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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Emirates Stadium

Arsenal slay Man City bogeymen to open the door to hope for everyone

Arsenal (0) 1 Martinelli 86

Manchester City (0) 0

Well that has been a long time coming.

After enduring the indignity of six successive doubles at the hands of Man City, the narrative simply had to change if the Gunners were going to become serious title contenders once more.

It was all well and good 'nearly winning the league' last season - as City fans taunted them before kick-off. They badly needed to get that wretched monkey off their back.

It wasn't pretty by any means. A match billed as a classic beforehand simply failed to meet those expectations. But Arsenal fans won't care a bit. Not when they can sing 'One-nil to the Arsenal' in such an important match.

The winner typified a rather scrappy, cagey affair. A cushioned pass from sub Kai Havertz fell invitingly to half-time newcomer Gabriel Martinelli and the Brazilian's shot found the net after deflecting off the head of Nathan Ake.

Cue a crescendo of relief and noise from the stands.

It meant City suffered back-to-back league defeats for the first time in five years.

The result took Arsenal level on points with Spurs at the top of the table - the north London rivals now locked in a deadly embrace at the summit - the only unbeaten teams in the Premier League going into the second international break.

This was a fixture that should have been one of the key points of the early-season jostling for supremacy, but it felt like a tired affair. The anonymity of Erling Haaland typified the game. Seldom have City looked so toothless in attack.

Midweek excursions for both sides in the Champions League seemed to have sapped some of the vim from the occasion.

The champions were hampered by the suspension of Rodri and the continuing absence of the brilliant Kevin de Bruyne. The Gunners were missing their creative flank players. Bukayo Saka and Martinelli were both not fit enough to start and there was simply no penetration in either attack.

Pep Guardiola was content to let Arsenal do the fretting. His team came closest to scoring in the first half - Declan Rice heading a Josko Gvardiol back-post effort off the line and Nathan Ake blazing just over after the ball was recycled into the danger area.

Julian Alvarez also almost profited from a very casual play out of defence from David Raya, whose distribution went awry more than once. He charged down an attempted clearance and almost saw his ricochet find the net.

But the main talking point was Mateo Kovacic's good fortune to remain on the pitch after a clumsy challenge caught Martin Odegaard on the ankle.

The Croat could have seen red for that and also escaped yellow for a late clip on Declan Rice - ref Michael Oliver giving the ex-Chelsea midfielder the benefit of the doubt.

The introduction of Martinelli for Leandro Trossard at half-time promised better and so it proved in the end. He did get the Gunners on the front foot before having an even bigger say in the outcome right near the end.

Arsenal fans had not seen a high-quality match but this was an afternoon when the result meant everything - and showed that maybe that Community Shield triumph against City at Wembley in pre-season was not just a temporary departure from a tale of unrelenting City dominance.

It's game on.

Gunners: (4-3-3) Raya - White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko (Tomiyasu 75) - Odegaard, Jorginho (Partey 75), Rice - Jesus, Nketiah (Havertz 75), Trossard (Martinelli h/t)

Citizens: (4-2-3-1) Ederson - Walker, Ruben Dias, Ake, Gvardiol - Lewis (Stones 68), Kovacic (Nunes 68) - Bernardo Silva, Alvarez (Doku 68), Foden - Haaland

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