41 min: But Arsenal are finally starting to knock at the door. Pepe dinks a ball through the middle, sending Aubameyang one on one. Ederson spreads and saves, and the flag goes up for offside, though had Aubameyang slotted home, that would surely have been overturned, the striker clearly onside. Though with VAR being the abject fiasco it is, nothing is ever certain.
40 min: Arsenal decide that the best form of defence is attack, with Tierney and Saka combining to battle their way past Rodri down the left. A cute one-two, and Saka is free, albeit without much space and time in the box. He tries the chip over Ederson; it springs off the keeper’s shoulder and balloons inches wide of the top right. The resulting corner is no use.
38 min: Ceballos creams a pass down the left for Aubameyang, who hopes to romp clear but is forced to settle for a corner off Walker. Willian takes. Ederson punches clear confidently despite being swarmed by the blue shirts that aren’t the blue shirts worn by his team. It doesn’t have to be like this, you know.
37 min: Saka strips Cancelo of possession and looks to make off down the left, but he’s subtly shoved in the back. No foul, throw to City. Arteta isn’t happy at all.
35 min: Arsenal get caught playing out from the back, and the ball’s quickly shuttled to Foden, free in the box on the left! He’s one on one with Leno, but his attempt to poke it into the corner is thwarted by the keeper’s telescopic leg. Brilliant keeping, and a save that keeps Arsenal in it … because after that confident first 20 minutes, they’re being pulled around all over the shop now.
34 min: Mahrez sashays down the right, turning Saka this way and that, before being forced on the outside. He gets a shot away nonetheless, but it’s always heading high from a tight angle.
33 min: Foden slides the ball down the left for Aguero, who has options in the middle, but slams the ball straight into Luiz’s midriff. He claims a penalty, half-heartedly because Luiz had both hands clasped behind his back.
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31 min: City tiki-taka it about awhile. Hey, does anyone remember
29 min: Foden dances down the left and wins another corner. Leno gets his hands on that, after a fashion. A sense that City are beginning to find that old relentless groove, though, with Arsenal sitting a little deeper all of a sudden.
28 min: Mahrez has been fantastic so far. He jinks in from the right, nipping past Tierney with absurd ease, and taking two goes at slapping home at the near post from a tight angle. Leno turns the ball out, then claims the corner. Yet another near miss for the hosts, and this is City looking slightly uncertain by their own standards!
26 min: From the resulting corner, Willian swings in from the right. Pepe’s diving header whistles inches wide of the top right. Ederson’s feet were planted; had that been on target, it was in.
25 min: A fine response by Arsenal, who breezes past Rodri on the left, enters the box, and shoots hard towards the top left. Ederson is forced to tip over. A fine effort out of next to nothing.
24 min: Arsenal have probably had the better of the play, yet it’s City who have scored and gone very close twice. A strange old thing at times, sport.
GOAL! Manchester City 1-0 Arsenal (Sterling 23)
City have been quiet, but they explode into life here. Mahrez spins away from Tierney out on the right. He slips inside for Aguero, who drives forward before slipping Foden into the box on the left. Foden drops a shoulder to pass Bellerin with ease, and shoots. Leno parries, but only to Sterling, who steers the rebound cleverly into a gap at the bottom left. Brilliant sweeping move!
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21 min: Tierney and Saka combine niftily down the left, the latter crossing for Bellerin, bowling in from the other flank. Bellerin wins his header, but he’s put too much pressure on Cancelo and the whistle blows.
20 min: “Why aren’t Arsenal wearing their first kit?” wonders Damian Durrant. “Is it a special kit in honour of something? Did I miss the memo?” Yep: it said that the results were in, rampant capitalism had won at the expense of culture and dignity, everything’s over, and it’s all been rubber-stamped by The Man.
18 min: City could easily have had two goals already, with both Aguero and Mahrez going close, yet otherwise they’ve been a little unnerved by Arsenal’s breezy start. The hosts are struggling to put it together at the minute.
14 min: Now the card does come out. Rodri is the recipient, a result of a cynical tug on Saka’s shirt. Arsenal look really lively every time they move forward, though none of their moves have yet to click … or been allowed to click.
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13 min: City mess up the corner, and Arsenal try to break en masse. Mahrez grabs Pepe by the arm, slowing the counter down to a halt. He really should be booked for that, but it’s just a free kick. Arsenal aren’t happy, and they’ve got something of a point.
