Manchester City vs. Arsenal score: Nathan Ake fires Pep Guardiola's side past Gunners, into FA Cup fifth round

Manchester City became the first side in the hat for the FA Cup fifth round as Nathan Ake's elegant strike took them past a much changed Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on Friday.

Mikel Arteta opted to make six changes, mostly in defense, to the side that had beaten Manchester United in such thrilling fashion five days ago and will surely take some degree of surprise at how this weakened Arsenal side matched up against their likely rivals for the Premier League title for over an hour.

On his first full start, Leandro Trossard was a livelier, probing the space vacated by Rico Lewis with purpose and drawing a smart save by Stefan Ortega in what was the best opportunity of the first half. The hosts, meanwhile, rather fed on scraps in the final third, Matt Turner intervening impressively to deny Erling Haaland after Rob Holding miscontrolled the ball. Takehiro Tomiyasu would end the pressure with a clearance off the line.

The second-half changes rather swung the tie in City's favor. Sacrificing Thomas Partey for Albert Sambi Lokonga meant Arsenal struggled to find their way through the press while City's eventual introduction of Julian Alvarez and switch to a 4-2-4 ratcheted up the pressure on the Gunners in their own third.

The Argentine found the space to unleash a thundering shot from outside the box and though it cracked back off the post Jack Grealish picked up the rebound, drawing two defenders to him before rolling the ball to an open Ake. The left back opened his body, rolling the ball precisely into the far corner. Turner did not have a chance.

Arsenal had their chances to send this tie to a replay, a superb diving clearance by Aymeric Laporte denying Eddie Nketiah a certain goal moments after City's opener, but the withdrawal of Bukayo Saka with 15 minutes to play was rather indicative of where their priorities lie.

The stage is set for the title deciders

Passage to the fifth round of the FA Cup is no small prize for City, but in truth this contest was little more than an amuse-bouche for what will come in the Premier League, starting with the meeting between these two at the Emirates Stadium on Feb. 15. It is hard to say with certainty exactly how that will play out because we have not seen Arsenal's best against this City side.

What we did see was a near-entirely changed back five hold out reasonably well and indeed once William Saliba was introduced, Erling Haaland hardly had a sniff. Had Partey stayed on in this contest, Arsenal would surely have not had so many difficulties progressing the ball upfield.

Equally, the act of winning serves City well and they discovered potential weapons of their own, most notably in how Julian Alvarez sparked new life into the frontline after his introduction, dropping into spaces in front of Gabriel to create nuisance. Pep Guardiola will have some coachable moments with young Lewis, who failed to get back quickly enough from the central midfield positions he tends to occupy in possession.

Ake excels once more

Guardiola has been fulsome in his praise of Ake of late and it is clear the praise has not been getting to him. The goal will ensure that the repurposed center back is on the back pages Saturday, but it might not be for the right reasons. His shot was superbly taken, but it was still not quite as impressive as the job he did on Saka, who for once left little mark on the contest.

Ake looks comfortable defending on either foot, a necessity when Arsenal's No. 7 has so many ways to attack you, and is sufficiently quick to keep up with the game's most dangerous wingers. If Ben White returns to the side in the Premier League match, Saka will get more support. He might just need it.

Still, Ake is not getting carried away, saying after the game: "There's still more to come. They are a very tough team. We stayed strong and didn't concede." He was crucial in that regard.

Turner teaches us nothing new

Arteta's decision to heavily rotate his defense brought with it a start for Turner, who clearly has earned enough trust from his manager that Aaron Ramsdale is not parachuted in for bigger cup games. For the most part, that decision was vindicated even if this was not exactly a display that showed great growth from the USMNT number one.

Turner continues to look skittish when his short passing is put under pressure. Inside the first 10 minutes, he handed possession straight to City and was lucky to see a shot fly over his crossbar. There are passes he makes well, notably a clipped ball to the halfway line and Bukayo Saka.

Most impressively of all, he proved to be proactive in quelling threats outside his six-yard box. Having denied Haaland in the first half when he came charging out of his area, he punched a dangerous Kevin De Bruyne cross well clear of danger. Barring injury, it will be only the Europa League between now and the end of the season for Turner. It looks like he can be trusted.

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Full time -- City through to round five

That'll do it at the Etihad Stadium, a solid win for City against a much changed Arsenal.

