By Jason Burt, at the Emirates
This time Arsenal had no-one to blame but themselves. They gifted the champions Manchester City two goals and handed them the summit of the Premier League.
By the time the brilliant Erling Haaland sealed the victory with his 32nd goal of the season – he scared the life out of Arsenal as he bullied and terrorised their defence into errors – it felt ominous. And to think he had been an injury doubt or so we had been led to believe.
Arsenal may only be behind on goal difference, they may also have a game in hand but, at times, this felt like men against boys which – in fairness – it was given the youth and relative inexperience of Mikel Arteta’s emerging side. City have course and distance and just looked like that bit bigger; that bit more battle-hardened. They had nous.
Arsenal came out of the weekend’s draw against Brentford nursing a sense of grievance over the shocking Var decision which led to the equaliser but can have no complaint here. City arrived and in a dominant second-half performance not just claimed the precious win but quietened the Arsenal crowd who have been such a driving force but, like the players, seemed to lose a little heart.
It is now four games without a win for Arsenal and two of them have been defeats to City who knocked them out of the FA Cup in the first game of a sequence which is now feeling like a deep psychological blow. Remarkably Arsenal have lost their last 11 league games against City.
City even survived another unnecessary tinkering from Pep Guardiola who is often guilty of over-thinking his tactics in big games. Horrible, he called it but once he addressed that they went for the jugular and, for Arsenal, this was bloody.
Until then Guardiola had used Bernardo Silva as a left-back when out of possession which looked particularly quixotic before switching to a back-four, nullifying Bukayo Saka, and moving the Portuguese international into midfield.
City also got into their opponents’ heads. In the first-half they (Silva in particular) took turns to nibble at Saka, they slowed the game down by wasting time and they stayed down after challenges. They got under Arsenal’s skin. Game-management or gamesmanship? Either way it worked.
Arsenal could not deal with that which has to be a worry for Arteta even if every criticism of them should be through the prism that no-one expected them to be in this position this season.
But how City flexed their muscles. It was an evening when Haaland stood tall, when Kevin De Bruyne overshadowed Martin Odegaard and where Arsenal missed the physicality of the injured Thomas Partey. It was also feisty and a little petty and, in the end, City did a job on their rivals.
As Arteta kicked the ball away when De Bruyne tried to take a throw-in he received a push in the chest from the City midfielder – clearly no love lost there – and it came to define the eventual dominance of Guardiola’s team. Arteta has been a jack-in-the-box in his technical area but it looked like he was put in his place.
And yet Arsenal were marginally the better side in a first-half that ended even with Saka’s penalty cancelling out De Bruyne’s simply sublime strike – surprisingly his first goal since October – which was a result of serious error number one.
There has been an increasing problem for Arsenal at right-back, with Ben White’s collapse in form, but his replacement Takehiro Tomiyasu was badly at fault. Under pressure from Jack Grealish, after William Saliba’s mistimed header as he fretted about Haaland’s presence, he woefully under-hit a back pass. De Bruyne seized on it and, in a flash, struck a wonderful first-time shot with his left foot that arced beautifully over Aaron Ramsdale and just inside his right-hand post. What a finish.
Arsenal’s response was admirable with Eddie Nketiah racing onto a threaded pass and turning the ball past Ederson and although Nathan Ake cleared it off the goal-line a penalty was rightly given as the goalkeeper caught the forward. Should it have been a red card for the already booked Ederson? His challenge was late rather than reckless and he understandably earned a reprieve even if Saka beat him from the spot.
On half-time Rodri’s header smacked against the cross-bar and it served as a warning. There was another when Haaland turned Gabriel who hauled him down with the penalty award rightly turned over for offside after a Var check but Arsenal were living dangerously and it felt like a City goal was inevitable.
Maybe Arteta could have changed it up. Instead it was Guardiola running through his options as he sensed a game there for the taking and that was a lesson for his former assistant.
Still it took another mistake for City to take the lead although it was because they forced it with Gabriel passing the ball straight to Silva who picked out Haaland. On the run he squared to Ilkay Gundogan who squared to the unmarked Grealish.
