Narrow Margins, Narrow Gap – Talking Points from Manchester City 3-1 Arsenal (Premier League)

Manchester City narrowed the gap between themselves and Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table to just two points in an encounter that demonstrated the perfect response to the defeat at St. James Park on Tuesday night. City’s fifth consecutive win against Arsenal in all competitions may, Carabao Cup final aside, prove to be their most valuable yet, come the end of the season. Here are the most significant talking points following a relieving tie at the Etihad:

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 03: Sergio Aguero of Manchester City (10) celebrates with Aymeric Laporte (14) and team mates after scoring his team’s first goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on February 3, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

The foot comes off the gas again.

Every City fan’s immediate reaction to scoring a goal less than a minute after kick-off is presumably surprise and delight. Then most of them, following this, are struck with pressing concern and panic because of course, this is the surest sign of them all that we’re about to ruin everything and concede at least one goal in the next 10 minutes. 

Enter Laurent Koscielny. The most injury-prone Premier League captain since Vincent Kompany punished us precisely on the 10-minute mark after he escaped from the less-than-formidable grasp of Raheem Sterling – who, after extensive research, I can tell you was the second shortest player on the entire pitch at the time. 

The team needed a second goal, and unfortunately, we had to wait for it. Again and again this season this team has slowed down their play and become lethargic after scoring first – it happened against Palace, it happened at Leicester, and it happened at Newcastle. This side, with an abundance of talent, shouldn’t have any trouble putting more than one goal past a team in a quick fashion – the issue is arrogance and it needs to be fixed. 

Arsenal’s French defender Laurent Koscielny (R) celebrates after scoring their first goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on February 3, 2019. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Aguero ‘padding his stats’ once again

The most common, long-drawn-out criticism of Sergio Aguero has been his goal record against big sides. This must end now, surely. 

Of his 10 Premier League hat-tricks – just one away from Alan Shearer’s record of 11 – three have been against top six sides. Not a bad record, in all. 

This season alone, important goals against Liverpool and Manchester United have helped us to huge wins. The Argentine is beginning to show his class in a hugely pivotal month, just as his understudy Gabriel Jesus is coming back into form. Exciting times lie ahead. 

More fullback worries?

For the first time in what feels like a long time, I’m not spending much post-game time cursing Kyle Walker. For a rather good right-back, the man does make plenty of mistakes and, despite his solid performance today, Pep’s unusual lineup cast a lot of doubt into fans’ minds as they saw him playing as part of a back three that could have potentially been exposed by Arsenal’s talented attacking pair in Lacazette and Aubamayang.

The line-up also highlighted the general issue regarding fullbacks in the team at the minute. Benjamin Mendy is only just returning from injury, Zinchenko can’t always be relied upon, and Danilo is out of favour at the moment. On another day, against another team, this could have been our downfall. Reluctance to spend in the recent transfer window is worrying and has only made the problem worse, but perhaps this shows Pep has faith in his defence. If so, I don’t agree with him – but I also thought we’d lose today, so what do I know?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 03: Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City gives instructions Kyle Walker of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on February 3, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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