Arsenal draw confidence in title battle despite latest Man City defeat
rsenal left the Etihad Stadium last season with their tails between their legs, but this time they can depart heads held high.
The Gunners are out of the FA Cup after losing in the fourth round to Manchester City, however there were plenty of positives for Mikel Arteta to take back to north London.
City created very little on the night and the only goal of the game came when defender Nathan Ake side-footed an effort into the bottom corner midway through the second half.
Other than that, this was a very even cup tie and that will have pleased Arteta after he made six changes from the team that beat Manchester United 3-2 last Sunday.
With Arsenal and City due to meet in the Premier League on February 15, the last thing Arteta wanted was for his side to come here and take a beating.
That is exactly what happened at the start of last season, with City running out 5-0 winners during a comfortable afternoon’s work.
This defeat was nothing like that, though, and Arteta will have taken heart from the way his side kept Erling Haaland quiet. Kevin De Bruyne also struggled to make an impact, bar curling one effort past the post in the first half.
Instead, it was Arsenal who looked the most threatening during the opening 45 minutes. Goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, who was one of City’s best players, made two good saves to deny Takehiro Tomiyasu and Leandro Trossard.
The performance of Trossard was a particular highlight for Arsenal. He only signed for the club this time last week, arriving from Brighton as part of a deal worth £26million, but the Belgian looks like he could have a role to play in the title race.
Arsenal currently hold a five-point lead over City and have a game in hand, which is what makes that showdown at the Emirates Stadium next month even more decisive.
The Arsenal team that plays that day will look very different to this one and Arteta will hope he has Thomas Partey fit. The midfielder was taken off at half-time here after taking a knock to his ribs and his absence was felt in the second half.
Albert Sambi Lokonga did his best to stand in for the Ghana international, but he is not at the same level and City were able to wrestle more control in midfield after the break.
Ake eventually broke the deadlock in the 64th minute, passing the ball into the bottom corner after Jack Grealish pounced on a Julian Alvarez shot that hit the post.
The Gunners tried to respond after that and Arteta threw on Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Martinelli. The latter was especially lively, causing problems down the left flank. Ortega, however, twice reacted fast to deny Martinelli and with that Arsenal’s FA Cup journey came to an end.
Their Premier League quest, however, is alive and well and, even in defeat here, Arteta’s side should have plenty of confidence that they can go toe to toe with City.