Arsenal were shot. Their belief was drained and they conceded again with Haaland claiming his first goal against a so-called ‘Big Six’ rival since joining City. They carved through – a sign that Arsenal’s resistance was down – with Rodri, Gundogan and then De Bruyne quickly pinging passes before creating space for Haaland. And, with that, the result was sealed and the momentum in the title race shifted. Can Arsenal respond away to Aston Villa on Saturday lunchtime?
Arsenal 1 Man City 3: As it happened
Keith Hackett: Ederson not being sent off the right call – finally a referee applies the law correctly
Having already booked Ederson for timewasting, referee Anthony Taylor was faced with a decision when the goalkeeper fouled Eddie Nketiah. Read Keith’s full verdict on the incident here.
More from the Arsenal manager
Did they overplay?
“In certain areas of the pitch, especially after regaining the ball deep, yes, you don’t play there, you have to play a different game and we didn’t read those situations well enough.
“We didn’t understand when to play and which kinds of balls to play in certain areas and we got punished.”
What message would he give to the players and fans:
“The atmosphere and performance it was really good, if you take away that we gave Man City three goals. But for the rest, Id on’t know what else I can demand to the players to match their level. They are the best team in the world and we matched that level. But after it’s just necessary to do certain things better to beat them.”
On belief and their title chances:
“I have more belief, because I see a team that is going head to head with them. And then you go to the next one and in three days we have another really difficult game. I have more belief in my players, yeah.”
Mikel Arteta speaks to Amazon Prime Video
“Disappointment because we lost it and I say we because we lost it. I think it was an incredible battle between two teams and when we had them – and we had them – we just gave them the goals, absolutely. Against this team they are going to destroy you. And on the other hand we had three big chances against this team and we didn’t put it away.
“To beat them we have to be over our level because they are such a team. We absolutely matched them, I think we had them in big moments but then the game is defined individual moments, especially in the box and they were better than us [there].
“The second-half as well we had some periods where we were imprecise. We didn’t read the situation well enough, we played fast when we didn’t have any advantage and we put ourselves in trouble. Okay, we can accept that. The way we gave the goals away just at this level is not possible.”
Player ratings… do you agree?
Manchester City knocked Arsenal off the top of the Premier League with an impressive 3-1 victory at the Emirates.
Level at the break, the visitors went through the gears in the second-half with goals from Jack Grealish and Erling Haaland securing the points. Telegraph Sport takes a closer look at both sets of players’ performances.
Jack Grealish speaks to Amazon
“For me it was a great night, that’s what I wanted to do. I want to come and affect these big games. Last month I scored at Old Trafford to make it 1-0 and I was buzzing, I thought I’m going to get the winner and then we go and concede two. So it didn’t really mean anything, the goal. To score that tonight was so important. I’ve just got to thank the manager [for giving me minutes].”
Are Arsenal favourites?
“They have one game in hand, so still I consider they are the leaders but could be eight, nine 10 points behind two or three weeks ago and now we are there. It’s important but there are many, many games to play. We are not going to win all the games and hopefully our contenders neither.”
Pep Guardiola speaks to Amazon Prime Video’s pitchside team
“Now we are top of the league but they have one game in hand. Winning or losing you have a lot of games to play. Of course, to come here and winning against that team, the first half they were much better than us, second half we were much, much better. The second half was excellent.”
What went wrong in the first half?
“My tactics! I decided something new and it was horrible. Second half we were much more like we were. We let them play in the build-up. Our shape, we let them play. They found the players behind… the runners up tight. We played more and Erling helped us a lot, one against one we had to play more long balls and we used his power to keep the ball. In the second half we were there.”
That is an appalling record, however you look at it
Erling Haaland reacts after the win
Was this a champions performance?
“All the boys and the whole club here are the champions, so you can say so, yeah.”
What changed in the second half?
“Small adjustments in the half-time from Pep and yeah, in the end we are good quality players and we have to get it out of every player and that’s what we did today.”
Were City streetwise and physical? Did that help?
