Football News

David Raya continues to keep Man City at bay as Arsenal join exclusive group

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 8:00, 1 April 2024

Arsenal loosened their grip on the Premier League title race after being held to a goalless draw at champions Manchester City.

Mikel Arteta’s men, who came into matchday 30 leading the championship from Liverpool albeit on goal difference, now find themselves in second and two points behind Jurgen Klopp’s side.

In their highly anticipated title showdown with City, the Gunners were second best in several key metrics, including expected goals (0.66 to 1.02), shots (6 to 12), touches in the opposition box (15 to 40) and possession (27.5% to 72.5%).

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However, Pep Guardiola’s outfit couldn’t breach Arsenal’s defence for a second time this season, putting the Londoners in esteemed company. They are only the fourth club to shut out a Guardiola team in two league matches in the same campaign after Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2014-15, Manchester United in 2020-21, and Crystal Palace in 2021-22.

David Raya kept a goal in both games. Across those outings, City registered 16 shots and 1.43 expected goals (xG); both numbers are below what they average in 90 minutes across the league campaign as a whole. Erling Haaland and company must be sick of the sight of Raya, who has now gone three consecutive Premier League matches against City without conceding. Furthermore, he’s only shipped in three strikes in five total meetings, or a goal conceded every 150 minutes.

“We competed really well,” Arteta said afterwards, “Defensively, we were outstanding. When we had to go and put them under pressure high up the pitch. We were really good. They are that good that they get you in this low block and it’s very difficult to get out of it. We prevented the spaces really well. That’s the difficulty. It’s the first time they haven’t scored at home in three years. That’s the outstanding team they are.”

This latest shutout was a personal milestone for Raya, who became the first Premier League goalkeeper to reach ten clean sheets. He firmly leads the race to win the Premier League Golden Glove and two away from equalling last season’s haul. Of those goalkeepers who have played at least 2,000 minutes, Raya has conceded the fewest goals (19), while his expected goals on target conceded (16.81) are the league’s best.

Although proud of their defensive resolve, Arteta felt snatching victory was possible, especially with Leandro Trossard’s late chance. That being said, they would be chasing shadows, which illustrates a change in mindset required when facing Europe’s premier club. When asked how Arsenal had to adapt to having inferior possession in the game, Arteta’s answer was telling.

“Clarity, before the game: are you ready to follow 30 passes? And after following the ball 30 passes, lose the ball and follow another 30 passes? Yes, then you can play Manchester City. It’s very important – if you are not ready to do that, you cannot play against them,” he said.

The result also ended Arsenal’s eight-game winning streak. There’s a quick turnaround, with Luton Town visiting the Emirates on April 3 before Brighton & Hove Albion host the would-be champions later in the week.