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Defeat is usually the order of the day when Arsenal play City and Saturday’s result extends their losing streak against them to 10 matches.
This, however, was not the usual script and Arsenal can take plenty of positives from this defeat. They restricted City to just two shots on target, one of which was a penalty and the other a last-minute goal by Rodri.
Arsenal were excellent for large parts of the game, particularly the first half, and it was not an exaggeration to say the opening 45 minutes was the best they’ve ever played under Arteta.
The Spaniard, who was having to watch on from home as he is isolating after testing positive for Covid-19, will have liked what he saw and Bukayo Saka’s goal was the least Arsenal deserved for their efforts.
It is the quality of Arsenal’s performance that will have them so aggrieved to get nothing from this game, and the fact City left it so late to snatch a winner.
But they’ll also be aggrieved by some of the refereeing decisions, which didn’t go their way. There are still 364 days to go in this year, however it’s a safe bet to assume that referee Stuart Attwell won’t be making any Arsenal fans’ Christmas cards list.
Arsenal’s biggest gripe will be the inconsistency of the officiating. Martin Odegaard was brought down by Ederson in the first half, but the referee and VAR waved it away. In the second half, Bernardo Silva tangled with Granit Xhaka - this time Attwell went to the screen and reversed his decision not to give a penalty.
The situation left Arsenal’s players incensed. Gabriel, according to assistant Albert Stuivenberg, made a remark to the referee, resulting in a yellow card. Minutes later he collected his second after colliding with Gabriel Jesus.
Arsenal were rocking then when moments before they could have been ahead, but Gabriel Martinelli missed from yards out when the goal was gaping.
The wheels could have come off, as they have in the past, however they didn’t and Arsenal steadied the ship. In the end, it was a late City winner that sunk them, but the mood should still be buoyant as they host Liverpool next week.
Gabriel leaves Arsenal with Carabao Cup headache
It was a blow for Arsenal to lose Gabriel for the final 30 minutes of this game, but the fact he is also out for the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final next week is huge loss.
The Brazilian has been a rock for Arsenal this season and has become the heartbeat of their defence.
Before his red card against City, he had been excellent and Jesus barely had a sniff. His absence next week means Rob Holding will likely start against Liverpool, who will at least be without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Partey back to his best
Around a month ago, Thomas Partey’s confidence was so low that he was rating his performances as a four out of 10.
Now, though, he looks like a different player and he bossed the midfield against City.
The Ghanaian broke up play and sprayed the ball around, putting in the kind of performance Arsenal have been crying out for.
It’s just a shame he is heading off to the Africa Cup of Nations next week.