“For me we have to play a little more like this sometimes and that’s exactly what we did today. I am so proud of every single guy here. We can all agree it’s been the best team this season so to come at this place and play agaisnt them is not easy. We played an amazing game and got the three really important points and we’re in it again.”
Telegraph Sport’s Dan Zeqiri’s thoughts
Mistakes, costly mistakes tonight.
Match stats at full time
Updated Premier League table
Probably a good result for Manchester United, too. They are now only five points off City and Arsenal, getting some of the ground back they lost after their defeat at the Emirates. They have to be outsiders, though, given they have two teams to overhaul.
FULL TIME: Arsenal 1 Man City 3
Good first half from Arsenal. A better second half from Man City. City go top on goal difference, but Arsenal have a game in hand. Arsenal have now dropped 10 points in their last six games after barely dropping any before that.
90+4 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 3
Arsenal with a bit of the ball in the middle of the park, but the life has gone out of this game… understandably.
This was a big test that Mikel Arteta’s men failed, but the real test will be how they respond in their remaining 16 games. And they still have to play City at the Emirates in late April. Will that prove to be an even more crucial game? It just might.
90+2 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 3
I mentioned earlier the aggregate score for the last 10 league meetings between Arsenal and City. It was 26-3… add this game to take it to 11 and that’s 29-4.
90 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 3
Is this a bit of a reality check for Arsenal? That is probably going a bit too far but they really need to stop the rot when they play again. They have been outplayed by City this half, but it’s just one game and it’s not like City haven’t been shaky this season. Plenty of time for things to go wrong or badly for any of the title chasing sides.
88 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 3
Saka sends one in from the right, Nketiah makes the run but his header is poor and at no point goes goalwards. De Bruyne walks off and has to dodge some items thrown from the crowd. That is also poor.
85 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 3
Do you have to feel for Arsenal here? Hmmm. A little but not really. That’s football. And I would say that City’s second half was better than Arsenal’s first half.
City are heading to the top of the table as it stands.
GOAL! Haaland surely secures three point for City!
City have just kept coming and kept coming in the last 25 minutes. Gundogan bursts through the middle of the pitch towards the box, puts De Bruyne through on the right edge of the box after a great run.
De Bruyne cuts it back to Haaland who takes a touch with his left, it’s not a great one as it nearly gets away from him but then he swings his mighty right foot at it… and he sends it past Ramsdale and into the bottom left corner of the Arsenal net.
Arsenal 1 Man City 3
80 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 2
Looks like a triple change for Arsenal incoming: Ben White, Fabio Vieira two of the players about to come on.
79 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 2
Shout for a penalty from Arsenal as new introduction Trossard goes down in the box tussling with Walker… but he dived into him really. Anthony Taylor was having none of it.
77 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 2
Fair to say that, as good as they were in the first half, Arsenal have struggled a bit in this half. City have been physical and the Gunners have looked a bit nervy as Haaland and co have pushed and pressed them at the back.
75 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 2
Foden is on to replace Grealish.
GOAAAAAL! Arsenal 1 Man City 2
City retake the lead! Grealish it is! And it’s another defensive error from Arsenal.
Gabriel passes straight to Bernardo Silva, who finds Haaland running through to the edge of the box, he squares it to Gundogan, who then steps over it to leave Grealish in space 17 or so yards out on the left of the box. His shot is deflected, which takes it beyond the outstretched right arm of Ramsdale…
A bit of luck? Yes. But Arsenal have been looking dodgy at the back this half.
A pretty big celebation from Grealish, there.
71 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 1
This game is increasingly tetchy and disjointed.
68 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 1
Zinchenko makes a mistake on the edge of his own box… not sure what he was trying to do but he dallied and couldn’t find his team-mate.
Bernardo collects the ball, plays in Haaland but the Norwegian can only take it right and away from goal before Ramsdale collects. Danger and Arsenal living a bit close to the line now.
67 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 1
City now have a free-kick about 10 yards out from the left corner of the box. Grealish was fouled. De Bruyne stands over it.