January 27, 2023, 9:57 PM

A late opportunity

Great goalkeeping from Ortega to fly forwards and smother the ball at the feet of Martinelli, who was offside and going a mile a minute, after Xhaka's elegant through ball. As we approach the final whistle Arsenal, and Martinelli in particular, are really going for the equaliser.

January 27, 2023, 9:49 PM

City are taking the air out of this

Even if it was Odegaard taking his place, Saka's withdrawal just now really tells you a lot about where Arteta's priorities are. Arsenal would doubtless like to find a way back into this tie but have concluded that it is not the end of the world if they lose it and get a few more free days to rest up for a title challenge. City, meanwhile, are knocking the ball around the Arsenal half with ease.

January 27, 2023, 9:40 PM

Arsenal nearly reply straight away

Martinelli and Zinchenko immediately enter for Trossard and Tierney and immediately Arsenal build some pressure down the left. Xhaka puts in a good ball and Nketiah is on hand with the perfect run. He seems certain to tap it in but Laporte just gets a touch on it.

January 27, 2023, 9:28 PM

GOAL! - City take the lead from an unlikely source

Alvarez really has brought bite for City, dropping into the space between defense and midfield he thunders a shot against the post. Grealish picks it up, holds on and rolls it to Ake, who sidefoots the ball into the far corner with panache.

January 27, 2023, 9:26 PM

A change of approach from City

Walker replaces Lewis, a relative like for like swap, but Alvarez's introduction for Mahrez brings with it a switch to something like a 4-2-4, De Bruyne wide on the right and the Argentine through the middle with Haaland. The press intensity from City has ratcheted up and for now at least Arsenal are struggling to get out of their half.

January 27, 2023, 9:23 PM

A worry for Turner

A few minutes after an authoritative punched clearance with his left fist, Turner is down on the deck holding his left shoulder and needs treatment. He had really been growing into this contest but now Ramsdale is warming up. That won't be much of a worry for Arsenal but it would be a disappointing blow for the USMNT goalkeeper, who had really improved after a shaky start.

Moments later he is down with that left arm to block a low cross aimed towards Haaland. It looks like he'll be just fine.

January 27, 2023, 9:15 PM

Away we go again

Saliba is replacing Holding for the second half whilst Lokonga will also be entering the fray for Partey. The former, one assumes, is about getting off the player who was on a booking whilst Partey's exit is perhaps about retaining the fitness of one of their most important players.

January 27, 2023, 9:06 PM

Half time

Just before the break Aymeric Laporte replaces Stones, who seemed to pull up with a hamstring injury whilst defending down the right. Arsenal, with their six changes from the win over Manchester United, will be rather happy with how this all played out. Their weakened side certainly matched their hosts and had just as many decent opportunities without quite finding the breakthrough.

January 27, 2023, 8:50 PM

Holding gets a booking

The Arsenal center back has been looking to leave a bit on Haaland, bending the rules in a way you can hardly bemoan, but one off ball nick too many has led to a yellow card that means he will spending 50ish minutes on a disciplinary tightrope. We saw his head go when he was booked for a foul on Heung-min Son in the decisive north London derby last season, one wonders whether he will be given a chance to show he can be trusted in the second half.

January 27, 2023, 8:44 PM

Trossard keeps going

Youngster Lewis has looked so good in his early outing in a City shirt but he hasn't been tested quite like he has in the first 35 minutes here. Trossard is going at him again and again and again, more often than not getting the better of the youngster with his direct, fearless running. This is quite the introduction from the new signing, the sort that makes Arsenal supporters excited about how deadly he could be off the bench behind Martinelli.

January 27, 2023, 8:37 PM

Trossard starting well

On his full debut the Belgian looks to be a shrewd pick up, full of energy down the left and dovetailing well with Tierney. After forging the pressure that led to Tomiyasu's chance earlier he now goes it alone, drawing a save from Ortega. Haaland might have had some sniffs and pressure but it is Arsenal that have had the best chance to score just there.

January 27, 2023, 8:25 PM

More blunderous defending

Haaland is hovering on the back of Holding's shirt and the pressure gets to him as he miscontrols a City through ball. For a split second it looks like doom for Arsenal but Turner is out of his box very quickly to get a tackle in. Haaland tries an acrobatic overhead kick but Tomiyasu has scrabbled back in time. Despite these moments Arsenal will feel like they have done pretty well in the opening 10 minutes, they've had spells of good possession and productive attacks.

