Stand-in skipper Raheem Sterling scored the only goal as Manchester City returned to winning ways in their Premier League clash with Arsenal. Sterling, given the armband by manager Pep Guardiola with Fernandinho on the bench and Kevin de Bruyne injured, finished off the rebound after Phil Foden’s 23rd-minute shot had been saved.
Arsenal had chances to level but City keeper Ederson denied them with three excellent first-half saves and both David Luiz and Pepe were off target with free-kicks in good positions after the break.
The result extended a miserable run of away results against their fellow ‘top six’ members for Arsenal. They have now failed to win in their last 29 such meetings, since a success at City in 2015.
Guardiola is yet to drop a point against the Gunners in five encounters at Etihad Stadium since he succeeded Manuel Pellegrini as City manager in 2016.
More importantly for his side, after picking up a single point from their last two games, they were able to claim maximum points in this one.
The three points came even without De Bruyne and with the returning Sergio Aguero restricted to an hour’s action on his first appearance since June after recovering from a knee injury.
As might have been expected from a meeting between Guardiola and the man he spent three-and-a-half years alongside in the City dug-out, Mikel Arteta, this was a tactical blitz.
At one point, Willian was operating as centre-forward and Sterling was sitting deep in midfield. After Aguero’s exit, Bernado Silva briefly went into the false nine role as both men tried to keep the other guessing.
Arteta was able to bring on £45m new-boy Thomas Partey for his debut near the end but the truth is, he doesn’t have the strength in depth afforded to Guardiola.
Both sides suffered disruption in the build-up, although the loss of Aymeric Laporte and Benjamin Mendy to injury had less of an impact on City as the delay in finding out the Premier League were prepared to allow Kieran Tierney to play had on the Gunners.
The Arsenal defender had been told to isolate by the local health authority in Scotland due to a ‘close contact’ breach on international duty.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the Gunners then lost defender Rob Holding to a hamstring injury in the warm-up.
This all contributed to a slow start they never really recovered from as City kept their first clean sheet of the season with a defensive performance far removed from the one which saw them concede five against Leicester in their previous home game.
City are next in action against FC Porto at the Etihad in the Champions League on Wednesday (kick-off 20:00 BST) before taking on West Ham at the London Stadium next Saturday, 24 October (12:30).
Arsenal also have a European engagement, in Austria against Rapid Vienna in the Europa League on Thursday (17:55 BST). The Gunners entertain Leicester in the league next Sunday (19:15).