The ball comes in, the ball is headed by Rodri, saved by Ramsdale, and then the follow-up shot is cleared off the line!
65 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 1
A good chance for Arsenal! Tomiyasi crosses from the right after a through-ball from Odegaard, Nketiah checks his run but can’t quite get to the ball as he slides in at the six-yard box.
63 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 1
It’s all getting bitty now. Grealish booked, and then Nketiah booked for a late challenge. This game has all the vibes of a Clasico from around 10 years ago. Great game for the first half, then it gets to the hour mark and Sergio Ramos does his best to make a hundred fouls and Sergio Busquets starts rolling around on the floor for three minutes.
61 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 1
Mahrez off and Akanji on for City.
59 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 1
Haaland wipes out Gabriel with an elbow to the back of the neck as the ball came over. He saw where he was and, whether he meant it or not, that is definitely a foul and should be at least a yellow. Doesn’t appear to be, though.
56 mins – PENALTY TO CITY? NO.
Gabriel tussles with Jesus and pulls down Haaland as they enter the box on the right, though it started before. Anthony Taylor points to the spot… but it looks like Haaland is just offside.
They do a Var check and it is confirmed he was offside. Gabriel’s booking is wiped off. Unbooked as it were.
55 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 1
Grealish looking dangerous charging forward with the ball at his feet but his pass to Mahrez on the right wing is poor and overhit.
53 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 1
Arsenal try to counter but lose the ball with a sloppy pass. The crowd really up again here, especially after Arteta’s little intervention on the touchline. Odegaard thinks he’s fouled by Bernardo Silva on the left touchline but he’s not, he’s really not. The ball goes out for a City throw.
Still fairly intense early in the second half. Very enjoyable, though.
50 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 1
Martinelli to Zinchenko on the left, but he hesistates in getting a cross or pass away and Mahrez steals the ball, only for Haaland and De Bruyne to lose it. They do win a throw, though.
A bit of argy-bargy with Arteta, who moves the ball away from the Belgian with his feet. The City player wants to take the throw quickly and then shoves the Arsenal manager, who was being a bit pesky there.
48 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 1
Grealish dances back towards his own penalty box but eventually finds a blue shirt at the end of it, starting a move from deep. City recycling the ball in the early part of this half.
47 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 1
Tomiyasu booked, for timewasting, I think.
KICK OFF: Arsenal 1 Man City 1
We’re back under way again. Bernardo Silva is still on the pitch. Will he end the game on the pitch? Probably not, one way or the other.
Apologies to Bukayo Saka
Earlier I wrote that he was fouled again by Bernardo Silva “and rightly so”. I (obviously) meant Bernardo Silva was “rightly” booked for fouling Saka again, which I failed to mention.
Arsenal look the more likely to win this game as it stands
It’s probably going to be a case of who takes their chances, though. Aside from the City goal it’s not like they’ve had a bagful of good chances. But they are always going to be dangerous.
More detailed match stats at half-time
Sam Dean’s half-time verdict
This is a brilliant game. Two teams going for it, trying to play through their opponents and pressing high. Arsenal are more than holding their own against the champions and, on the overall balance of play, have surely been the better side.
For those who are interested in such things, here’s the possession and pass count from the first half:
Possession: Arsenal 60 – 40 City
Accurate passes: Arsenal 218 – 172 City
HALF-TIME: Arsenal 1 Man City 1
Well, that was a half that was deserving of the billing.
45+4 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 1
Haaland wins a free kick in a dangerous area. From the left side, just outside the box. The cross comes in from Mahrez, the ball bounces to Rodri, who heads the ball down, it glances off Ake and onto the crossbar and behind for a corner as Ramsdale clears the danger.
Watch: the penalty incident
What do you reckon? Yes or no.
45+2 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 1
Six minutes of added time here. City come again through De Bruyne, whose cross from the left is overhit and misplaced.
45 mins – Arsenal 1 Man City 1
Did Arsenal deserve that? Yeah, probably. Saka has been kicked all over the place tonight.
