Wretched 10-man Arsenal left in tatters by strikerless Manchester City

For Arsenal, ignominy is following indignity, misery stemming from the wrong sort of history. Their worst start to a season for 67 years leaves them pointless and goalless, hapless and rudderless, rooted in the relegation zone and seemingly stumbling into crisis. Europe’s biggest spenders this summer were eviscerated by a team who proved unable to pay any of their millions for Harry Kane or Cristiano Ronaldo and needed neither.

Overpowered by Romelu Lukaku last week, Arsenal were crushed by what had appeared Manchester City’s second-string attackers, Gabriel Jesus and Ferran Torres. Pep Guardiola’s first unchanged Premier League team since 2017 strengthened his argument that he is happy with the squad at his disposal.

Inevitably, however, Arsenal were beaten as much by themselves, by the self-destructive streak that was epitomised when Granit Xhaka was sent off for an absurd two-footed lunge at João Cancelo, a decision he had the gall to complain about.

After City unveiled a sculpture of Vincent Kompany, Arsenal produced an inappropriate tribute to a great centre-back with some statuesque defending. City were excellent, Jack Grealish playing with a swagger, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gündogan with understated class, Torres and Jesus with a willingness to scurry after everything, but Arsenal were wretched.

A decade to the day since their 8-2 humiliation at Old Trafford, this was another traumatic trip to Manchester. Mikel Arteta feels luckless and three games a small sample size, but Arsenal’s plight invites questions if a rookie manager can turn this around or whether he should be given the chance. As Guardiola’s sidekick, he helped City secure a record 100 Premier League points. As Arsenal manager, he has seen them plummet to historic lows.

Most things he has tried this season have backfired and this was no exception. If Arteta attempted to adopt a policy of safety in numbers by incorporating an extra centre-back, Arsenal duly conceded two goals before many supporters had taken their seats. Not since 2017 had they been 2-0 down in a Premier League game so quickly and that was before Xhaka departed, again looking a liability.

It felt vaguely ludicrous and entirely plausible that Arsenal could have conceded twice to headers from Gündogan in quick succession. One, nevertheless, brought the breakthrough. Gundogan was an improbable reason why City scarcely needed strikers to regain the title, a passer who acquired a predatory streak. Last season’s top scorer showed he retained it, materialising in the six-yard box to finish. It reflected badly on Calum Chambers, who lost the German, but well on Jesus. A week after setting up three goals against Norwich, he delivered the deep cross.

Arteta’s surprise recall of Sead Kolasinac, a player whose future seemed likelier to lie at the exit that in the starting 11, meant Arsenal fielded two players who are left-backs by trade and yet still conceded to three crosses from their left. Silva delivered the second, bouncing in the box as Cedric Soares, Xhaka and Rob Holding missed it. Torres did not. He was similarly clinical at the end, heading in substitute Riyad Mahrez’s cross from the same flank.

The Spaniard has seemed the locum in attack, occupying the position until Kane or Ronaldo arrived. Instead, he could claim the role on a semi-permanent basis. With Jesus resurrecting his City career as a right-winger, Torres is the closest thing to a centre-forward in a midfielder-heavy squad. His was a poacher’s finish but he showed another side to his game in City’s third.

Ederson had almost highlighted the perils of Guardiola’s footballing philosophy, nearly donating Arsenal a goal after Emile Smith Rowe charged down his pass, but that risk-taking produced a reward. City’s third was a move that went from one box to the other, started with a pass from goalkeeper to centre-forward. Torres led a break, Grealish surged into the box to set up Jesus and he tucked the ball in from close range. Seven days after Grealish’s first City goal, this was his first assist since his £100m move.

Rodri steered in a sidefooted shot from 20 yards. He was set up by Torres but Arsenal stood off him. In the moment, as in the game, it was too easy for City.

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