January 27, 2023, 8:11 PM

Clumsy from Turner

That's really loose from Turner, who comes under pressure from Haaland and passes the ball straight to a City player. Ultimately he is fortunate that Mahrez punts the ball over the bar. That, however, has been the real criticism of the USMNT goalkeeper, that he is not quite good enough with his feet. When he is playing so infrequently it is hard to get the reps in.

Moments later Tomiyasu stings Ortega's palms with a fearsome drive after smart work by Trossard on the opposite flank.

January 27, 2023, 8:05 PM

Kick off

We're up and running at the Etihad and quite early on Partey wins a free kick off De Bruyne. He punts it hard for Saka to chase but puts too much on the pass.

January 27, 2023, 8:01 PM

Explaining that Arsenal team

Here's what Arteta told ITV of his decision to rotate: "Everybody needs game time, they deserve game time the way they play, the way they train every single day and we're going to need everybody. And to need everybody, I have to give them minutes so they're in the best possible position to compete."

Guardiola was asked for his view on this rather weakened Arsenal XI. "I dunno." Thanks for that Pep.

January 27, 2023, 7:48 PM

Transfer news

Brighton have rejected a £60 million bid from Arsenal for Moises Caicedo but that is unlikely to quell Arsenal's desire to sign the Ecuadorian midfielder. Arteta is on record as saying he wants to strengthen his midfield and the Gunners are also tracking Ibrahima Bamba, though that is viewed as more of a move for the future.

In addition to Caicedo, Arsenal are frontrunners for the signature of Declan Rice, who CBS Sports revealed last week was keen to make the move to north London.

January 27, 2023, 7:46 PM

Head to head

City have not beaten Arsenal, the most successful club in the competition's history, in the FA Cup since 1904 and were beaten 2-0 in the 2020 semifinal. Indeed in each of their last three meetings Arsenal have won and gone on to win the trophy. However, that was a rare victory for Mikel Arteta over his former boss. Guardiola has not lost a Premier League meeting with Arsenal.

January 27, 2023, 7:35 PM

Arteta hides his hand

Holding against Haaland is certainly a choice, one that seems to suggest that Arteta is ready to let the FA Cup slide if it increases his chances of winning on February 15, when these two face off in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium. It's notable that Thomas Partey, a rather injury-prone lodestone for Arsenal, does start at a time when the Gunners are trying to boost their options in midfield, whilst there's a full debut for Leandro Trossard on the left side of attack. Gabriel Martinelli, who has agreed a new contract, is on a very strong bench that includes new signing Jakub Kiwior.

January 27, 2023, 7:26 PM

Manchester City outlook

It was only a week ago that Guardiola warned his players that Arsenal would crush them if his side did not rediscover their fighting spirit. Speaking after City had overcome a two-goal deficit to beat Tottenham 4-2, he said, "We are a happy flowers team but I don't want to be happy flowers. I want to beat Arsenal, but if we play in that way Arsenal will destroy us."

Now he will have a chance to discover if his side reacted to what he said. Since those comments City cruised to a 3-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers without ever getting particularly tested with Erling Haaland scoring the fourth hat trick of his Premier League career.

January 27, 2023, 7:19 PM

Teams in full

Manchester City XI: Ortega; Lewis, Stones, Akanji, Ake; Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan; Mahrez, Haaland, Grealish
Subs: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Phillips, Cancelo, Laporte, Alvarez, Bernardo, Palmer

Arsenal XI: Turner; Tomiyasu, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey; Saka, Vieira, Xhaka, Trossard; Nketiah
Subs: Ramsdale, White, Zinchenko, Saliba, Kiwior, Lokonga, Odegaard, Marquinhos, Martinelli

January 27, 2023, 7:08 PM

Viewing information

  • Date: Friday, Jan. 27 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
  • Location: Etihad Stadium -- Manchester, United Kingdom
  • Live stream: ESPN+
  • Odds: Manchester City -138; Draw +275; Arsenal +290 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
January 27, 2023, 6:58 PM

Good afternoon

Welcome to our live coverage of the FA Cup fourth round tie between Manchester City and Arsenal, a cracking way to get the ball rolling on this weekend of action. In truth this is rather more of a warmup act for the main event between these two on February 15 but for that reason it will be intriguing to see how much of their hands Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola are prepared to show.

January 27, 2023, 6:28 PM
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