Arsenal counter through Saka on the right… he has Tomiyasu for support to his left… and Saka is fouled (again!) by Bernardo Silva, who is booked. Rightly so.
GOAL! Arsenal 1 Man City 1
Saka sends Ederson the wrong way, slotting into the left corner of the net with the inside of his left foot!
All square at the Emirates…
39 mins – PENALTY TO ARSENAL!
Arsenal nearly have the ball in the back of the net after Nketiah slides a low shot through goalwards, chasing onto a through ball. Ake clears off the line, but the referee Anthony Taylor points to the spot!
It’s Ederson who clattered into Nketiah after he shot, that’s why… seems fair. He’s already been booked but escapes a sending off here.
Saka to take…
Sam Dean on that Tomiyasu mistake
Takehiro Tomiyasu was the surprise inclusion tonight, with Ben White dropping to the bench, and the decision has not paid off. It’s not an awful error by the Japanese international but it was all that City and Kevin De Bruyne needed… that’s what they do: one mistake and you’re dead.
The Emirates crowd sings Tomiyasu’s name in response.
37 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Arsenal still looking pretty determined and dogged. Plenty of stray passes from both sides in a game of high intensity.
35 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 1
A bit of a lull in procedings as Arsenal try to regroup after going down. They had a couple of good chances immediately after going down and have been, on balance, the better side. But still they trail.
Ederson booked for time-wasting after a City free-kick in their own box.
33 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Walker is back up and will rejoin play. He does so a little early, kicking the ball before he is officially back on the pitch and picks up a booking. All a bit silly.
31 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 1
The Emirates crowd are up, if a little nervous after that. Walker wins a free-kick after Martinelli nudges him into his back and sends him head over heels almost as he was goign for a header, landing flat on his back. A definte foul, whatever the protests are. Should be in the book in my book.
Walker is down for a bit… looked like his head hit the ground.
28 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Another good chance for Arsenal. Or it should have been…
Odegaard finds Saka on the right edge of the box, but he takes too much time and cannot get a shot away as blue shirts swarm around him and City clear the danger. Think he was offside, though, on replay.
27 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Martinelli sends in the ball from the left, it’s deflected to Tomiyasu who is in space 12 yards out… it’s coming from high but he cannot get over it and fires it over the bar. Should have done better but a difficult chance.
GOAAAAAAL: Arsenal 0 Man City 1
City break down the left… Tomiyasu appears to have the danger sorted, though Grealish is hassling him… apart from his ball back to Ramsdale is a long way short and Kevin De Bruyne takes it right in his stride, lifting it first time over the Arsenal keeper from 23 yards with his left foot. A wonderful finish and a howler from the Arsenal defender.
22 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 0
Odegaard with a lovely touch to find Martinelli in the middle, the play comes through a second phase, Zinchenko sends in a superb cross to Nketiah who is unmarked and just yards from goal… he gets his head on it but sends it painfully wide!
That’s poor, really poor. He has to score there.
21 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 0
Saka just caught by Ake on the follow-through of a pass? No. I think the Arsenal player just goes over on his ankle a bit but looks fine.
19 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 0
Haaland with another burst down the left but he is stopped by Zinchenko and Arsenal regain possesion. Arsenal probably marginally the better side… well, maybe not, but City currently look the better side.
15 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 0
Mahrez pings a ball into Haaland from the right corner of the box. The big Norwegian breaks into space, past Tomiyasu at the far post. Haaland gets a left boot on it to try and direct it goalwards but instead it runs across the face of the goal. Danger for Arsenal, there.
13 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 0
Cries for an Arsenal penalty as Ake dives in low to head the ball away as he challenges Nketiah for a cross in. It goes the other way though, despite the Arsenal man ending up on the floor.
The boot wasn’t really that high, and Ake was diving… but I think Nketiah would have seen that when he went to challenge. Hmmm. Maybe a tad harsh. Definitely not a penalty, though. In this universe or any other.
10 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 0
Tomiyasu gives the ball away in the City half but City do not then do much with it and Arsenal come again.
