits winner as Manchester City edge out Arsenal at the Etihad

England attacker scores only goal of game in first half as Guardiola welcomes striker Aguero back from injury

When Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal were at their finest, they used to specialise in eviscerating Manchester City.

Times have changed, though, and City’s No 7 made it a magnificent seven for them: seven consecutive league wins over a club who used to be their superiors.

Raheem Sterling gave City a modicum of revenge for their FA Cup semi-final defeat to the Gunners.

For Pep Guardiola, it was victory over his old assistant Mikel Arteta. If each possessed an inside knowledge of the other and was primed to second guess an old ally, Guardiola’s gambit of using Sterling in a central role was justified. So, too, a choice of system that even Arteta could not have expected.

City lined up in an unorthodox 3-3-4 and a defence without the injured Aymeric Laporte and Benjamin Mendy kept their first clean sheet of the league campaign, albeit helped by terrific goalkeeping.

Sterling partnered a fit-again Sergio Aguero in attack and struck. Arsenal were spared a date with Kevin de Bruyne, a regular scourge of theirs, but Sterling has scored in their last three league meetings.

He had high-class support. Aguero’s first appearance since June led to a goal, albeit not a typical Aguero strike. Guardiola believes the Argentinian has become more of an all-round player under his tutelage and he illustrated that with selfless creativity.

City’s record scorer collected the ball on the edge of the centre circle, drove forward and found Phil Foden. When his shot was parried, Sterling suppled the predatory, Aguero-esque finish from the rebound.

The same three attackers were involved again when Aguero and Sterling combined to set up Foden, whose effort was blocked by Bernd Leno.

It was not the German’s only terrific stop: he also denied Riyad Mahrez, who had first threatened after 40 seconds. But as Arsenal sought to replicate the counter-attacking formula that worked so well in July’s FA Cup tie, it was imperative for City they scored first. They did.

That put the onus on Arsenal. Their threat stemmed from the precocious Bukayo Saka.

Ederson twice saved well from the new England international; the second, after a one-two with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, was a brilliant stop. He produced a similarly fine block to deny Aubameyang, who had wrongly been flagged offside.

After conceding five times to Leicester on his previous appearance at the Etihad, Ederson played with the air of a man with a point to prove. Perhaps he was aided by Arteta’s tactics: Willian proved ineffective as a false nine.

While Thomas Partey’s Arsenal career began with a late cameo after his deadline-day move, David Luiz was a late addition to the starting line-up when Rob Holding sustained a hamstring injury in the warm-up.

The Brazilian had a nightmare at the Etihad in June and flirted with disaster again when he almost turned Joao Cancelo’s cross into his own net.

This was not as traumatic a trip to Manchester for him, but the outcome was the same. Arsenal’s last away league win at big-six opponents was at the Etihad Stadium, but in January 2015. A long wait goes on.

Updated: October 17, 2020 10:30 PM

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