Manchester City

Anyone picking Joe in goal is now going with their Hart instead of their Head

An opinion piece questioning Joe Hart’s goalkeeping, just a day after England dropped points against its oldest enemy may attract accusations of being reactionary, if only that was the case.

The reality is that the last year and a bit has included one problem after another for the previously undisputed Manchester City and England number one.

Pep Guardiola being announced as the forthcoming City manager, on February 1, got the ball rolling, and the momentum has got faster as time has gone on, most recently culminating in the 30-year-old letting two really quite saveable free-kicks past him in as many minutes in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Scotland.

Euro 2016 was the first real on-pitch indication that the Hart was starting to break with England unceremoniously dumped out of the competition in France as early as the Round of 16 stage, against Iceland.

Not all the blame can be aimed at the goalkeeper, of course, but the Three Lions did concede four goals in their four matches against Russia, Wales, Slovakia and Iceland and a case could be made that Hart was at fault for all of them.

A looping header caught him off guard in the Russia draw, Gareth Bale’s free-kick from miles out squirmed under him and then a long throw-in that caught Hart out followed by another tame shot that seemed to go through him led to Iceland eliminating England.

Regardless of his Euro 2016 showing, Hart was probably departing City anyway, given Guardiola’s insistence on a ball-playing keeper, and Hart was duly loaned to Serie A outfit Torino. In his own words, to Soccer AM: “The management didn’t want me, so I had to go somewhere else.

“Obviously he (Guardiola) had different ideas. The manager who came in came in with a lot of experience, an awful lot of medals and I know the club worked really hard to have him in charge of the football club.

“Unfortunately, football is a game of opinions. His opinions weren’t too great on me, I kind of smelled that when I came in. That’s life, that’s football.”

Hart’s replacement at City, Claudio Bravo, had a disastrous campaign of his own but he was only ever a temporary option for Pep and his side, given that Barcelona’s other keeper, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, was the one he really wanted with Manuel Neuer, who he coached at Bayern Munich, never a realistic option.

Given Bravo’s below-par bedding in period, City fans and neutral pundits alike were calling for the return of the ousted Hart, but only by those that were not watching his performances in Turin.

Life in Italy was tough, and gaffe-ridden for Hart who dropped, in some cases literally, clangers against the likes of Inter Milan, Atalanta and Crotone.

Judging goalkeepers by statistic is difficult in the nicest terms, and downright inaccurate in the worst. Torino having the second-worst defence in the Italian top flight is not a direct correlation to Hart’s form, or lack thereof, and nor, really, is a poor shot-to-save ratio.

Hart’s inclusion in the Serie A ‘Flop of the Season’ XI is a damning indictment though and established Italian football writer James Horncastle quipping: “Torino couldn’t believe they had landed England’s number one. Over the course of the season, they realised why”, sums it up better than most.

Once done with England duty, Hart will return to Manchester, but if he even gets to the stage of taking his coat off and hanging it up on his dressing room peg, he can call that a victory as City’s £35 million signing of Benfica’s Ederson kicks him through the door that was already more than ajar.

While his time at his club comes to an end, Hart is also at risk of a bypass at international level. Jack Butland may have missed the majority of the 2016-17 season through injury but in his games since recovery he seems back on track while Jordan Pickford was widely considered to be the best goalkeeper in the country last season, despite Sunderland’s abject relegation campaign.

“We didn’t expect so many mistakes from an England international”, was the departing shot from Torino president Urbano Cairo but currently it looks increasingly more likely that a good moment for Hart would be more surprising.

 

In Profile: Jadon Sancho

England got their Under-17 European Championship campaign off to the perfect start: with a 3-1 win over Norway. Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster netted two of the goals for the Three Lions, but he was not the man that enticed those that tuned in on Thursday afternoon.

Manchester City winger Jadon Sancho ran the show, quite literally, in Velika Gorica, Croatia.

Things looked bleak for England when they went 1-0 down as early as the eighth minute, but 17-year-old Sancho showed the character of someone well beyond his tender age, by assisting the first of Brewster’s brace just two minutes later.

Sancho did not play a direct part in the second goal, but an intuitive piece of skill got the move going that started the move that completed England’s turnaround.

Norway quickly cottoned onto the fact that Sancho was trouble, and doubled-up on the flamboyant winger, with little success, as the right-hand side of the Norwegian’s flank was under consistent scrutiny for the entire 80 minutes.

