Man City fight back to beat Arsenal and move second

Man City fight back to beat Arsenal and move second

Leroy Sane scores

Manchester City moved up to second in the Premier League table as Arsenal squandered a lead to lose for the second successive game.

Theo Walcott’s cool fifth-minute finish from Alexis Sanchez’s pass put the Gunners in control at the interval – but the second half brought a familiar painful fate for manager Arsene Wenger and his players.

As at Everton on Tuesday, they were overpowered and the credits were rolling once Leroy Sane ran on to David Silva’s pass to beat Petr Cech with Arsenal appealing in vain for offside.

City were on a roll and Arsenal were on the rack, the winner coming 19 minutes from time when Raheem Sterling was the beneficiary of Kevin de Bruyne’s brilliant pass to arrow a low finish past Cech at his near post.

It bolstered City’s title ambitions, although they are still seven points behind leaders Chelsea and completed a damaging double for Arsenal as they now lie nine points behind Antonio Conte’s side.

Relive the action from the Etihad Stadium

De Bruyne steps up as Ozil disappears

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Manchester City needed their main man when they trailed at half-time – and in the absence of the suspended Sergio Aguero that role is assumed by De Bruyne.

And how the Belgian responded, delivering a virtuoso second-half performance crowned by that superb pass that led to Sterling’s winner.

De Bruyne was the driving force behind City’s second-half transformation that saw Pep Guardiola’s team wrestle control from Arsenal with a change of tempo and intensity that was simply too much for Arsenal to resist.

The same could not be said for Arsenal’s elite players and the main culprit was Mesut Ozil who, as in the fierce atmosphere of Goodison Park on Tuesday, shrank from the occasion and wandered around aimlessly and ineffectively on the game’s periphery.

Ozil is in the middle of what are likely to be very lucrative contract negotiations. Performances like this will diminish his hand in the bargaining rather than strengthen it.

Good week for Guardiola and Man City…

Pep Guardiola (right) and Arsene Wenger

Manchester City and Guardiola knew a lot was riding on two home games this week after the result, and the manner of the 4-2 defeat at Leicester City last Saturday.

City simply had to beat Watford and Arsenal, the stakes even higher after Chelsea stretched their lead to nine points with victory at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

A draw was no use to either side here – so the notion of defeat was even more unpalatable.

City were on the brink as they were behind at half-time but Guardiola responded by sending on Bacary Sagna for Pablo Zabaleta and Sane, who had been out on the wing, was soon racing through to score from a central position.

It was a win City needed desperately and its importance was illustrated by the celebrations at the final whistle.

…bad week for Wenger and Arsenal

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Just when some of the old doubts about Arsenal’s resilience and resistance to pressure seemed to be receding, all the familiar questions will return after the way they have lost a lead and slumped to defeat at Everton and now at Manchester City.

Arsenal looked in calm control holding the advantage on both occasions but have twice found themselves broken by physical presence and the greater intensity of opponents who were simply prepared to dig deeper.

Wenger was wearing a familiar frustrated expression at the final whistle.

And at the back of many Arsenal minds will be the familiar tales and pain of previous seasons when promise and potential ended in title under-achievement.

Man of the match – Kevin de Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne

Guardiola’s Indian sign over Wenger

  • City won a Premier League game they were losing at half-time for the first time since November 2012 (v Tottenham).
  • Meanwhile, Arsenal have lost three games from leading positions this season, more than they did in the whole of 2015-16 (2).
  • Indeed, the Gunners have lost back-to-back Premier League games having been leading for the first time since January 2012 (v Fulham and Swansea).
  • Guardiola has yet to lose a home game against Wenger in any competition (W4 D1).
  • Sane became the sixth German player to score a Premier League goal for City – more than any other club has provided.
  • Since joining Arsenal, Sanchez has had a hand in 59 Premier League goals (41 goals, 18 assists). Only Sergio Aguero (60 goals, 10 assists) has been involved in more in that time.
  • Sterling scored his first Premier League goal in nine games, since netting against Swansea in September.
  • Cech has gone eight Premier League games without a clean sheet for the first time in his career.

What’s next?

It’s Boxing Day action for both teams. Arsenal are at home to West Brom (15:00 GMT) and City are at Hull (17:15 GMT).

Line-ups

Man City

  • 1Bravo
  • 5Zabaleta