Thursday 23 January 2020

De Bruyne sublime, Arsenal ridiculous as City win with ease

Arsenal 0 Manchester City 3

Manchester City's Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (C) vies with Arsenal's Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira (L), Arsenal's French midfielder Matteo Guendouzi (2nd L) and Arsenal's English midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles (R). Photo: Ben Stansall / AFP via Getty Images
Manchester City's Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (C) vies with Arsenal's Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira (L), Arsenal's French midfielder Matteo Guendouzi (2nd L) and Arsenal's English midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles (R). Photo: Ben Stansall / AFP via Getty Images

Jason Burt

Where there is Kevin De Bruyne there is hope. With this superhuman performance, to interpret Pep Guardiola's description of the Belgian, there might even be a glimmer that Manchester City can get back into the title race and scale down Liverpool's 14-point lead and the four-point advantage Leicester City hold over them.

De Bruyne destroyed Arsenal who were booed off at half-time and met with apathy at the end.

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For all of his brilliant masterclass De Bruyne was aided not just by his team-mates but Arsenal's utterly shambolic, demotivated, self-destruction - especially in a shocking first half - that was summed up when Bukayo Saka was not ready to replace Sead Kolasinac when the defender went off injured.

Amateur

So City scored their third goal with Arsenal down to 10 men. That was amateur.

Frequently the cameras panned to Mikel Arteta on the City bench to try and elicit the assistant's reactions given that he is on the shortlist - or should that be longlist - to become Arsenal's new manager, especially as it is increasingly apparent that Freddie Ljungberg is just not up to the job. But Arteta was poker-faced.

Manchester City's Raheem Sterling (right) has a shot on goal. Photo: John Walton/PA Wire
Manchester City's Raheem Sterling (right) has a shot on goal. Photo: John Walton/PA Wire

The excellence of De Bruyne contrasted with the ineffectiveness of Mesut Ozil, who in terms of skill and ability should be Arsenal's equivalent but, instead, hovered around the periphery and was substituted before an hour had been played with boos, also, as he trudged slowly off.

Ozil was not happy with the decision and kicked his gloves but, really? He should look at his performance with Ljungberg damningly saying that his team needed more "energy" and, effectively, someone who would, at least, run around a bit more. Arsenal have now won only one of their last 11 games.

Against that, De Bruyne grabbed hold of the game and did not let go and it is perhaps an oddity in a season when City appear set to surrender the title that the 28-year-old is playing the football of his life. "He's an extraordinary player," Guardiola said. "He sees passes and actions that a normal human being cannot see. With special vision and assists. I speak about him scoring more goals."

No Kevin has had so much freedom and caused so much havoc since the film 'Home Alone'.

Arsenal's Bukayo Saka in action with Manchester City's Kyle Walker. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters
Arsenal's Bukayo Saka in action with Manchester City's Kyle Walker. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Indeed De Bruyne could have had a first-half hat-trick - and was only denied a third goal by Bernd Leno, who superbly tipped his curling shot onto the inside of the post.

Instead he had to settle for two goals and an assist and City will rarely have won a game as easily as this without extending themselves.

Maybe the knowledge that City can dismantle opposition so ruthlessly and, yet, are so far behind Liverpool explained Guardiola's downbeat frustration. The City manager even said his team had played better in defeat last weekend at home to Manchester United. De Bruyne took a more positive spin. "Every time we lose points we come back with a good reaction," he said. "We know we have not been at our best this year but we keep on fighting and there's still a lot of games to play for us."

The manner in which City went ahead summed up the gap - or rather the gulf. After just 90 seconds Gabriel Jesus ran onto to Fernandinho's pass with Calum Chambers woefully slow to react and unable to intervene.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: John Sibley/Action Images via Reuters
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Photo: John Sibley/Action Images via Reuters

Sublime

The cutback fell across goal to De Bruyne whose first-time shot flew high into the net although that description does not do justice to the midfielder's sublime technique as he ran onto the ball without breaking stride to side-foot home. Even though he would have had no chance it was not a great look for Kolasinac on the goal-line who ducked.

But it was even worse for Arsenal with City's second goal as Pierre-Emerick Aubayemang lost the ball after a poor pass from Nicolas Pepe and Matteo Guendouzi was easily bypassed as City broke forward with a combination of passes involving Phil Foden - on his first Premier League start of the season - and Rodri with Jesus eventually sending De Bruyne running into the area.

Chambers again erred as he stood off and De Bruyne pulled the ball back with Kolasinac failing to react. Sterling tapped in.

With Saka waiting to come on Foden dribbled infield to find De Bruyne easily evading Guendouzi, who struggled and should also have been booked for a blatant dive in search of a penalty, before striding forward and bending his shot around Chambers and low into the net. De Bruyne's first goal was a wonderful right-foot strike. His second was a wonderful left-foot strike.

Wow. Is there a better midfielder in world football?

It was over. There was no way back for Arsenal with Ljungberg complaining about City's tactical fouls and praising the young Arsenal players who came on and generally giving the impression of a man who is slowly drowning.

By 80 minutes the stadium was more than half empty as the fans streamed out with Ljungberg praising those who chose to stay.

"We tried to keep the ball and be the Arsenal we want to be," he said but that was deluded.

This was an awful pale shadow and there were two incidents that highlighted the difference.

In the second half De Bruyne played a wonderfully aware pass through Guendouzi's legs from the touchline to pick out Sterling with eventually Jesus blazing wastefully over.

By contrast Ozil simply lost concentration and allowed the ball to run under his foot and out of play when he also gained possession by the touchline.

Soon after Ozil went off.

Arsenal had no response while Ljungberg kept Alexandre Lacazette on the bench and the forward did not look impressed by that.

It was only a question of whether City would add to their total with substitute Riyad Mahrez and Sterling going close and De Bruyne running from deep, at will, as Arsenal were swamped.

City were so in control, led by De Bruyne, that it was simply embarrassing. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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