“Tonight was about resilience” – Man City 1-0 Arsenal player ratings
Manchester City booked their spot in the FA Cup fifth round following a 1-0 win over Premier League title rivals Arsenal this evening.
In a cagey tactical affair, nothing looked to separate the sides with an unwanted replay looming, but it was a goal from an unlikely source which decided this chess-like contest. Nathan Ake has quietly flown under the radar as one of City’s more important figures. He proved to be effective at both ends, winning a fascinating duel with the dangerous Bukayo Saka, before scoring the game’s only goal.
Mikel Arteta will take solace in the fact his much-changed XI kept a virtually strong City side at bay for a large swath of the match. However, with defeat, there’s one less silverware coming to N7, although this setback would make his men even more determined to end their club’s 19-year championship drought. As for Pep Guardiola’s side, they march on into the fifth round. Under his tenure City they’ve reached the semi-final in each of the last four seasons.
Here’s how the players rated at the Etihad Stadium:
Stefan Ortega – 7 – As usual with this being a cup game Ortega came in for Ederson and immediately proved his worth by producing two excellent saves in the first half. He first denied Tomiyasu before doing the same following a stunning Trossard shot. He was even more commanding in the second half with his reward being yet another clean sheet.
Rico Lewis – 6.5 – Following their recent comeback win over Tottenham, which ended a two-game losing streak in all competitions, Guardiola namechecked Lewis as one of two City footballers performing at the desired level he expects from those under his leadership. The 18-year-old for now is the Premier League champions’ preferred right-back option with Kyle Walker now looking from the outside in. He put in another credible shift even though at times he was operating in central midfield à la Philipp Lahm.
John Stones – 5 – His fitness issues are well-documented and it reared its ugly head when he came off just before half-time with a suspected hamstring injury. Before that unsavoury moment Stones was looking composed as usual.
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Manuel Akanji – 7.5 – Rightfully praised for his ball-playing skills tonight it was more how well Akanji did marshalling the in-form Nketiah.
Nathan Ake – 8 – Enjoyed a fascinating battle with Saka down City’s left flank. He dealt with the England international far better than Luke Shaw in Arsenal’s last outing. Put the hosts in front after the hour mark with a clever right-footed finish.
“It’s good to win against Arsenal after a tough period but we had two good games before this one so it’s good to carry on,” he told ITV Sport afterwards.
“To now beat a top opponent at home to get through to the next round, it gives us confidence for the next game.
“I still feel there’s more to come. Tonight was about resilience. We stayed strong and managed not to concede.”
Ilkay Gundogan – 6.5 – Even with City seamlessly changing their shape throughout Gundogan remained a presence at both ends of the pitch. As the game wore on City’s skipper operated in a more defensive role.
Rodri – 7 – There’s no surprise when it comes to Rodri, the Spanish deep-lying midfielder was metronomic as ever, comfortably retaining and recycling possession. No one on the pitch this evening completed more passes.
Kevin De Bruyne – 6.5 – There’s a danger of taking De Bruyne for granted. Until recently he looked somewhat average, perhaps with a lingering World Cup hangover, but that only turned out to be a blip proving the old adage: form is temporary class is permanent. He came agonisingly close to opening the scoring with a delicious left-footed curling effort.
Nathan Aké's game by numbers vs. Arsenal:
100% tackle success
91% pass accuracy
6 x possession won
5 duels won
3 tackles made
1 foul won
0 x dribbled past
Match-winning display at both ends of the pitch. 💪 pic.twitter.com/uP1RMSP7l7
— Squawka (@Squawka) January 27, 2023
Jack Grealish – 6.5 – Despite some minimal improvement it’s fair to say Grealish has yet to pull up any trees. A once reliable attacking threat City’s number 10 does provide other means of importance notably his ability to draw fouls in dangerous areas. He was credited with the assist for Ake’s goal.
Riyad Mahrez – 6 – There’s no question who has been City’s most impressive player following the World Cup break. Mahrez came into tonight’s contest seeking to improve his record of six goals and three assists. He was unable to achieve that despite getting into promising areas.
Erling Haaland – 7 – Haaland sat out City’s meeting with Chelsea in the previous round and many expected the same again tonight but Guardiola had other ideas. For a while it seemed the Norwegian goalscoring machine was malfunctioning, going 333 minutes without a goal, heading into this latest showdown Haaland bagged a fourth hat-trick of the campaign. Even though he didn’t get on the scoresheet Haaland kept Arsenal’s backline honest.
Aymeric Laporte (for Stones 45+4) – 6 – Continued where the England international left off. Nothing too fancy.
Julian Alvarez (for Mahrez 58) – 6.5 – Brought that missing energy City lacked in the opening half. Struck the post with a thunderous shot which lead to Ake’s opener.
