Man City 1-0 Arsenal: Player ratings as single Ake goals knocks Gunners out of FA Cup
Manchester City knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup at the Etihad Stadium as the fourth round kicked off on Friday night, with Nathan Ake the unexpected star of the show with the only goal.
The Gunners made a bright start and right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu stung the palms of City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega after only a few minutes. Leandro Trossard was the architect of a few moves down the left in those early stages, exposing City’s preference to have right-back Rico Lewis operate as an auxiliary central midfielder.
The hosts caught their first sight of goal courtesy of a loose ball that threatened to let Erling Haaland in. Matt Turner was quick to rush out, but as the ball popped up into the air, Haaland attempted the acrobatic – think Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs England in 2012 – but Tomiyasu dropped back onto the line.
Midway through the first half, Ortega’s strong left hand stopped Trossard putting Arsenal ahead after the £27m Belgian drove in-field from his flank. City had their own chance from a Belgian soon after when Kevin De Bruyne whipped a left-footed shot just wide of the far post.
Trossard made another Arsenal chance when he put a teasing cross into Eddie Nketiah at the near post, with the in-form striker sending his flick just wide. It didn’t really feel like an action-packed first half, yet the opportunities kept coming as Haaland missed the target under pressure from Gabriel.
Trossard aside, none of the big players on either side had particularly stood out in the first 45 – the likes of Haaland, De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Bukayo Saka had all be disappointingly quiet.
Given that, it was perhaps fitting that the eventual breakthrough came from an unlikely source. Substitute Julian Alvarez changed things by taking on a shot from distance that rebounded off the post. Jack Grealish recycled it and found left-back Ake, who passed the ball into the far corner of the goal like a seasoned striker.
Both managers made numerous changes to try and shift the balance of the game in their favour as the minutes ticked away. It achieved little as far as the spectacle was concerned, breaking up any potential for a bit of rhythm or momentum.
City dug in in the closing stages, squeezing Arsenal out whenever the Gunners threatened to make something happen in or around the box – in particular Ortega made a couple of vital smothers when Arsenal sub Gabriel Martinelli injected some pace for the hosts.
Man City player ratings (4-3-3)
GK: Stefan Ortega - 8/10 - Needed to make saves from the start, keeping City in it when Arsenal were arguably stronger in the first half. Stayed strong throughout and never looked as though he was going to be beaten.
RB: Rico Lewis - 6/10 - Spent a lot of time in the middle of the pitch as per instructions from his manager. Clearly a good player but it gave Trossard too much space, albeit not his fault.
CB: John Stones - 5/10 - Often looked vulnerable because of how Lewis was playing. A suspected hamstring injury then ended his night before half-time.
CB: Manuel Akanji - 7/10 - Had to switch positions after Stones was taken off but put in a dominant performance regardless.
LB: Nathan Ake - 8/10 - Finished with great composure to put his team ahead and put in a solid defensive shift as well, with Saka hardly given a sniff.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne - 5/10 - Narrowly missed with a great curling effort in the first half and slightly improved after half-time but was far from his best.
CM: Rodri - 5/10 - Unusually sloppy with the ball by his standards.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan - 6/10 - Did both sides of the ball pretty well but not always on the same page as the forwards ahead of him.
RW: Riyad Mahrez - 4/10 - Not really himself. Didn't have enough of the ball to make any real impact and was withdrawn before an hour had passed.
ST: Erling Haaland - 5/10 - Attempted the spectacular early on and also took a whack to the back of the head before half-time. Didn't get his usual quality service.
LW: Jack Grealish - 6/10 - Gets an assist for his layoff to Ake and City's best forward on the night.
SUB: Aymeric Laporte (45+4' for Stones) - 7/10
SUB: Julian Alvarez (58' for Mahrez) - 7/10
SUB: Kyle Walker (58' for Lewis) - 7/10
SUB: Bernardo Silva (75' for De Bruyne) - 6/10
Pep Guardiola - 7/10 - The way he set up the team didn't make sense when Trossard kept causing problems down City's right. Changed shape early in the second half and the substitutes definitely did make a positive impact overall.
Arsenal player ratings (4-3-3)
GK: Matt Turner - 6/10 - Stood little chance with the only goal. Always keen to come for crosses or rush off his line.
RB: Takehiro Tomiyasu - 6/10 - Had the first early chance with a good foray forward.
CB: Rob Holding - 5/10 - Got physical with Haaland and took a yellow card for it with 50 minutes still left to play. The danger of getting another saw him removed at half-time.
CB: Gabriel - 6/10 - Did enough to put Haaland off in a key moment.
LB: Kieran Tierney - 6/10 - Would have expected a tougher test from Mahrez. Didn't offer much going forward to take advantage of that.
CM: Fabio Vieira - 5/10 - Had one shot that missed the target and didn't do enough otherwise.
CM: Thomas Partey - 5/10 - Didn't stand out and was surprisingly replaced at half-time.
CM: Granit Xhaka - 6/10 - Successful in stopping City play their usual sparkling game, although a couple of hesitations in key moments were almost costly.
RW: Bukayo Saka - 4/10 - Just 23 touches of the ball tells its own story.
ST: Eddie Nketiah - 5/10 - Couldn't find the target with a chance in thef first half. The service wasn't there for him and he touched the ball only slightly more than Saka.
LW: Leandro Trossard - 7/10 - Gave City real trouble from the start and created a number of chances in the first half. Much quieter after the break.
SUB: William Saliba (46' for Holding) - 6/10
SUB: Albert Sambi Lokonga (46' for Partey) - 6/10
SUB: Gabriel Martinelli (66' for Trossard) - 7/10
SUB: Oleksandr Zinchenko (66' for Tierney) - 6/10
SUB: Martin Odegaard (74' for Saka) - 5/10
Mikel Arteta - 6/10 - Took no risks with Holding on a yellow card and later responded to going behind by making chances immediately. Couldn't get one over on his old mentor.