FA Cup Hits and Misses: Man City and Arsenal take lessons from Etihad tie, Leandro Trossard catches eye, John Stones suffers injury

What lessons will top two take from their cup clash?

Pre-match it felt like Mikel Arteta’s team selection could open the door for a damaging defeat for Arsenal. But in the end his side equipped themselves well and although the FA Cup defeat will frustrate and hurt his players, perhaps the Arsenal head coach escaped the Etihad without his priority – the Premier League challenge – substantially hit by the loss to rivals Manchester City.

The more optimistic Arsenal supporters may even suggest the game offers encouragement, with Arteta likely to field a far stronger starting XI when the sides finally meet in the league at the Emirates on February 15.

But really there was little given away by either side in regards to how that game could play out in a couple of weeks. City looked more effective with Julian Alvarez playing off Erling Haaland, so that could be an option, while Pep Guardiola noted how Arsenal’s man-to-man marking set-up limited his team’s options. Expect him to be already mulling over possible solutions.

He will certainly need to decide on his best defensive options, with Stones looking set to be a doubt, and the two Premier League games both sides have to play before their next showdown could shift the storyline too. Anyway, Arsenal might have Moises Caicedo in their midfield by then.

This was a tie far removed from the all-action thriller that was Arsenal vs Manchester United last weekend but it serves as an intriguing appetiser for the bigger contests to come between the Premier League’s top two so far this season…

Trossard looks like he could become a key asset for Arsenal

Leandro Trossard made his full Arsenal debut

He’s only been at the club for just over a week but already Leandro Trossard has seamlessly slotted into this Arsenal team – and appears to be a real asset too.

After an encouraging cameo in the final stages of the win over Manchester United on Sunday, Trossard was handed his first start for the Gunners at the Etihad and immediately caught the eye.

Driving down the left flank into the space left unoccupied by Rico Lewis drifting infield, Trossard caused City real problems early on. He teed up Takehiro Tomiyasu for a thunderbolt and another cross was prodded just wide of the post by Eddie Nketiah. In between he hit the target himself, drawing a good stop from Stefan Ortega in the City goal.

He was subbed off after 65 minutes but finished the match as Arsenal’s joint-top chance creator (two), joint-top crosser (two) and also their joint-top tackler. Indeed, his chasing back will have pleased Mikel Arteta, with Riyad Mahrez hardly getting into the game behind him.

Perhaps the one problem for Arsenal was that all this output came from just 21 touches – the fewest of any starter from either side. If Arsenal can find a way to get him even more involved in the coming weeks, new boy Trossard could play a key role in the run-in.

How big a loss will Stones prove in title race?

Manchester City's John Stones leaves the field
Manchester City’s John Stones leaves the field

Pep Guardiola’s face said it all.

John Stones winced and tucked his legs into his chest, to reduce the pain that had shot through his right hamstring in freezing conditions in Manchester.

Trossard had left the England centre-back’s thighs burning for most of the opening half, slightly exposed by Rico Lewis’ exuberance to get forward down the right channel.

Another twist, another turn and Stones felt the ping and his likely period on the sidelines will put Manchester City’s clear depth in this area to the test.

John Stones has excelled this season for City
John Stones has excelled this season for City

At the start of the month, Guardiola highlighted Stones’ form, telling Sky Sports: “John he played extraordinary in the World Cup and he can adapt perfectly with three or out wide.

“He is playing at the best level, maybe for the first time in seven years since we arrived together. When he is playing like this it’s so good.”

Such was the significance of Stones’ injury, Aymeric Laporte was in no way ready to replace him. Sheepishly, he stripped off as his side temporarily had to play with 10 men.

It was hardly the sharpest of responses from Laporte, who would go on to make a crucial interception shortly after Nathan Ake’s decisive opener.

With fixtures coming thick and fast in February – including the second instalment of this epic trilogy with Arsenal – greater emphasis will be placed on Laporte and Ruben Dias, who was an unused substitute on Friday. It could be a tense wait for Guardiola as Stones is assessed.

Arteta’s harsh Holding lesson learned

Arsenal's Rob Holding and Manchester City's Erling Haaland battle for the ball
Holding and Erling Haaland battle for the ball

Haaland won five of his seven duels in the first half, predominantly up against Rob Holding. The Arsenal centre-back was booked on the stroke of half-time and it had been coming. It left Mikel Arteta with a conundrum to solve.

Would he be trusted to be careful during the second period against one of the world’s most prolific strikers?

Holding didn’t know whether to stick or twist, and mismatch brought back nasty memories of when he was sent off before half-time in the North London derby at Tottenham towards the end of last season as Arsenal’s season unravelled.

Rob Holding struggled to cope with Erling Haaland
Rob Holding struggled to cope with Erling Haaland

Holding was also in the Arsenal side that were beaten in the third-round stage last season by Nottingham Forest, which led to Arteta apologising for his side’s display.

With a face like thunder, Arteta ripped into the performance of the players while criticising the low standards that came with it.

“I accept losing guys, I accept losing. I don’t accept these standards, I’m telling you. I don’t accept them, I don’t accept them, these standards,” he said while furiously wagging his finger around.

Holding was sent off before half time against Spurs
Holding was sent off before half time against Spurs

“When I lose a duel, I am upset,” Arteta ended as he stormed out of the dressing-room.

It is a scene that has been revisited more recently as a marker for how far Arsenal have come in the past 12 months, but on Friday night Arteta showed he had learned from harsh previous lessons.

Against the most ruthless finisher in England, the Spaniard took no chances as William Saliba replaced Holding at the interval.

Incidentally, Arteta defended Holding when he was sent off against Spurs last May, telling Sky Sports: “If I say what I think, then I am suspended for six months. I don’t like lying. I prefer not to say what I think. I cannot say what I think. I am so proud of my players. A beautiful game was destroyed.”

But here, Arteta was wise not to make the same mistake twice, for Holding’s own good and for the wider good of his team.

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