City suffered their third away defeat in succession when they went down 2-1 to Arsenal on Monday night, a result which leaves them six points adrift of leaders Leicester in the race for the Premier League title.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side began the game reasonably well and should really have taken the lead when Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva found themselves two-on-one with Per Mertesacker just after the half hour mark. They didn’t, and minutes later Theo Walcott curled in an excellent but preventable goal at the other end, putting a huge dent in City’s confidence and setting the tone for the rest of the evening.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the Blues trudged off at the interval 2-0 down and with a mountain to climb thanks to Olivier Giroud’s goal on the stroke of half time which, just like Arsenal’s first one, could have been prevented.
Raheem Sterling was introduced at half time but the visitors showed little sign of getting back into the match until Yaya Touré stroked one into the top corner of Petr Cech’s net with his left foot in the 80th minute. It was then, and only then, that City began to play with any real urgency or intent but sadly it was too little, too late and Arsenal held out for the win.
Not for the first time this season, City looked worryingly disorganised, disinterested and downright spineless on what was probably their biggest league game of the season so far. I blame that unlucky blue moon kit, personally.
Here’s how I rated the players on the night.
1 Joe Hart – 6/10
Could possibly have sorted his feet out a bit better for the first goal and should definitely not have let the second one go through his legs but it was still a night on which we should be more thankful for the saves he did make than annoyed about the ones he didn’t. The 28-year-old is having arguably his best season in a City shirt this year but the way things are going, he’s going to end up with fewer clean sheets than ever before and it’ll have been through little fault of his own.
3 Bacary Sagna – 3/10
Showed himself up somewhat with a poor performance on his first appearance against his old side. He was one of the players who let Theo Walcott have as much time as he needed to turn and shoot for the first goal and seemed to misplace his pass almost every time he got the ball. City’s current inability to rotate in the right back position is becoming a problem.
30 Nicolás Otamendi – 4/10
Picked up his fourth booking of the season with a stupid challenge in the second half and was as culpable as anyone in another collectively shabby defensive performance. He wasn’t solely at fault for Arsenal’s second goal but could possibly have done more to prevent Giroud getting his shot off, and I can’t help but feel City could do with a centre-half who isn’t afraid to rough his opposite numbers up a bit, rather than one who seems to spend most of his time trying to convince the referee that he’s the one being fouled.
20 Eliaquim Mangala – 3/10
I’m seriously beginning to think the Frenchman is less a central defender and more an avant-garde interpretation of one. His positioning at the Emirates was, as usual, all over the place, he made the wrong decision more often than not and was largely at fault for Arsenal’s second goal thanks to a laughably bad pass out from the back. I said after the Swansea game that even when Mangala plays well, it seems he’s unable to get through 90 minutes without doing something extremely amateurish. The way he let the ball bounce over his head in the second half would be an embarrassment to a Sunday League player, never mind a grossly over-valued international footballer.
13 Aleksandar Kolarov – 3/10
Delivered some decent crosses into the box from set-pieces in the second half but struggled with the pace of Arsenal’s forward line all evening and at times made it seem as though his team was playing without a left back, which is obviously far from good enough.
18 Fabian Delph – 3/10
Picked up a knock very early on and struggled to make any mark at all on the game in the first half, to the point that it took him being withdrawn at half time to remind me that he’d been on the pitch in the first place.
25 Fernandinho – 4/10
Ran himself into the ground as he always does, but struggled to truly stamp his authority on the middle of the park and offered little in terms of protection to the back four. You have to feel for him because it quite often seems as if he’s doing the work of two men in midfield and can hardly be blamed when he’s unable to be everywhere at once.
42 Yaya Touré – 4/10
Gave his team a glimmer of hope with an exquisite (and slightly lucky) goal towards the end but this was otherwise a disappointing performance from the Ivorian which provided his detractors with plenty of ammunition. His inability or unwillingness to dig in defensively left the back four horribly exposed at times and Aaron Ramsey in particular was given the freedom to make runs forward from midfield and basically do whatever he wanted all night. Yaya can quite often be the only player in a City shirt who looks likely to make something happen, but he should know by now that there’s more to being a central midfielder than the attacking side of the game.
17 Kevin De Bruyne – 4/10
I’m possibly in the minority in that I think De Bruyne did the right thing by taking the shot on when he was through on goal with David Silva in support in the first half. That said, even if squaring the ball to Silva wasn’t possible, hitting the target in that scenario certainly was and this was a night full of good ideas executed badly by the Belgian. The moment he tried to take a quick corner but ended up tripping over the corner flag in the first half just about summed it up.
21 David Silva – 4/10
Had a very poor night by his standards which began with him blazing a shot over the bar from a decent position and only got worse thereafter. The Spaniard seemed annoyed that De Bruyne didn’t pass to him when the two of them bore down on goal in the first half but he didn’t exactly make the angle easy for his teammate to pick him out and was just as much to blame for the wasted opportunity in my opinion. He’s the kind of player who is always capable of doing something positive and you’d always rather have him on the pitch than not, but it didn’t feel like City were losing a great deal when he was withdrawn with 20 minutes to go on Monday night.
10 Sergio Agüero – 4/10
As great as it was to see him named in the starting line-up for this match, I couldn’t help but wonder how effective he’d be given he’s just returned from an injury and usually takes a few games get up to speed. As it turned out, he clearly wasn’t fully fit and, a nice flick in the first half and a couple of tame headed efforts in the second aside, he wasn’t very effective either. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course, but in this case hindsight tells us that Manuel Pellegrini would have been better bringing his star striker on for the latter stages of the match rather than having to bring him off after an hour.
7 Raheem Sterling – 3/10
Came on at half time with stretching Arsenal’s backline and giving his team an extra dimension in attack as his remit and did little of either. He’s a talented individual, of that there is no doubt, but whether he’s the sort of individual who can be relied upon to make an impact when the chips are down remains to be seen.
14 Wilfried Bony – Came on too late to mark
Had a few nice touches during the 30 minutes he spent on the field including one which could have resulted in an equalising goal were it not for a miscontrol from De Bruyne. Bony has been far from brilliant this season, but he’ll have been disappointed not to have started this match and probably should have done.
15 Jesús Navas – Came on too late to mark
Jesús is a man who has managed to overcome a debilitating mental illness once already in his career, but overcoming his crippling lack of confidence in front of goal might just be his biggest challenge yet. His decision to try and pass the ball to Bony rather than shoot when through on goal in the second half was a terrible one, but I felt sorry for him more than anything because there’s clearly more to this long goal drought than him just being a bit gun-shy. Moreover, how much longer can City afford to have an attacking player who isn’t going to contribute goals to team?
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Written by Dan Burke