Kyle Walker (for Lewis 58) – 5 – Known for his attacking endeavour Walker seldom got into Arsenal’s half instead did a reasonable job on the defensive end.
Bernardo Silva (for De Bruyne 74) – N/A – A late sub.
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Matt Turner – 5.5 – The irresistible form Aaron Ramsdale is enjoying means no matter how well Turner does chances are he’ll remain Arteta’s second choice to keep goal. Tonight was an opportunity to remind everyone of his prowess. He started nervously giving the ball away. Once settled Turner would produce one save though looked uncomfortable when coming for crosses.
Takehiro Tomiyasu – 6 – A now rare start after Ben White usurped him as the Gunners‘ first-choice right-back. A combination of injuries and losing his spot means tonight’s outing was his 22nd this season with nine of those coming from kick-off. Having never scored for Arsenal he came really close to breaking the deadlock with a rasping effort.
Rob Holding – 4 – The forgotten man it seems. Holding, once assumed to be a future Arsenal mainstay, is now effectively a squad player. Nothing exemplifies that more than accumulating only 16 minutes of Premier League playing time across six appearances with him being an unused substitute in 14 games. Used exclusively in cup competitions, where the bulk of his contribution this season has come from, the former England U21 international was given the unenviable task of keeping Haaland quiet. It proved easier said than done as he was booked for persistent fouling. In fact, Haaland won five of his seven duels in the first half, predominantly up against Holding.
Rob Holding’s first half by numbers vs. Man City:
1/6 aerial duels won
1/2 ground duels won
1 foul conceded
1 foul won
Tread carefully… 😰 pic.twitter.com/0jQXwBmxSF
— Squawka (@Squawka) January 27, 2023
Gabriel – 5.5 – No rest for the wicked in Gabriel’s case as he was the only member of Arsenal’s defence (including the goalkeeper) who started against Manchester United last time out and here at the Emirates Stadium tonight. This by default made him the leader of their back four which Arteta undoubtedly was keeping tabs on. So much of the praise has fallen on William Saliba’s shoulders, Gabriel was presented with a chance of correcting that narrative, even if he has been excellent in his own right this season. Despite boasting a 100% tackle success rate the Brazilian was unable to rarely in the limelight as Haaland and City preyed on the vulnerable Holding.
Kieran Tierney – 5 – It doesn’t feel long ago when Kieran Tierney was the undisputed best footballer plying his trade north of the English border. The three-time PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year arrived in North London to much fanfare but a spate of injuries had curtailed his Arsenal career so far. No longer a guaranteed starter, Oleksandr Zinchenko has that left-back position locked down, this was another player looking to impress Arteta and get back into his graces. Had no trouble bringing the ball forward but he couldn’t affect Arsenal’s attacking play.
Granit Xhaka – 6 – A year ago many Arsenal supporters would have opted to ship Xhaka who in their eyes was becoming a liability. That is no longer the case as the Swiss midfielder has turned into Mr. Dependable. He won three of his attempted three tackles.
Thomas Partey – 4.5 – Pretty much anonymous in the opening half even though he completed one attempted tackle and registered two interceptions.
Fabio Vieira – 5 – A lot is being expected of the young Portuguese attacking midfielder, who before today had registered two goals and created four more across 18 matches in all competitions (with 10 beings starts albeit six coming in the Europa League), this was another chance to shine on the biggest stage. It didn’t turn out that way though he did have one true effort on goal but it was a haphazard attempt.
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Leandro Trossard – 6.5 – The manner he left Brighton was undesirable but there’s no doubt about Trossard’s quality. This was his first start for the Gunners following an eight-minute cameo on debut against Manchester United last weekend. He was by some distance Arsenal’s most consistent attacking threat.
Bukayo Saka – 4.5 – A more subdued performance by Arsenal’s fleet-footed winger. Uncharacteristic given his growth this season. Ake squaring up to him well certainly played a factor.
Eddie Nketiah – 6 – The unfortunate absence of Gabriel Jesus has propelled the once-maligned Eddie Nketiah into enjoying a regular starting berth and to be fair he’s not disappointed with his brace against Manchester United (including a 90th-minute winner) last time out being the obvious high point. He came really close to scoring with a now trademark late run and flick into the box.
William Saliba (for Holding 46) – 5.5 – Did a better job handling Haaland than Holding but that’s not saying much.
Albert Sambi Lokonga (for Partey 46) – 5 – Playing time has been sparse this season, but on this small piece of evidence, the 23-year-old Belgian looked comfortable whenever he got on the ball.
Gabriel Martinelli (for Trossard 66) – 5.5 – He got into some dangerous areas, especially in the period Arsenal besieged City’s goal following a string of corners.
Oleksandr Zinchenko (for Tierney 66) – 5 – Picked up a late yellow but was positive going forward.
Martin Odegaard (for Saka 74) – N/A – A late sub.