Sancho’s key attribute is obvious from the outset. Type his name into YouTube and you are inundated with ‘Amazing Skills and Dribbling’ compilation videos – the first sign that a Millennial footballer has arrived, one video even describes him as “The Future.” Maybe with good reason.

Manchester City certainly know what they have got, as three weeks before his 17th birthday, and two years after they paid Watford £500,000 for him, Sancho was offered a three-year deal to remain in Manchester following talk he missed his hometown of Kenington in south London. Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham were all ready to pounce, but had no luck.

Talk of homesickness seems strange, though, given that he describes his 2015 move to City as him “getting out of the hood” and that “bad influences were happening” around him. “If I moved, it would be better for me, to stay out of trouble”, he told the club’s YouTube channel.

“After school, it was just football, football. Other people were a bad influence on me, doing bad stuff and I just didn’t want to be around that, so there was the opportunity to come to Manchester and I’m really happy,” he continued.

Sancho wasted no time in showing his gratitude to his new club. On his debut start for the Citizens he scored two in a 6-1 demolition of Newcastle and, during the same season, he was part of a City under-16 side that went unbeaten during the 2015-16 season. While with the under-18 team Sancho scored a further five goals and ended the campaign with seven goals in four starts for Jason Wilcox’s side.

Progression has not slowed down for the tricky winger, as this season he has been training with the first-team under Pep Guardiola, in what was the latest indication on what City, and England, have got brewing.

“When I saw Pep, I just couldn’t stop smiling. When I walked on the training pitch I was very nervous, but I just remembered what my Dad said: no pressure.

“I just kept my head low and then Pep came over to me, I shook his hand, he put my arm around me and gave me great advice.

“He’s seen what I can do, he wants me to improve in certain parts, he doesn’t care if I lose the ball 1,000 times, he knows what I’m capable of.”

Guardiola is not the only one who knows what Sancho is capable of. At 16, Sancho was already heavily involved in City’s UEFA Youth League campaign, the Champions League for under-21s, playing six out of the seven games City played, and scored two goals – against Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic in the group stages.

City were eliminated in the play-off round, against eventual winners Red Bull Salzburg on penalties, but Sancho was one of the three men in blue to bury his spot-kick.

Sancho did reach one final this season, as him and the rest of the Manchester City EDS (Elite Development Squad) got all the way FA Youth Cup final, but lost 6-2 on aggregate to Chelsea, although there is clear signs of positive work on display in the City set up.

“I think our group is so special, because we have great chemistry on and off the pitch. When on the training pitch, we take it proper seriously, like it’s a game day, that’s how all of us work so hard and get results on match days.”

Sancho is getting results on match days, and if he continues in this vein he will certainly be getting results in his career.

 

 

 

 

Pep Guardiola is new, different, and fresh. Get used to it.

Manchester City’s appointment and unveiling of Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola was neither normal nor run-of-the-mill, but then Guardiola is not a normal or run-of-the-mill kind of guy, or manager.

We are approaching February of 2017. This time last year – February 1, to be precise, was the day in which the Citizens announced to the world, mid-way through the season, that ‘Charming Man’ Manuel Pellegrini, nicknamed after the renowned Manchester-based band ‘The Smiths’, was to depart the Etihad Stadium in June to be replaced by ‘Enigmatic Man’ Guardiola.

That in itself was bold and some suggested less-than-charming to the Chilean, Pellegrini, but there was more to come, in the shape of a fan parade. Tickets sold out in a matter of hours, demand exceeded supply, and over 20,000 people attended the event. The title of David Conn’s excellent book suggests Manchester City are richer than God, you could be forgiven for thinking they had just hired him as well. Maybe they had.

In his first 10 competitive matches in charge, City won all 10. The critics that said the King of Catalonia was going to struggle in a ‘more competitive’ league following title wins in Spain and Germany, with Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively, looked like fools.

City were four points clear at the top of the Premier League, eight points ahead of current clear leaders Chelsea, and they had taken Europe by storm as well, winning their two qualifiers before demolishing Borussia Monchengladbach 4-0 in their opening group stage match. God. Call the sport off in September. We’re done for the year.

This had all been done with Claudio Bravo in goal too, who had been signed as part of the rebuilding process being done on the blue half of Manchester, as England number one Joe Hart, who had a disappointing European Championship with his country, was ousted and joined Italian outfit Torino on a season-long loan. Things then started to get interesting.

