Football Features

Man City MVP Raheem Sterling ensures Arsenal are undermined by more than one sideshow

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:51, 17 June 2020 | Updated: 10:01, 30 March 2021

In a ruthless night of football, Manchester City annihilated Arsenal 3-0 at an empty Etihad.

After a couple of nice long passes in the early going, Arsenal were blown off the park by Manchester City. What did we learn?

Winner: Raheem Sterling

Amid social unrest around the world, racial tensions at a seeming all-time high, the return of football seemed almost trivial. However given those world circumstances, and how football has chosen to react to it by wearing Black Lives Matter on the back of the players’ shirts and with every player taking a knee immediately after kick-off, it seemed fitting that Raheem Sterling opened the scoring.

The English winger has long been the subject of racist taunting and has had to deal with a hostile media for years. Against his will he has become a lightning rod around discussions of racism, so in these times we could ask for no better an opening goalscorer (and his first goal of 2020, at that).

The goal itself was supreme too. Sterling was making a run behind the Arsenal defence when a deflection from David Luiz sent a short cross into space. Sterling raced onto it and, having missed a similar chance earlier but being too cautious, absolutely obliterated the ball into the back of the net giving the excellent Bernd Leno no chance.

The Englishman wasn’t done either, playing a huge part in City’s third goal was a beautifully threaded pass in the build-up to Phil Foden scoring. A supreme end to a match-winning performance from Manchester City’s main man in attack.

Loser: David Luiz

Sometimes players do things that are so perfectly them that, even if that thing is negative, people cannot help but be drawn to them like moths to a flame. Everyone agrees that Roy Keane’s tackle on Alf Haaland was horrible but people just keep talking about it.

David Luiz, then.

In a back three? A superb centre-back. An excellent conductor and sweeper. In a back two? A reasonably solid ball-playing centre-back prone to moments of such absolutely impossible nonsense that part of you thinks he does it on purpose.

David Luiz didn’t start at the Etihad, because Mikel Arteta has clearly had enough of said nonsense. But then injury forced him on the field and what happened? You know god damn well what happened to football’s Sideshow Bob.

A weak effort to clear a cross deflected it into the path of Raheem Sterling who opened City’s scoring, and then in the second half his grabby hands yanked Riyad Mahrez to the floor and gave away the penalty that saw City double their lead. Oh, and he got sent off.

This performance will go down in history as the second-most David Luiz display in history (and that’s only because he was part of a defence that conceded seven goals in a World Cup semi-final).

It was a monument to nonsense, including an incredible post-match interview where he came out to apologise to the fans.

“It’s my fault,” he said post-match, absolving his team-mates of blame before saying that he should have taken a different decision regarding his future (without indicating what that decision was) and then saying he wanted to stay and Mikel Arteta wanted him to stay, hinting that the Arsenal board are the ones who want to get rid of him – a move that will sow even more dissent among the fanbase.

Truly, the king of nonsense.

Winner: Eric Garcia 

For the longest time, everyone wondered what was wrong with Eric Garcia. The young centre-back was poached from Barcelona by Manchester City a few years back, but when injury plagued their defence earlier in the season, Pep Guardiola didn’t call on him but elected to use Fernandinho in defence. It was strange, but obviously Guardiola wanted Garcia to develop.

Well, he obviously has because he got the start against Arsenal, playing next to Aymeric Laporte at the heart of defence and, well, he looked very solid there. He handled everything Arsenal threw at him well and showed why he should probably start most of the upcoming games in preparation for being the starter next season.

Unfortunately in the closing moments of the game he collided with Ederson and had to be stretchered off. Hopefully he recovers soon because on the evidence of tonight he is ready to stake his place in the City starting XI.

Loser: Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta’s starting XI for this game was bold. It was full of youth and focused on trying to actually take the game to Manchester City with superstars like Mesut Ozil not even involved in the squad for “tactical reasons.” Of course, those gambles did not pay off. His youngsters were, a couple of Eddie Nketiah runs off the ball aside, completely outplayed by a vastly superior City. In fact Arsenal didn’t even look fit enough to be playing competitive football, most obviously exemplified by two of their players having to leave the pitch in the first-half through injury.

Winner: The fans…

Fans up and down the country have been rejoicing at the return of Premier League football. With every game expected to be aired on TV, the cause for celebration was indeed quite high. Two games in one night just to whet the appetite before things really get rumbling on Friday night, sublime. And one of the opening matches involved Manchester City who are always fantastic to watch, too! This was like manna from heaven after three months without the beautiful game in everyone’s lives.

Loser: The fans!

How quickly hope and optimism evaporated. Earlier we had a bore draw between Aston Villa and Sheffield United and whilst Manchester City did play some good stuff against the Gunners, the game was an absolute procession with the defending Premier League champions walking all over Arsenal.

There were some defensive blunders to pick at, but those are only fun in close games where they are decisive. Even though David Luiz’s errors led to two goals, City’s dominance was so total that they would surely have scored even without the assistance from the Brazilian. The rain was pouring down, the fake crowd noise was inconsistent and there was a horrible injury to a young player.

All in all, not the best re-start for the Premier League!