Ake knocks Premier League leaders out of FA Cup

Pep Guardiola got the better of his former assistant Mikel Arteta as Manchester City toppled Arsenal in the FA Cup fourth round on Friday.

Nathan Ake was Manchester City’s unlikely hero as Pep Guardiola won his latest battle with former protege Mikel Arteta, a 1-0 FA Cup victory over Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium.

In a fourth-round battle between surprise Premier League leaders Arsenal and a second-placed City side who are clinging to their coat-tails in the top flight, it was defender Ake who made the difference on Friday.

He delivered the breakthrough in the 64th minute, with a sharp side-footed finish finding the bottom-right corner, out of the reach of goalkeeper Matt Turner.

The top two have still to meet in the Premier League this season, with this tie a taste of what is to come when those games take place in February and April.

Guardiola’s City began strongly, but Arsenal had a big chance in the fifth minute when Takehiro Tomiyasu’s powerful strike from just inside the penalty area was palmed away by Stefan Ortega.

Tomiyasu was then on hand at the other end to keep out Erling Haaland after the striker looked to loop an overhead kick past Turner, who had raced off his line to make an interception.

Arsenal’s new winger Leandro Trossard was denied by a smart save from Ortega after taking on City right-back Rico Lewis and lashing a left-footed strike towards the far corner.

Kevin De Bruyne sent a curling shot from just outside the penalty area a yard wide of the left post, while City suffered an injury blow just before half-time as John Stones went off with an apparent hamstring problem.

Early in the second half, Turner reacted sharply to push away a low cross from De Bruyne that was intended to tee up Haaland for a tap-in

City introduced Julian Alvarez and Kyle Walker just before the hour mark and began to look sharper. Alvarez went close by hitting the right post, a mere 10 seconds before Ake slotted City ahead with a composed finish.

Arteta called on reinforcements, with captain Martin Odegaard among the players sent on from the Arsenal bench, but the Gunners could not force a replay.

What does it mean? Cup jolt for Gunners

Wins against Tottenham and Manchester United meant Arsenal came into this tie on a high, but they made several changes, pointing to where Arteta’s priorities lie. There were notable changes for City too, a sign of the times that the FA Cup is a poor relation to the league these days.

Will it hurt Arsenal? Time will tell us that. City have now won 14 of their 17 meetings with Arsenal in all competitions under Guardiola (D1 L2), matching the most wins they have had against a single opponent since the former Barcelona boss took charge in 2016 (also 14 against Burnley).

Both defeats have come in the FA Cup, but Arsenal could not make it a cup hat-trick on this occasion. Including games before his move to City, Guardiola has achieved a career-high 18 wins against the Gunners.

As an appetiser for those upcoming league clashes, this felt slightly underwhelming, the two managers holding a little back, when you can be sure that will not be the case when they next meet.

Ake up for the cup again

Former Bournemouth and Chelsea man Ake is not a regular scorer. It’s not particularly his job.

But the two goals he has scored this season have been big, with his first having been the winner when City knocked Liverpool out of the EFL Cup in December. His goal against Arsenal was his first in the FA Cup, on his 16th appearance in the competition.

He also won five of his six duels here, completed 30 of 33 attempted passes, and made a joint team-high three tackles.

Shot-shy Eddie

Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah had just one goal attempt, and he could not do to City what he did to United last Sunday, when his double saw off the Red Devils. Chances dried up for Arsenal as City took a firm grip after the goal, with the visitors having just five efforts all game long.

Key facts

– City beat Arsenal in the FA Cup for the first time since the first ever meeting between the two sides in the competition back in February 1904 (2-0). They had lost four successive games against the Gunners in the the FA Cup before this victory.

– Arsenal have lost 13 of their past 14 games against City in all competitions (W1) and this was their sixth defeat in a row at the hands of the Premier League champions.

What’s next?

City are without a game until Sunday week, when they travel to face Tottenham in the Premier League. Arsenal are next in action a day earlier, heading back north to tackle Everton.

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