Three Takeaways: Manchester City 1-0 Arsenal

Manchester City escaped with all three points against Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal 1-0.

Manchester City were far from their best, but managed a 1-0 home victory against former assistant Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal to pull back into the Premier League title race. Following a shocking start to the season that included a 5-2 loss to Leicester City and narrow 1-1 draw against Leeds United, City’s season was teetering on the brink of disaster.

This had the feeling of an early must-win match, and although the team did very little to convince that they still had what it takes to win the league, the result is all that matters.

1. Rúben Dias Looks The Real Deal

Without star defender Aymeric Laporte, which derailed the team’s 2019-20 league season, City faced a real test in this match due to the Frenchman’s muscle injury. Their two defensive signings this summer, Rúben Dias and Nathan Aké, did exactly what they were singed to do. Aké was stable, left-footed cover to make sure the wheels didn’t fall off at Laporte’s position in his absence. Dias led the unit to a clean sheet as the team’s best defender.

Dias has slotted straight in and was a big reason City got the result today. While the team still does look vulnerable, as evidenced by Ederson’s two big match-winning saves, he is a massive improvement on previous options. Perhaps, above all, his leadership and burning desire to win will prove just as valuable as his physical strength and tackling ability, and he has all of the traits to one day captain this team.

2. City Are Still Not Right

The team is still struggling to find their best form, even if this win papers over many of their early-season cracks. There are still the highly visible defensive vulnerabilities, but perhaps the most worrying issue is the team’s inability to regularly create or convert chances. The full-time return of Sergio Agüero will be telling, as the team looked much more comfortable with a true striker in the middle, but after a good opening 30 minutes, the team dropped off, just as they did against Wolves, Leicester, and Leeds. They got the result today, which is most important, but the performances are still deeply concerning.

3. Title Favorites After All?

City were by no means favorites heading into this season, and after their shocking start, they did not look anywhere near Liverpool’s standard. The Reds have now faltered in consecutive matches, with a shocking 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa and draw in the Merseyside Derby against Everton gifting City just a three-point deficit with a game in hand. Perhaps most important, however, is Virgil Van Dijk’s reported ACL injury, which could keep him out for eight months.

Much like the wheels fell off of City’s season a year ago with Laporte’s injury, Liverpool will in all likelihood not match their ridiculous 99-point campaign a year ago without their star. The barrier of entry to title contention has been lowered, and even though City have been poor, regaining the league title may now just take around 85 points rather than the 90+ I had expected. Liverpool are still a threat given their tremendous talent all over the pitch, but today could be viewed as a tipping point. The Reds lost the world’s best defender, dropped points controversially, and City sneaked a win they were arguably fortunate to get. The door is now open, and the question is now whether City will force their way through it, or if they will continue to let their level drop, which provides opportunity for teams like a weakened Liverpool or even a surprise Everton to contend.