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Luiz endures nightmare return as De Bruyne pulls strings

Manchester City 3 Arsenal 0

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Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos tries to get to grips with Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne during last night’s match. Photo: Peter Powell/PA Wire/NMC Pool

Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos tries to get to grips with Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne during last night’s match. Photo: Peter Powell/PA Wire/NMC Pool

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Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos tries to get to grips with Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne during last night’s match. Photo: Peter Powell/PA Wire/NMC Pool

For Arsenal and for David Luiz, Project Restart already needs a re-set. Two appalling mistakes, in a hapless 26-minute cameo from the defender, delivered an easy victory for Manchester City that thwarted Liverpool's hopes of winning the Premier League title at this weekend's Merseyside derby.

Luiz started on the bench and was sent back there after giving away a goal, giving away a penalty and then being sent off as Mikel Arteta's hopes of returning to City and making a statement to his mentor, Pep Guardiola, were dashed.

It was a fourth red card of the season for Luiz who, having just turned 33, did little for his prospects of earning a contract extension at Arsenal, who will fret that this result will also diminish their hopes of retaining captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who craves Champions League football.

Arteta would not criticise the hapless Brazilian defender and said the night would have no bearing on a decision to exercise the option on his contract.

"He has spoken in the dressing room," the manager said. "David is someone who is very honest, straightforward, I'm sure he will talk to you guys and explain his feelings."

Luiz was soon in front of the cameras taking the blame. "All the players are amazing, it was just my fault," he said although he insisted he would "love to stay" in North London.

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Manchester City's Sergio Aguero shoots at goal. Photo: Peter Powell/Pool via Reuters

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero shoots at goal. Photo: Peter Powell/Pool via Reuters

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Manchester City's Sergio Aguero shoots at goal. Photo: Peter Powell/Pool via Reuters

It may have been Arsenal's first league defeat of 2020 but it felt all too familiar as they were, frankly, easily dismissed with two City goalscorers - Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne - impressing and only a string of saves by goalkeeper Bernd Leno keeping the scoreline down.

The only concern for City was a nasty injury to Eric Garcia with the 19-year-old Spaniard appearing to suffer a bad neck injury after a collision with his own goalkeeper, Ederson. Garcia's injury led to a long delay as he received treatment.

One hundred days after Harvey Barnes's goal in Leicester City's 4-0 victory over Aston Villa, the first strike of the restart came on the stroke of half-time as City's pressure finally, deservedly, paid off.

For all of Arsenal's dogged, organised defending, the ease of the concession will have infuriated Arteta.

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Manchester City's Phil Foden in action. Photo: Peter Powell/Pool via Reuters

Manchester City's Phil Foden in action. Photo: Peter Powell/Pool via Reuters

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Manchester City's Phil Foden in action. Photo: Peter Powell/Pool via Reuters

It felt all too familiar as De Bruyne arced the ball in from the right, Luiz allowed it to skim off his thigh and Sterling stole in to thump a right-footed shot past Leno, who had held the home side out until that point.

The slickness of the turf had not helped Luiz, who had replaced Pablo Mari midway through the first half with Arsenal also losing Granit Xhaka to injury in the first few minutes, but it was undeniably an error.

Arteta would have been relieved he could turn to five substitutes, although using two in the opening period meant he only - under the rule changes - had one more opportunity to bring on replacements.

With Xhaka carried off, the head coach turned to Dani Ceballos to make a change to a midfield, where he had conspicuously omitted Mesut Ozil from his squad - "a tactical decision", the claim. Despite being fully fit, despite there being nine substitutes on the bench, Ozil was left out, which told its own story.

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Manchester City players celebrate. Photo: Peter Powell/Pool via Reuters

Manchester City players celebrate. Photo: Peter Powell/Pool via Reuters

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Manchester City players celebrate. Photo: Peter Powell/Pool via Reuters

Early opportunities fell to Sterling, who was clumsily halted by Mari - with De Bruyne's free-kick tipped over by Leno - and then he was released by De Bruyne, only to check, with his shot blocked.

Just prior to kick-off, as at Villa Park, all 22 players and the referee Anthony Taylor "took the knee" in support of the Black Lives Matters movement, with the slogan replacing the names on the back of the shirts.

Arsenal escaped again. The scare for them was how easily Kyle Walker ran past Mari, who stayed down injured, before pulling the ball back. Gabriel Jesus left it, in the false belief that he had a team-mate behind him, when he should have taken the shot.

Arsenal were then indebted to Leno with a trio of saves. Sterling did better when he ran at Hector Bellerin, cut inside and forced Leno to turn away his shot for a corner. The goalkeeper then excelled as City's intricate passing opened up the visitors, allowing David Silva, who has agreed to stay until the end of the season, a sight of goal. Leno parried that effort, before the German came out to smother Riyad Mahrez's effort.

Arsenal were hanging on, defending ever deeper, but that was allowing De Bruyne the chance to find space in front of them and play his passes. It got worse for Luiz.

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta (left) and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola fist bump after the match. Photo: Peter Powell/PA Wire/NMC Pool

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta (left) and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola fist bump after the match. Photo: Peter Powell/PA Wire/NMC Pool

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta (left) and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola fist bump after the match. Photo: Peter Powell/PA Wire/NMC Pool

A lot worse. Having been at fault for the first goal he was caught out as Mahrez ran in behind him. The centre-half pulled Mahrez back and not only did Taylor give the penalty the official also showed Luiz a red card. De Bruyne calmly stroked the penalty home and it had, frankly, been a shocking 26-minute contribution from Luiz.

If lockdown has been a time for change, for reflection and improvement then it clearly did not apply to the Brazilian. Arsenal's task was now even more daunting.

Two goals down, a man down and facing a City side who had such an easy ability to retain possession. And all this in the first game back since March, with Arteta pushing Kieran Tierney - in his first appearance under the Spaniard - into central defence.

City struck again with two substitutes prominent as Sergio Aguero hit a post with Phil Foden sending home the rebound.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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