12 min: Aguero’s busy run down the inside right wins a corner. From that, Foden has a crack from the edge of the box that’s charged down and deflected out for another corner, this time on the left.
11 min: Arsenal look up for this, attempting to flood forward on the counter every time they intercept. An approach that should lead to a lively game. “Mahrez looked lively and scored for Algeria last week in a friendly against Mexico on Dutch soil. It looks like he has maintained that spark into today’s match, with the intent of ruining Arsenal’s Partey atmosphere.” Peter Oh bringing the puns there, so I don’t have to.
9 min: Aubameyang’s flick down the left allows Saka to tear off down the flank. Rodri does extremely well to get over and ease him off the ball, just as it looked as though the Arsenal youngster was preparing to bear down on goal.
7 min: Mahrez teases Tierney, Gabriel and Saka, drawing all three towards him on the right, before chipping infield for Aguero, who flashes a close-range header over the bar. Close. But for a few inches here and there, City would already be two up.
6 min: Dias is nearly robbed by Aubameyang, 30 yards from his own goal. He sorts his feet out just in time and wanders away from trouble.
4 min: Both teams take turns to stroke it about nicely. An open feel to this game already. Well, it is the 2020-21 Premier League, I guess it goes without saying.
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2 min: Arsenal play it out from the back crisply and neatly … though there’s a fair chance quite a few of their fans had their hearts in their mouths, as the defence just about worked their way through City’s press. Say what you like, you can’t call them out for a lack of bravery.
40 seconds: Mahrez cuts in from the right, teed up by Sterling, and curls a powerful effort inches wide of the top-left corner. Leno was nowhere. So close to a sensational start by City!
Arsenal get the ball rolling … but not before the knee of justice. There’s no room for racism. Challenge it, report it, change it. Black lives matter.
The teams are out! Manchester City are in their sky blue shirts. Arsenal, who play in red, and whose second shirt is white, change into third-choice blue. There’s no point fighting against the tide armed with nothing but a pointed stick, you may as well let modernity wash over you. We’ll be off in a minute.
Breaking team news. Rob Holding has tweaked his hamstring in the warm-up, and will be replaced in the Arsenal starting XI by David Luiz.
Mikel Arteta’s turn. “We were tempted to start Partey but he had a day and a half of training, so we need to be a little bit patient. We have tried to put the best game together. A lot will depend on individual performance, quality performance. It’s the moment, it’s the occasion, and it is today.”
Pep talk. “It is good for us that Aguero is back. It has been a long time, we don’t know his condition but it is better to start than come from the bench. It’s good. There will be high pressing from both sides and quality up front. We will watch a good game, like we have seen so far all games in the Premier League.” He also reports that Laporte and Mendy are both out injured: “Laporte not much, but Mendy a little bit longer.”
The big news for Manchester City: Sergio Aguero is back! He’s one of four changes to the team that drew 1-1 at Leeds before the international break. Nathan Ake, Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva also return; Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Mendy, Ferran Torres and the injured Kevin De Bruyne make way.
Arsenal’s deadline-day signing Thomas Partey is named on the bench. The Gunners meanwhile make three changes to the team that won 2-1 over Sheffield United a fortnight ago. Rob Holding, Granit Xhaka and Nicolas Pepe replace David Luiz, Mohamed Elneny and Eddie Nketiah.
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Ake, Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, Rodri, Foden, Mahrez, Aguero, Sterling.
Subs: Stones, Gundogan, Steffen, Torres, Fernandinho, Delap, Garcia.
Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Ceballos, Xhaka, Saka, Willian, Pepe, Aubameyang.
Subs: Lacazette, Runarsson, Maitland-Niles, Thomas, Luiz, Elneny, Nketiah.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh (Lancashire).
Manchester City have won their last six Premier League matches against Arsenal to the aggregate tune of 17-2. That should make this evening’s match easy to predict … except Arsenal beat City fairly easily in last season’s semi-finals, they’ve got a new superstar signing in Thomas Partey, and the hosts will have to do without their injured genius Kevin De Bruyne. Factor in Arsenal’s fast start to the season, and City’s uncharacteristically slow one, and is set up rather deliciously. Another City romp? Or will Arsenal’s resurgence continue apace? We find out soon. It’s on!
Kick off: 5.30pm BST.