- Daniel Gallagher-Parker
Review and Player Ratings as Grealish and Haaland seal huge table-topping win – Arsenal 1-3 Man City
After a performance of champions, Manchester City showed why they're chasing their third Premier League title in as many seasons. An outrageous strike from Kevin De Bruyne and two equally good finishes in their own way from Jack Grealish and Erling Haaland sent the Blues top of the league.
Arsenal vs City. Mikel Arteta vs Pep Guardiola. Red vs blue. First vs second. Everything was on the line at the Emirates Stadium.
The City boss only made one change to his starting lineup as Nathan Ake replaced Aymeric Laporte in defence. Many people expected the former to return to the starting XI but to fill in at left-back for Bernardo Silva.
In the absence of Joao Cancelo, it was thought Ake would be the first-choice left-back for the remainder of the season, but as seen in City's 3-1 win against Aston Villa, Guardiola seems to like the idea of Silva in that position - clearly, he likes it a lot to keep him in City's biggest game of the season so far.
The opening quarter of an hour showed that both sides had no intention of sitting back. Ruben Dias had been the busiest man of that period as he made two blocks, one of which exceptionally denied Eddie Nketiah from testing Ederson.
City's first chance of the game was a great opportunity unlocked by Riyad Mahrez, who found Haaland in the box for the first time in the game - the Norwegian opted to square it across the goal instead of shooting himself, but there was no one in a sky blue shirt running parallel to him.
City's top scorer, who has, somehow, been receiving criticism that he doesn't get involved in the build-up play as much as a traditional Guardiola striker should do - spent the majority of his time out on the right wing collecting the ball to his feet.
Former City player, Oleksandr Zinchenko, whipped in an inch-perfect cross for Nketiah, but the centre-forward couldn't direct his header on target as it went just wide of the post. The best chance of the opening 20 minutes, though.
The man for the big occasion, the man who has haunted Arsenal before, had become their nightmare once more.
Thanks to a very sloppy back pass from Takehiro Tomiyasu, De Bruyne pounced and produced a sensational left-footed finish to curl it around the charging Aaron Ramsdale from outside the box into the empty net to put the visitors in the lead in the 24th minute.
That was De Bruyne's 90th goal for City, with six of those coming against Arsenal in the Premier League – the most he's scored against any team.
The Arsenal full-back, who was brought in for Ben White ahead of kick-off, nearly made amends for his mistake straight away, but his volley inside the box was always rising over the bar.
Some more great defending by the City backline followed, this time by Ake, who did just enough to stop Bukayo Saka from getting a shot away at the City goal.
Kyle Walker received a needless yellow card as he was ordered to leave the pitch after getting treatment – however, there was some confusion as Rodri tried passing the Englishman the ball despite not having re-entered the action, and the full-back then booted the ball away.
This was shortly followed by a yellow card for Ederson, who was written into the book for time wasting.
After taking the lead, City, for some reason, changed their style of play. They looked to slow the tempo of the game, and it only played in Arsenal's favour; the hosts took complete control of the game, and they brought the scoreline level just before half-time.
What was originally thought to be a fantastic goal-line clearance by Ake, was then spoilt by Anthony Taylor awarding Nketiah a penalty from a challenge by Ederson. Saka then sent the Brazilian the wrong way and slotted it into the bottom left corner.
Must be noted, that Arteta has loudly, publicly moaned about refereeing decisions this week and then his side were awarded a highly controversial decision that you very rarely see given.
City came ever so close to regaining their lead before the break, but Rodri's diving header at the back post from Mahrez's cross ricocheted off the crossbar.
City started the second half well, and they were temporarily rewarded. Haaland got in behind Gabriel, and the Arsenal defender clattered the City forward down in the box, which was originally given as a penalty.
That was shortlived, though, as the 22-year-old's boot sponsor at the back of his heel was offside.
Nketiah came within inches of putting the Gunners in front for the first time in the match, but Saka's driven cross was too powerful for the striker to latch onto.
A flurry of chances fell to numerous City players, but every single shot was cleared off the line. Rodri's header was dropped by Ramsdale, and it was the second-half substitute, Manuel Akanji, who had the best of the follow-up chances.
A momentary lapse in concentration from Zinchenko provided Silva, now playing right wing, with the ball inside the opposition area, but his pass was a bit loose, and it left Haaland with an incredibly tight angle to beat Ramsdale.
City regained their lead, and it was nothing more than they deserved. Some great selfless play from Haaland saw Ilkay Gundogan tee up Grealish to run onto and magnificently curl the ball into Ramsdale's goal.
The Englishman wheeled off into the home fans for an emphatic outburst of emotion from the City squad.
There was another potential penalty, but Taylor and David Coote in the VAR room were quick to dismiss Arsenal's claims. Leandro Trossard just ran straight into Walker, so, no real surprise it wasn't given.
Some amazing intricate play by City once again resulted in Haaland getting a well-deserved goal for a fabulous all-round performance from City's #9.
Of course, it was De Bruyne to assist him. Haaland took a touch away from his man and smashed it home into the left corner of the goal and all but sealed City's 11th Premier League win in a row against Arsenal.
The champions saw the remainder of the game out comfortably and after a more or less dominant performance, particularly in the second half, were able to celebrate knowing they are now at the top of the table – albeit with Arsenal having a game in hand.
Now that the first of five consecutive away days is out of the way, up next for City is a trip to Nottingham Forest. That game kicks off at 15:00 GMT on Saturday 18th, February.
Man of the Match
De Bruyne was awarded the official Man of the Match award, but we think Haaland deserves some recognition as well. So we're splitting the award between the two of them.
De Bruyne was once again phenomenal from the moment he stepped foot on the pitch to even when he was providing the Emirates with a lap of honour smirking and winking as the home fans threw bottles at him. The Belgian scored the opening goal of the game and provided the assist for the third.
But then Haaland did exactly what he was asked to do and so much more. He bullied Arsenal's centre-halves all game, he created opportunities for his teammates, he pressed hard, and he sealed an emphatic win with his 26th Premier League in just 22 appearances.
That goal equalled Sergio Aguero's highest-ever Premier League tally. Haaland has 15 games left to break yet another record.
Ederson - 6
Walker - 7
Dias - 9
Ake - 7.5
Bernardo Silva - 7.5
Rodri - 8.5
De Bruyne - 9.5
Gundogan - 7
Mahrez - 6.5
Haaland - 9.5
Grealish - 9
Substitutes: Akanji - 6, Foden - N/A, Phillips - N/A
Written by: @DanGP17_
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