An excellent Arsenal performance ultimately counted for nothing as a red card for Gabriel saw the match swing in Manchester City’s favour as Pep Guardiola’s side left it late to record a 2-1 win at Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners started in confident fashion, hardly a surprise given their run of five straight wins going into the game. And with No 2 Albert Stuivenberg leading the side in the absence of Mikel Arteta, they were soon the frontfoot.
Indeed, they saw early penalty appeals waved away after a VAR check. On another day, Ederson’s lunge to block Martin Odegaard burst through on goal may have resulted in a spot-kick. As it was, there was no clear and obvious error and the correct call was made.
However, they continued to press and Gabriel Martinelli was soon warming the gloves of the Brazilian goalkeeper.
The breakthrough deservedly came though on the half-hour mark as a smart break saw Kieran Tierney pick the ball up in space. His smart lay-off to Saka was expertly turned into the corner of the net with a well-taken first-time strike.
Martinelli’s run and shot almost put Arsenal 2-0 to the good, but his effort drifted wide.
City came out with renewed fight in the second half though and were back on level terms when Riyad Mahrez fired home a controversial 57th-minute penalty. The spot-kick was awarded after a VAR check and following a soft challenge from Granit Xhaka on Bernardo Silva.
The game then turned on its head two minutes later when Gabriel picked up a second yellow card. Firstly, the Brazilian was booked for unsporting behaviour having roughed up the penalty spot before Mahrez’s kick.
A second soon followed when he hauled back Gabriel Jesus.
Ake saves City with goalline clearance
In between the cautions, City were indebted to a brilliant goalline clearance from Nathan Ake to deny Martinelli.
However, despite City pressure, it looked like Arsenal were poised to hold on for a point.
But in the third minute of added-on time, the ball broke well Rodri, who swept home a shot past Ramsdale to give the Arsenal keeper little chance.
City extend their lead at the top of the table to 11 points, having collected an 11th straight win in the Premier League.
It’s also 21 away wins in 24 games for Guardiola’s side.
Aaron Ramsdale: Little to do first half, but became busier as the game progressed. Did the vocal work well, organising his defence and keeping them compact but was left helpless for City’s late winner. 7
Takehiro Tomiyasu: An excellent outlet for the Gunners down the right, busting forward whenever possible and giving opposite number Ake a tough afternoon. Unable to get forward as he’s have liked once Arsenal went down to 10, but still displayed why he’s an excellent signing for Arsenal with some crucial interventions late on. 8
Ben White: Another excellent afternoon for the £50m summer signing, who is growing in stature and confidence. Picked out some excellent passes on more than one occasion to keep the Gunners momentum and dug in when it mattered second half. 7
Gabriel: Was having a great game until picking up two quick-fire bookings. His first, for roughing up the penalty spot before Mahrez’s leveller, was soon followed by a second for pulling back Gabriel Jesus. 4
Kieran Tierney: Such a good player and rarely lets his performances dip. Laid it on a plate for Saka to score Arsenal’s opener, and defended well when asked against a tricky opponent in Bernardo Silva. 7
Thomas Partey: Got through some tireless work in the centre of the field and pushed higher up the field when needed. Dug in when they went down to 10 men, and enjoyed one of his best games for Arsenal. 8
Xhaka lets Arsenal down
Granit Xhaka: Was having a very good game until his clumsy challenge earned City a penalty and undid all their good first-half work. Was on course for a solid 7, possibly an 8, but once again blotted his copybook Despite that, got through some solid work when Arsenal went down to 10. 6
Bukayo Saka with a perfectly placed first-time shot 👌
Arsenal made a great start against City and it's their number seven who gets the goal! pic.twitter.com/OHWbeUBOOY
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 1, 2022
Bukayo Saka: Twisted, turned and made a general nuisance of himself before scoring a brilliantly-taken 30th-minute opener. A live-wire throughout, and kept working hard before being withdrawn on 84. 7
Martin Odegaard: Unlucky not to win an early penalty and picked out was at the heart of an excellent first half for Arsenal. Faded after the break and subbed for Rob Holding (62). 6
Gabriel Martinelli: A livewire – his pace was a big thorn in City’s side and kept Joao Cancelo far deeper than he’s used to. Desperately close to scoring in both halves and probably Arsenal’s best attacking outlet. 7
Alexandre Lacazette: Had a really good game and got through a lot of selfless work. Alongside Saka and Martinelli, posed numerous questions of the City defence in the first half, but saw his influence fade after the break. Subbed on 71. 6
Rob Holding (on for Odegaard 62): 6
Emile Smith Rowe (on for Lacazette, 71): 6
Mohamed Elneney (on for Saka, 84): 6
Manchester City (4-3-3)
Ederson: Narrowly got away with an early penalty shout after catching Martin Odegaard in the box. Little to do second half as play switched up the other end. 6
Joao Cancelo: Not as his best and put on the backfoot by the excellent Martinelli. Good to see him out there and proved his character after a terrible ordeal earlier in the week. 6
Ruben Dias: Good early opportunity to score with a header which drifted wide and defended manfully when asked. 6
Aymeric Laporte: Had his work cut out in the first half, but defended well and did all that was asked of him. 6
Nathan Ake: Defended well when asked, but given a tough first half by Arsenal’s marauding attackers. Made one of the clearances of the season though in racing back to hack Martinelli’s goal-bound shot off the line. 7
Kevin de Bruyne: Showed his range with some decent passes, but was generally overshadowed by Partey and Granit Xhaka in the first half. Played a role though in the late winner and will be happy enough with his afternoon. 6
Haaland to Man City makes perfect sense
Erling Haaland has been linked with Manchester City.
Rodri: One of City’s best players this season, but was second best for spells this afternoon. Put in a couple of big tackles in an effort to wrestle back control, and ultimately scored the late winner in an ill-deserved win. 7
Silva helps City back into game
Bernando Silva: Limited chances to shine first half, but his mazy run caused Xhaka to pull him back and earn City a penalty. Had more and more influence as the game progressed. 6
Riyad Mahrez: Was having limited joy, but did manage to mark his farewell City appearance before leaving for AFCON duty with a very well taken penalty. Like so many of his teammates, grew into the game and his running and positioning caused Arsenal plenty of problems. 7
Gabriel Jesus: Saw an early flash wide and couldn’t impose himself on Arsenal’s strong central defenders . Subbed for Ilkay Gundogan (62). 5
Raheem Sterling: Limited opportunities to shine and didn’t have any notable opportunities. 5
Ilkay Gundogan (on for Jesus, 62): 6