Sam Dean from the Emirates
Bernardo Silva’s positioning today will be fascinating. Nominally he’s playing as a central midfielder, but when Arsenal have had the ball so far he’s been the man closest to Bukayo Saka.
Bernardo as a makeshift left-back? Seems unlikely, and probably unwise. And yet here we are. As the game goes on, it will surely be Nathan Ake who takes the lead in dealing with Saka… but perhaps not.
9 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 0
This time a foul by Bernardo Silva on Saka is picked up.
7 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 0
Corner to City comes after Grealish picks up the ball the ball and drives through, trying to find a blue shirt in the box but it’s knocked behind for a corner. Probably a foul on Saka by Bernardo Silva in the build-up though and that was not spotted or given.
6s min – Arsenal 0 Man City 0
City’s first attack comes through Haaland, who gets past Gabriel and Zinchenko with ease and strength on the right touchline, but then the attack breaks down soon after.
4 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 0
The two teams line-up quite high as the ball is put down. Odegaard lifts it in with his left foot but it’s headed away by Kevin De Bruyne and there is no real follow-up threat from the red shirts.
3 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 0
Arsenal with the vast majority of the ball in this opening few minutes. Tomiyasu drives down the left. Diaz is penalised for a foul on Nketiah and it definitely was, through the back. It’s on the right, probably about 36 yards out.
1 min – Arsenal 0 Man City 0
A half-chance for Arsenal… Martinelli plays in Nketiah on the left of the box, it’s blocked and deflected out to Xhaka, whose shot from 16 yards or so is overhit and goes nowhere near the goal.
KICK OFF: Arsenal vs Man City
City get the game under way. Again, I’ve said it before, nice to see both teams wearing their traditional home kits. Including white shorts on both. None of that “have to have different coloured shorts” nonsense that we seem to see so much of these days.
Predictions? 2-1 City, for me.
Haaland is a key man tonight
Plenty of goals for him so far this year… any more tonight? I am going to say… yeah. Two.
A reminder of the line-ups with 10 minutes until kick-off
And how big a miss will Partey be?
How much of an impact can this man have tonight?
Arteta won’t be able to do this on the pitch today
But he will be hoping for a reason to celebrate after 90 minutes this evening.
Arsenal’s recent league record against City is bad
It makes for grim reading for Arsenal fans, especially in the league. Arsenal have only taken two points since the start of 2016, and have lost their last 10 league games against City.
The aggregate score for those 10 games would be 26-3, with the last time Arsenal beat City in the league coming in December 2015.
Man City’s form since the start of the year
W 0-1 vs Chelsea (A)
W 4-0 vs Chelsea (H) (FA Cup)
L 2-0 vs Southampton (A) (EFL Cup)
L 2-1 vs Manchester United (A)
W 4-2 vs Tottenham Hotspur (H)
W 3-0 vs Wolves (H)
W 1-0 vs Arsenal (H) (FA Cup)
L 0-1 vs Arsenal (A)
W 3-1 vs Aston Villa (H)
Six wins, three losses. So/so.
Pep Guardiola speaks
“I decided with this line up, I could choose another one.
Of course. Great stadium, atmosphere. Many years Arsenal are waiting for this moment. Mikel and his team really changed the team. They will create a lot of challenges and we have to handle it otherwise it will be difficult.”
Mikel Arteta speaks to Amazon Prime Video
On losing Thomas Partey:
“It’s what happens in football, unfortunately. Thomas felt something in his back muscle and he wasn’t available to play today. That’s why we brought [Jorginho] him here for these occasions.
That was a possibility, he has the opportunity today. Tommy [Tomiyasu, in for Ben White] deserves the chance as well, you need to be very adaptable in this game and Tommy has this quality and we are going to give him a chance.”
On how they respond to the blip in form:
“Keep doing the same and better, but be more efficient. We have dominated the games and created enough chances to win. Small margins dictate results.
The game will have momentums that will shift and we are going to need these people to be right behind us to create a special atmosphre today.”
On facing Pep Guardiola:
“You know what he goes through, they have so many options. You see the capabilities they have to change formation, to change players, to adapt players to other positions. We have to stick to who we are and do our best.”
