Guardiola defeats his apprentice to claim top spot

In one of the most anticipated fixtures of the season, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City travelled to North London, where they’d face Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side at the Emirates Stadium. The significance of this fixture simply could not be understated ahead of kickoff. Should Arsenal avoid defeat, they’d retain the top spot in the Premier League. If Guardiola’s men could manage to secure three points, it would be City ending the night as table toppers.

Despite naming the same starting eleven in the previous six Premier League fixtures, Arteta made two changes to his side for this match – with Jorginho and Tomiyasu replacing Partey and White. Guardiola also made a change, with Laporte replaced by Ake.

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

ARS: Ramsdale; Zinchenko, Gabriel, Saliba, Tomiyasu; Xhaka, Jorginho, Odegaard (C); Martinelli, Nketiah, Saka

MCI: Ederson; Ake, Dias, Walker; Bernardo Silva, Rodri; Grealish, Gundogan (C), De Bruyne, Mahrez; Haaland

After a rousing rendition of Arsenal’s new club anthem, North London Forever, it was the hosts who started the game in a better fashion. The Gunners broke forward well, and had a handful of free-kicks early on but Arteta’s side weren’t able to find the back of the net.

One of Arsenal’s best chances came early on in the game, as Jorginho found Nketiah – but the forward’s shot was blocked well by a resilient City defence. Nketiah would soon have another chance to open the scoring, but he nodded Oleksandr Zinchenko’s cross wide of the post!

City took the lead against the run of play when Takehiro Tomiyasu misjudged a back pass, allowing Kevin De Bruyne to run onto the ball and slot it home past Ramsdale. The Japanese defender soon had chance to redeem himself, but he blasted his volley miles over the bar.

Guardiola’s side were keen to hold on to their advantage – but perhaps a little too keen, and resorted to time-wasting early on. Ederson was booked in the 35th minute for the offence, shortly before giving away a penalty after colliding with Nketiah in the box!

Bukayo Saka duly converted from the spot, firing into the bottom left corner with a remarkable composure to level the scoring just before the break. It was a much-needed goal both for the squad and the fans, who returned to full voice following the equaliser.

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

The second half started in rather comical fashion, with Kevin De Bruyne appearing to put in a challenge on Mikel Arteta, as if we were in 2014 and the Arsenal gaffer was still playing! City thought they’d been awarded a penalty, and an opportunity to reclaim the lead, when Gabriel was judged to have dragged Haaland down inside the box – but a lengthy VAR check ruled that the City striker was offside.

The game became rather clumsy and rushed at this point, with both teams struggling to string passes together – but City still continued to push for a second goal. Arsenal did well to deny Guardiola’s side from taking the lead once again, with Akanji’s effort cleared in a goal-line scramble. Ake was offside in the buildup, so had the ball found the back of the net, the goal wouldn’t have stood.

City finally found their second goal in the 72nd minute, as Jack Grealish fired past Ederson from the centre of the box. The strike took a deflection off Tomiyasu – the defender’s second contribution tonight – and that won’t have helped the Brazilian between the sticks.

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

Erling Haaland finally found his way onto the scoresheet in the 82nd minute, who took a touch and fired into the far corner after receiving the ball from Kevin De Bruyne on the right flank. At this point, Guardiola’s side were very much in cruise control, and the game looked well and truly wrapped up.

Despite their best efforts, Arsenal couldn’t find a comeback – meaning Pep Guardiola defeats his former apprentice once again. This time though, there was more to play for, and tonight’s results means City will leapfrog Arsenal in the table for the time being.