Unai Emery’s Arsenal reign got off to an inconspicuous start, as Manchester City grabbed the points with a comfortable display that shows there is much more work to do before the Gunners get back to challenging for the title.
Emery went for stability in midfield numbers in his formation, with what appeared to be a 4-3-3 before kickoff. Another surprise was that Petr Cech not only got the nod ahead of Bernd Leno, but he also skippered the side.
The defence was as expected, with Bellerin, Sokratis, Mustafi and Ainsley Maitland-Niles lining up to stymie City.
In midfield, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey were named, and there was a surprise start for summer acquisition Matteo Guendouzi, who had impressed us all in pre-season.
Alexandre Lacazette was named on the bench as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was given the sole striker spot, with Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan just behind him.
City took a few minutes to click and we started to knock the ball around nicely, but it wasn’t long before Pep’s side were looking ominous - and they were being ably assisted by some rusty errors from our men under pressure.
Raheem Sterling was floating, and on more than one occasion he tormented our defence by his footwork, and it was the England wideman who broke the deadlock.
Sterling received the ball wide on the left, and he danced past two lackadaisical challenges, especially from Guendouzi, before lashing home past a stricken Cech.
City were cranking up the gears, and Mahrez could have scored City’s second with a close range free-kick, which was well stopped by Cech, who then got up quickly to deny the rebound.
We didn’t quite look outclassed, but there was still a gap in quality between the two sides, as Aubameyang cut an isolated figure on his own, as Ozil and Mkhitaryan toiled to find a way forward, but to no avail.
The first half ended and City could and perhaps should, have put the game to bed, but we did well to keep the deficit down.
The second half started a little better as Guendouzi in particular, was getting on the ball, but still, Ederson had precious little to do.
We had moments, but they were fleeting, and City finally put the game to bed in the 64th minute, when Mendy, who had been a real menace, cut the ball back for Bernardo Silva to smash home with a drive, and leave Emery staring down the barrel of defeat.
Alexandre Lacazette was subbed on quite early in the second half in order to kickstart the Gunners, and he worked well, winning the ball often and always showing himself for the ball, but even though we were getting in some great positions, we didn’t quite stretch Ederson, although we had improved on the first half.
City brought on Kevin DeBruyne, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus in the second half, showing their incredible depth, and they cantered through the rest of the game, keeping us at arms length for the most part, although we could have got a goal when Ederson passed the ball straight to us, but Lacazette left the ball for Ozil and the Brazilian keeper made amends to smother the ball.
It was a chastening defeat, and a stone cold reminder that the work Emery is putting in will take a bit of time to settle, and we must be a little patient. This effort would have been enough to take the points from half of the teams in the Premiership - but we’ve got some way to go before we are where we should be.