Behold the three players who let Arsenal down on the most important night
As Arsenal made their trip to the Etihad on Wednesday, Mikel Arteta and his side were fully aware that only a win would do on the night in what seem to be a pivotal title showdown against Manchester City.
But inexplicably, the Gunners were demolished by the irresistible force as provided by Pep Guardiola’s team, who had suddenly become the red-hot favourites to pinch the Premier League crown before their comprehensive 4-1 win.
It was Kevin de Bruyne who set the tone for the evening by lashing a low seventh-minute strike past Aaron Ramsdale to nudge the champions into the lead. A John Stones header was enough to double their advantage on the stroke of half-time after surviving a VAR check before De Bruyne bagged his second after the break to leave Arsenal’s title bid in tatters. Rob Holding bagged a consolation for the visitors inside the final five minutes, but Erling Haaland was at hand to add to the visitors’ misery with City’s fourth goal.
National Daily can confirm that it could have been even worse for Arsenal, but for Ramsdale who pulled out a string of saves to thwart Haaland before his inevitable goal.
Here, National Daily takes a look at Mirror Football’s assessment of Arsenal’s side and at who failed to deliver in the big match…
Odegaard has led by example this season since taking the captain’s armband. But the Norwegian maestro was almost anonymous for this crunch title decider as De Bruyne stole the show.
The Gunners’ midfield failed to grasp any sort of hold on the match after De Bruyne’s early goal, with Odegaard and co failing to create the glut of goalscoring opportunities that Arsenal’s frontline have become accustomed to this season.
On a night when Arsenal needed their big players to step up, Odegaard – who was lauded by Guardiola in the build-up to the match – failed to emulate the imperious form that has seen him mentioned in the same breath as De Bruyne this year. His misery was compounded when he was replaced by Emile Smith Rowe in the 71st minute, shortly after giving the ball away in the build-up to City’s third goal.
As badly as Arsenal needed Odegaard to create, Partey had, arguably, one of the most important jobs of all: stifling De Bruyne, who so often is the man who makes the champions tick.
But the Ghanian enforcer was left chasing shadows for most of the night as De Bruyne pulled the strings for the hosts.
After Odegaard cheaply gave the ball away in the build-up to City’s goal, Partey was static and enabled Haaland to nip in and feed De Bruyne, who dispatched coolly to put the game beyond the Gunners.
It always felt as though Holding was likely to be on a hiding to nothing up against Haaland, who schooled the Arsenal centre-back earlier in the season. And unfortunately for the Gunners, that proved to be the case again on a damaging night in Manchester.
On a night where Arsenal needed to impose themselves and make a strong start, Haaland spun the Gunners defender with minimal effort to set De Bruyne away for City’s opener after Holding had followed him up to the centre circle.
Holding did grab a consolation with a fine finish in the final few minutes, but the damage had already been done.
It’s no coincidence that Arsenal’s faltering form has coincided with William Saliba’s absence through injury. Holding’s display against City once again underlined that the former Bolton Wanderers man isn’t up to the standard required if Arsenal are to challenge for Premier League titles on a regular basis going forward.