On what the fans can do:
“We need these people to turn this place absolutelymental and help the team to win the game.”
Starting XI: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Jorginho, Xhaka, Odegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Nketiah.
Subs: Turner, White, Tierney, Kiwior, Holding, Vieira, Trossard, Nelson, Cozier-Duberry
Starting XI: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Ake, Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Gundogan (C), Bernardo, Mahrez, Grealish, Haaland
Subs: Ortega Moreno, Phillips, Laporte, Alvarez, Gomez, Akanji, Foden, Palmer, Lewis
The top of the table before kick-off
How different will it look in a few hours?
Doesn’t look like the fact that Partey is at the ground means anything
So do not get your hopes up, Arsenal fans.
Arsenal’s form since the start of the year
D 0-0 vs Newcastle (H)
W 0-3 Oxford United (A) (FA Cup)
W 0-2 vs Tottenham Hotspur (A)
W 3-2 vs Manchester United (H)
L 1-0 vs Manchester City (A) (FA Cup)
L 1-0 vs Everton (A)
D 1-1 vs Brentford (H)
A bit of a wobble, it’s fair to say.
Well, it looks like Thomas Partey is at the ground…
Will he be on the bench, starting?
Is this the biggest game of the season so far? You’d be hard pushed to argue against it, looking at the table.
After an astonishing first half of the season, Arsenal lead the way with 51 points from their 21 games. Manchester City are close behind, on 48 points but have played a game more.
No doubt Mikel Arteta’s men deserve to be where they are having lost just twice all season and only dropping 12 points (and seven of those in their last five league games) but the question – and indeed the task – is to keep themselves there.
The crucial and quite possibly the deciding factor, however, is that City and Arsenal are yet to meet in the league at all, with tonight’s fixture and the corresponding fixture at the Etihad Stadium left to play on April 26.
A win for either side could be enormous. Win and Arsenal extend their lead to six points with a game in hand. Should City win they would go to the top of the table on goal difference, having played a game more. A draw and things are as they were, though that really favours leaders Arsenal.
Certainly, Guardiola does not want his team to give up the title without a fight. With their form generally stuttering from their usual high standards, tonight would be a good moment to kick-start their campaign.
The City manager said: “The biggest motivation is that I don’t want to drop the Premier League just because we are not who we are.
“If they beat us because they are better then this is sport, I’ll be the first to congratulate them, as I’ve always done. But not because we are not there. You want it? OK, fight. Take it. It’s in our hands.
“We’ll defend this title until the last day. This is what I’d like. To fight to the maximum to try to retain the title. If we don’t, accept it, but we need to give our best. My players have to feel that every day.”
News: Partey likely to miss crucial City clash
By Sam Dean, at the Emirates
Thomas Partey is expected to miss this evening’s crucial top-of-the table clash between Arsenal and Manchester City after picking up a muscle injury.
Partey, who is one of Arsenal’s most important players, was set to start the match at the base of Mikel Arteta’s midfield.
His expected absence represents a major blow to Arsenal, given his importance to Arteta’s system and the quality of tonight’s opponents.
Ghana international Partey has started all but three league matches this season, with Arsenal losing only one of those games, away to Everton earlier this month.
The change in plans will likely mean a first start for Arsenal for Jorginho, who signed from Chelsea in the January transfer window.
Jorginho was initially bought as cover for Partey and he has so far played a total of 31 minutes in an Arsenal shirt.
In an interview in the matchday programme ahead of the City match, Jorginho said of his move to north London: “It is a good opportunity for me to have a new challenge at this age.
“I really like the way the team is playing, the work that is being done, and what we are doing here is very exciting. I have looked for a long time to be honest and thought what they were doing here is just amazing.
“Now I am part of it, so it’s what we are building and what we are beginning now. I’m really happy being part of it because we have got young players, hungry players, a really good coach with an amazing mentality, teaching his football to young players. So I think the future at this club is going to be very good and we can aim very high.”
The game kicks off at 7.30pm GMT and could see City go top with a win against their closest rivals.