8 min: It’s all so easy for City. Arsenal are pretty much letting them have the ball until they approach their goal, seemingly concentrating on not conceding more rather than trying to mount a comeback just yet.
6 min: Gabriel strides out of defence to try to dispossess Silva in midfield. His challenge is too robust and he concedes a freekick, but at least he showed a bit of vim, which has been otherwise lacking from Arsenal in these early stages. The polite observation would be that they look short of confidence.
3 min: Regarding the goal, it was a peach of a cross from Zinchenko but Jesus really should haven’t have been allowed to escape the attentions of Mustafi so easily, and Gabriel, and Runarasson wasn’t too clever either.
GOAL! Arsenal 0-1 Man City (Jesus 2)
Have Arsenal even touched the ball yet? I don’t think so! City stroke it around for nearly two minutes before working Zinchenko into a crossing position down the left. The Ukrainian sends an out-swinging cross from the byline towards the near post, where Jesus arrives to nod into the net with no defender near him! Oh dear, Arsenal.
1 min: Off we go. In am empty Emirates, the black-clad visitors get the game going…
“As a Spurs I can’t believe what I am about to write,” begins Jerome Lambe. You think Tottenham are going to win the Premier League? “I think the media have gone OTT on Arteta. I for one would like to see Arsenal get back their mojo. Hope they get the result tonight. I want to see a London derby final.” Hasn’t the harshest criticism of Arteta been from Arsenal fans, rather than the nasty media?
Keeping his answers to the point, Guardiola explains the thinking behind his team selection thus: “To win the game.”
Asked whether Sergio Aguero will appear off the bench, he replied: “Maybe. He’s not ready to play 90 minutes but he will get some minutes.”
He concludes by noting the strangeness of the scenes he witnessed on the way to the Emirates, with the English capital in lockdown. “We saw London in a way we didn’t expect. It’s so sad to see this marvellous city this way.”
Explaining his team selection, he says: “We have to rotate the squad and we had some injuries as well, some people we had to leave behind. It’s still a really competitive team. We have put in players who have performed really well this season in other competitions so I’m really excited.”
Asked how long he expects Martinelli to be able to play today, he replies: “We will see howe he copes. He has been out a long time. But he’s full of passion and energy and I think he will add something different to the squad.”
In sum, he says: “We need to show the competitive edge … individual battles are key to winning these games.”
The winners of this quarter-final could meet Brentford in one of the semi-finals, as Thomas Frank’s team have just knocked out Newcastle. The other potential opponents will be in action in tomorrow’s quarter-finals: Stoke v Spurs, and Everton v Manchester United.
The news before kickoff is good for Arsenal, as 19-year-old Gabriel Martinelli is back in the starting lineup for the first time since suffering an injury in March. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out of form before his own recent injury, this is a chance for the youngster to provide at least part of the answer to the goal problem that has afflicted Arsenal this season. That still leaves the question, of course, about how Arsenal are going to create chances for anyone to score …
Incredibly, that is a problem that has also befallen City this season. Guardiola gives Mahrez, Silva, Foden and Jesus a chance to address that today, and has fearsome options on the bench, to boot.
City: Steffen; Cancelo Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko; Rodrigo, Fernandinho, Silva; Mahrez, Jesus, Foden
Subs: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Gundogan, Torres, Sterling, Aguero
Arsenal: Runarsson; Mustafi, Gabriel, Kolasinac; Soares, Elneny, Ceballos, Willock, Maitland-Niles; Lacazette, Martinelli
Subs: Leno, Tierney, Mari, Smith-Rowe, Pépé, Balogun, Nkettiah
Referee: S Attwell
Hello. Manchester City used to be Mikel Arteta’s happy place. He did his job, people praised him, and the team he coached usually won. Heady days. Now Arteta takes on Man City in charge of an Arsenal team that has not won a match in a domestic competition for nearly two months and doubts are rife as to whether the manager knows what to do and how to get players back on board with his method and manner. After a bright start at Arsenal, Arteta seems engulfed in gloom. But a glimpse of silverware would bring some pre-Christmas cheer.
Arsenal beat Leicester and Liverpool(‘s second teams) in this tournament earlier in the season but City are likely to prove tougher. They tend to take this tournament seriously, winning it in five of the last seven years. So although Pep Guardiola will probably not deploy his strongest available side, he will show little mercy to his former assistant. As for Arteta, does he even know what his strongest side is any more?