Bulletproof Arsenal defending ends Etihad curse in confidence boost for title run-in

Bulletproof Arsenal defending ends Etihad curse in confidence boost for title run-in

This title race will surely have plenty of twists and turns during the run-in, but there was no drama at the Etihad.

Instead, this was a game that will not live long in the memory as Arsenal and Manchester City cancelled each other out on their way to a goalless draw.

The Gunners will be the happier of the two sides, ending a run of eight straight defeats at the Etihad.

The blue side of Manchester has so often been an unhappy hunting ground for Mikel Arteta, but for once he was leaving satisfied.

Arsenal are no longer top of the Premier League, with Liverpool leapfrogging them earlier on Sunday by beating Brighton. But, crucially, Arsenal are still above City and that will give them heart as they prepare for the final nine games.

Arsenal were good value for a point on Sunday (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Arsenal were good value for a point on Sunday (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Arsenal stop the rot at the Etihad

The wait for a win at the Etihad goes on for Arsenal, but their run of misery here is at least over.

Arsenal had lost eight on the spin coming into this and that perhaps explained the way they set up. The Gunners looked like a side who had come for a point and they spent most of the game camped in their own half.

City dominated the ball, but they did little with it and their best chance came from a corner. Kevin De Bruyne swung it in, however Nathan Ake’s tame header was straight at David Raya.

The hosts ended the game with one shot on target and much of that was down to Arsenal’s approach. They doggedly defended their box and, when City did conjure an opening, someone in red was there to block it.

Arsenal last won at the Etihad in 2015 - and that record still stands - but at least now they have something to build on.

Arteta springs a surprise with Jesus call

Arsenal have been a settled side in recent weeks, but Arteta caught many off guard with his team selection on Sunday.

The Spaniard brought Gabriel Jesus into the team but, instead of playing him through the middle, deployed him out wide. Jesus left City in 2022 to be Arsenal’s No9 and there was a certain irony that he returned playing out wide.

It is a role, however, that the Brazilian does well - and he did so for City on numerous occasions - and Arteta seemingly now thinks the same. Kai Havertz has excelled as Arsenal’s main striker in recent weeks and rightfully kept his place.

Jesus was one of the Gunners’ bright sparks and in the first half and had both of their best chances. He dragged them both wide, however, and after the break the Brazilian couldn’t quite get on the end of Bukayo Saka’s fine cross.

Some of that can be put down to rust, with Jesus struggling with a knee injury over the past few months, and once fully fit he could be an intriguing option out wide for Arsenal in the run-in.

Gabriel and Saliba keep Haaland quiet again

There are few sides who can boast they have kept Erling Haaland out - and even less who can say they have managed it three times.

But Arsenal completed that feat on Sunday as they claimed a valuable point at the Etihad.

As was the case earlier this season, Gabriel and William Saliba were crucial to Arsenal keeping Haaland at bay.

Gabriel was a doubt going into this clash after flaring his Achilles during the win over Porto earlier this month - and he showed his importance against City.

The Brazilian was embroiled in a brilliant battle with Haaland, matching his physicality and keeping him in check. Indeed, Haaland only had seven touches in the first half.

Saliba played his role too and the pair’s partnership at the back has been the cornerstone of Arsenal’s title charge.