Granit Xhaka stood out while David Luiz, Kieran Tierney and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were key performers as Arsenal reached the FA Cup final on Saturday.
In a game wherein Manchester City thoroughly dominated the possession and created far more chances, it was Arsenal who stood resolutely at the back while capitalising on the chances that presented themselves. The opener came in the 21st minute, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored from an acute angle, just minutes after missing a much easier chance from point-blank range.
After absorbing the threat from Manchester City for the next 50 minutes or so, Arsenal then went on to put the game to bed, as Aubameyang completed his brace after being put through on goal by a terrific Kieran Tierney pass. The result meant Arsenal will now play in the FA Cup final next month and The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Mikel Arteta’s men.
Emiliano Martinez: 8/10
Manchester City might have dominated possession, but Martinez did not have a great deal of work to do on Saturday. The Argentine still needed to remain alert, with his only save of the game proving to be crucial to retain Arsenal’s clean sheet. Otherwise, he made sure that his passes were accurate, helping his side ease some of the pressure that City looked to create. Solid effort, again.
Shkodran Mustafi: 8/10
Mustafi started the game in nervy fashion, as a hairy moment early on nearly gifted Manchester City the lead. Thereafter, though, the German found his feet quite well and negated Raheem Sterling almost entirely. Bar a contentious penalty decision, there were hardly any other moments of worry. A massive 8 clearances helped his side’s cause.
David Luiz: 9/10
Ever since Arteta started using the 3-4-3 formation, Luiz has been a player transformed. Against Manchester City, the former Chelsea man was once again in his elements and even showed his adventurous side when he slipped Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang clean through on goal, only to see the Arsenal captain fluff his lines.
At the back, there was barely any way past him, as Luiz cleared the ball a staggering 11 times and won each of his 4 aerial duels in addition to also making 4 vital interceptions. An expert showing by the veteran defender, who is vindicating Arteta’s decision to hand him a new deal.
Kieran Tierney: 9/10
“That ball from me is not a goalscoring ball, he makes it a goal!”
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS_EN) July 18, 2020
What this performance by Tierney showed are two things. The first is that his injury horrors are well behind the Scotsman, who now appears to be one of the fittest players for Arsenal. Secondly, his positional awareness helped neutralise whatever Manchester City threatened to create and he, too, made a number of important clearances (7 in all).
On the ball, Tierney was extremely accurate, misplacing just 3 of his attempted passes. And one of Tierney’s passes set Aubameyang up for his second of the game, as Arsenal rounded off the win – a peach of a ball for his captain. Is slowly growing into a pivotal player for the Gunners.
Hector Bellerin: 7/10
Bellerin was perhaps, the only Arsenal player on the night who did not quite manage to outshine his counterpart. Up against Benjamin Mendy, the Spaniard had some nervy moments and he even gifted City with a glorious opening, only for the imperious Granit Xhaka to bail him out.
Bellerin, though, played his part in Arsenal’s first, as it was his run that opened up play before Nicolas Pepe set Aubameyang up for the goal. Defensively, though, there is a lot of work to be done, especially considering he was dribbled past 4 times.
Dani Ceballos: 9/10
Back into the starting lineup, Ceballos combined well with Xhaka once again. The Spaniard had more defensive work to do on Saturday than he ever has in an Arsenal shirt and he adjusted to the demands quite well. Starting with a crucial interception, Ceballos was always on the money, adding 2 more interceptions while winning 6 duels in addition to setting up a half chance as well.
Granit Xhaka: 10/10
Xhaka has been a man transformed under Arteta and on Saturday, the former Arsenal captain produced an inspirational performance. Sitting in front of the back-line, the Swiss midfielder barely allowed David Silva any time on the ball, looking to cut off any space available between the lines.
A huge block on Kevin De Bruyne set the tone for a perfect performance by Xhaka early on and over the course of the game, he went on to make 5 clearances. But, it was the tremendous awareness he showed in tight situations that was the most impressive aspect of his performance, with Xhaka missing just 2 of the 30 passes he attempted. Mighty impressive.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 7.5/10
Handed a rare start, Maitland-Niles looked a man on purpose, as he looked to impress Arteta, even goad him into giving him more starts. Well, after Saturday, he might have succeeded in doing so. The 22-year-old supported Tierney extremely well, while winning 6 duels and making 5 clearances. Was only dribbled past twice, with Tierney cleaning up on both occasions. Decent effort.
Nicolas Pepe: 8/10
Preferred to Bukayo Saka, Pepe produced an impressive performance. Behind the ball for the most part in the game, the Ivorian supported the defenders well. When going forward, he showed good quality on the ball, including when he laid on the assist for Aubameyang’s first. Another cross later on in the game created another half chance.
Alexandre Lacazette: 8/10
Lacazette might not have any goals to show for his efforts. But, this was as crucial a performance as the one against Liverpool earlier this week. This time around, Lacazette added to the numbers that Arsenal had behind the ball, helping his side snuff out any little space that Manchester City looked to exploit. A few crucial clearances helped alleviate the pressure. A step in the right direction.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 9/10
The man of the moment.
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) July 18, 2020
Back in the side after being given a breather earlier this week, Aubameyang seemed to have his batteries charged. However, his first missed opportunity was rather horrendous, as he failed to convert a simple chance after being set up by Luiz. The Arsenal captain, though, made amends minutes later, scoring from an acute angle.
Should have done better as half-time neared, with his pass being dreadful. However, Aubameyang would once again end up righting his wrong, as Tierney’s perfectly weighted ball found him before he finished coolly past Ederson. Looking like a happy camper at the moment, which bodes well for Arsenal.
Joe Willock: 6/10
Introduced with 18 minutes left in the game, Willock supported Xhaka and Ceballos well, helping Arsenal see the game out.
Lucas Torreira: N/A
Given around 12 minutes on the pitch, Torreira added to the numbers off the ball, ensuring Arsenal got past Manchester City without any hiccups.
Rob Holding: N/A
A late introduction, Holding replaced an injured Mustafi to help see the game out.
Sead Kolasinac: N/A
Barely got involved.