MAN CITY 1, ARSENAL 0
Manchester City discovered a new way of winning as they ground out a hard-earned home victory against Arsenal.
While it was not aesthetically as pleasing to the eye as many other performances, it was a massive three points after a disappointing start to the season.
City, who began the day in 14th place, climbed to 10th thanks to a matchwinner from stand-in captain Raheem Sterling.
While Sterling won the plaudits and was named man of the match, he was pushed hard by goalkeeper Ederson.
The Brazilian pulled off two magnificent saves which, in the context of the game, were just as important as Sterling’s goal.
A combination of Sterling and Ederson were decisive as City manager Pep Guardiola made it 25 points from 27 against Arsenal.
While Mikel Arteta’s has improved the Gunners’ fortunes, they still have a woeful record against the top six which they have failed to beat in 29 attempts.
Arteta, too, has struggled against the elite teams managing only one draw in his five games.Embed from Getty Images
Guardiola described in as an “important victory” in light of their late start to the season followed by the international break and players struck down by Covid-19 and injury.
He said: “We are not in a good moment and not in a position to sustain a performance for 90 minutes, but these games will help us achieve it and the spirit is there.
“We need to grow as a team and this game will help us to step forward. It is important for confidence and mentality.”
Guardiola described is as an “incredible effort” from his players, especially Ederson who made “incredible saves” to deny Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as he did in the previous game at Leeds United.
“The team were incredible in terms of effort and how they fought,” he said.
Guardiola described Arsenal as a “dangerous opponent” and Arteta is creating a really good team.
Sterling said: “We dropped points early on in the season, so it was important to keep on winning.
“Coming back from the international break we knew we needed a good performance and to pick up points to kick-start the season. Today’s result definitely gives us confidence.
“I felt I was quite lucky to get on the scoresheet. It was not one of my better games, but I am just grateful to be able to help the team.”
Kevin De Bruyne was an absentee through an injury picked up on international duty, one of four changes from the side that drew 1-1 at Leeds United before the break.
Ferran Torres, Aymeric Laporte and Benjamin Mendy also lost out, the latter two didn’t even feature on the bench as they were injured.
There was a plus for City as club record goalscorer Sergio Aguero returned after injury for his first appearance of the season.
Nathan Ake, Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo also returned.
Arsenal made two changes to the side that beat Sheffield United last time out, though it was originally three.
David Luiz, originally omitted, was brought in after Rob Holding complained of a tight hamstring in the warm-up.
Mohamed Elneny and Eddie Nketiah dropped down to the bench as there were call ups for Granit Xhaka and Nicolas Pepe.
City could have taken the lead after 40 seconds when Riyad Mahrez fired narrowly wide after cutting in from the left and playing a return pass with captain Sterling.
Aguero also had an early chance but headed over from six yards.
The deadlock was broken in the 23rd minute through Sterling’s fourth goal of the season.
Aguero sprayed a pass to Phil Foden who cut in from the left before forcing goalkeeper Bernd Leno to parry his fiercely struck effort to Sterling for a side-footed finish from 12 yards.
Arsenal had two chances to equalise as Sako’s shot was turned over by Ederson while Pepe headed wide at the near post from Willian’s cross
Leno prevented City doubling their advantage with smart stops to keep out Mahrez and Foden as they largely dominated play.
Arsenal, however, had two great chances to draw level late in the half.
Ederson pulled off a fabulous stop to deflect over a strike from Saka who played a delightful return pass with Aubameyang.
The Brazilian keeper moments later excelled again to deny Aubameyang who was flagged offside, but replays showed he wasn’t and a goal would have stood had VAR made a judgement.
Then in stoppage time a penalty claim was dismissed after the Gunners claimed a high foot by Kyle Walker on Gabriel Magalhaes.
Mahrez forced Leno into action again early in the second half which lacked the sparkle of the opening period.
City made their first change at the mid-point when Aguero made way for Ilkay Gundogan as Guardiola was mindful it was his first action since June.
Arsenal had a let off when Luiz almost sliced a clearance from Cancelo’s cross into his own net.
With the Gunners chasing an equaliser, City brought on Fernandinho for Foden in the 89th minute to provide midfield solidity as they held on for victory.