Man City 1 Arsenal 0: Raheem Sterling inflicts more misery on Mikel Arteta's Gunners with first-half strike

RAHEEM STERLING showed England just what they were missing to condemn Arsenal to another miserable road trip.

How Gareth Southgate could have done with the help of the Manchester City star during the midweek Wembley defeat by Denmark.

But there was no sign of the hamstring injury which ruled him out of international duty as he twisted the knife on Mikel Arteta once again.

It was Sterling who scored City’s first goal out of lockdown to set Arsenal on their way to a 3-0 defeat at the Etihad in June.

And he was back on the mark to consign former City coach Arteta to another unhappy return to his old stamping ground.

That was Sterling’s 35th goal in all competitions since the start of last season, which is more than any other top-flight player in the country.

And it means Arsenal have now gone a scarcely believable 29 games since they last won away to any of their ‘Big Six’ rivals.

That miserable record, stretching all the way back to January 2015, once again begs the question of how they are ever going to challenge for the title when they consistently fall short in the matches that really matter.

Yet Arteta will not be too downhearted by this latest setback after resisting the temptation to throw £45million deadline day signing Thomas Partey straight into the action.

The Ghanaian powerhouse had to wait until the 83rd minute for his first taste of Premier League football and by then it was too late to change the narrative of this encounter.

Just trying to work out who was supposed to be playing where was enough to give you a headache as both teams switched formations in an intriguing battle of wits.

It was the football equivalent of experimental jazz and probably one for the connoisseurs rather than those fans who prefer a bit of blood and guts.

What was clear was that Arteta was playing Pep Guardiola at his own game in an effort to beat the City press.

The visitors were certainly helped by the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, who picked up a muscle strain playing for Belgium against England last Sunday.

But his absence was countered by the return of Sergio Aguero, back after 18 games out with a knee injury and straight into the thick of the action.

It was Aguero’s 23rd minute pass which carved Arsenal apart for the game's only goal, teeing up Phil Foden for a shot which Bernd Leno could only parry into the path of Sterling.

Arsenal’s German keeper has a bit of a habit of getting both hands to the ball but failing to push it out of the danger area.

And Sterling, lurking with intent on the edge of the six-yard box, was not going to miss from there.

Bukayo Saka tried to conjure up an instant response, stinging the palms of Ederson with a rasping shot, before Nicolas Pepe headed wide from Willian’s cross.

But that Sterling goal gave City the freedom to start taking a few more risks as they started to turn the screw.

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Riyad Mahrez was allowed to cut inside Kieran Tierney far too easily for a shot which was once again blocked by Leno at his near post.

Fortunately for Arsenal, Gabriel Magalhães was able to throw himself in front of Mahrez’s follow-up effort at the expense of a corner.

And when Gabriel and Saka were caught trying to play out from the back, Leno was yet again required to race from his line to thwart Foden.

Yet the one thing you can say about Arteta’s team is that they don’t chuck in the towel at the first sign of trouble like some previous Arsenal sides.

Tierney, Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showed real determination to carve out a 39th minute opportunity which demanded a crucial save by Ederson.

And the visitors were convinced they should have had a penalty when Kyle Walker almost took off Gabriel’s head with a raised boot as he stretched to clear Willian’s corner.

But referee Chris Kavanagh didn’t even refer the challenge to VAR before blowing his whistle for half-time.

Once again Arsenal were happy to concede the lion’s share of possession and try to play out on the counter.

It almost paid dividends right at the start of the second-half when Aubameyang’s cross picked out Nicolas Pepe right in front of goal.

But Arsenal’s £72million record signing headed straight at Ederson and the visitors were rarely able to trouble the City keeper after that.

Instead it was City who looked the likelier to extend their lead, with the lively Mahrez always willing to chance his luck from distance.

It was also a first Premier League clean sheet of the City for Guardiola’s men, with £63million Ruben Dias impressing on his Etihad debut.

Arsenal might be edging closer to the team Arteta wants them to be, but the gap at the top remains and reports of City’s demise might just prove to be exaggerated.

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