On September 28, Manchester City drew 3-3 in a frantic Champions League night at Celtic Park and a matter of days later Tottenham got a 2-0 win against them at White Hart Lane before City drew three of their next four games 1-1 – against Everton, Southampton, and Middlesbrough. Then you add in the fact that in that ten-match winning streak, City kept just three clean sheets and suddenly you have a scapegoat. Bravo.

Football, more often than one might think, reflects society. Wherever you look in the world of politics at the moment, people are scared of the new and the never-seen-before.

The United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union – this is uncharted territory as they are the only full member state to do so –  and America has elected climate change-denier, sexual assault-accused and disabled reporter-mocker Donald Trump as their President. These are scary times for those that don’t like change. Pep Guardiola is a man, albeit in a more trivial sense, that wants to change things but, regardless, people are scared.

A man that wants to play a goalkeeper that can’t keep goal, (Bravo has faced 59 shots this season and conceded 25 goals), because he wants his keeper to be his first attacker is one that opens himself up to ridicule from sections of both fans and the media. Being worshipped as the best thing to grace the Earth by those same sets of people does this as well, as does being prickly to those journalists that oh so adored you last weekend when you won 4-0 and those that don’t think you’ve proved yourself yet cannot wait for you to fail.

Initially, Guardiola was staunch of his philosophy. Bravo should be the first attacker, just like Victor Valdes was at arguably the greatest club side to grace the game, and just like Manuel Neuer was at his Bayern side and John Stones – a defender that, let’s face it, can’t really defend, should also be, and will become, the ultimate ball-playing centre back that gets City going.

In October he told journalists: “I think about that (changing), yeah but in the end the solution is not better than what I believe, so I cannot. In seven years I won 21 titles…I’m not going to change…if it’s not going well in the future I will go home.” By January, he was stating that “maybe (he) is not good enough for (his) players.”

Maybe Guardiola isn’t God after all, maybe for now he’ll have to settle for being Jesus. Establishing mega-rich Manchester City into the European elite is no miracle, but his second coming might not be too far away once his disciples and those who watch them, have understood his gospels.

Five Premier League Managers That Need to Hit the Ground Running in August

The 2015-16 Premier League season is slowly dawning upon us and, soon enough, so will the dreaded “sack race”. Here are five managers that will need a good start this season to prevent themselves being dragged into the mire.

1) Steve McClaren – Newcastle United

Newcastle’s murky issues off-the-pitch seem to finally look like they are coming to an end. Alan Pardew resigning as manager to take over at Crystal Palace in December 2014 was the beginning of the end of the “Cockney Mafia” and now owner Mike Ashley is set to step down to much fanfare from the Newcastle faithful.

New manager McClaren hopefully signifies a new dawn at St.James’ Park, however he arrives in Tyneside having twice failed to gain promotion from the Championship with Derby County following a brief stint as a coach at QPR, a failed return to FC Twente where he previously won the Eredivisie, a four month spell at Nottingham Forest and a dismal period at Wolfsburg where he was sacked after less than a year.

McClaren has defiantly announced his intentions to be the first man to bring a major honour to Newcastle since Stan Steymour who won the FA Cup in 1955 while in charge, which could suggest the Magpies’ league position could be sacrificed in order to pick up some shiny silverware.

A home match against Southampton offers McClaren a decent prospect of a promising start as Newcastle boss where he will be backed by a 50,000-plus capacity crowd, but defeat will only remind his new fans that he was once a man leading arch-rivals Middlesbrough to a 2004 League Cup win and a 2006 UEFA Cup final.

Man About Toon: McClaren is the new Newcastle boss.

Man About Toon: McClaren is the new Newcastle boss.

2) Brendan Rodgers – Liverpool

What a year for Rodgers – and not in a good way. He finished May 2014 by signing a four-year extension to his Liverpool contract after winning the LMA Manager of the Year award a few weeks earlier having guided the Reds to 2nd place in the Premier League scoring 101 goals in the process – the club’s most since the 1895-96 season and the third highest in Premier League history. He finished May 2015 with Liverpool in sixth and his job under scrutiny.

Raheem Sterling’s likely departure gives him another headache, as for already the second time in his tenure, he has to find a replacement for his top goalscorer – although Daniel Sturridge missed most of last season through injury.

That ultimately made his job a lot more difficult, as did £15 million man Mario “the postman does not celebrate when he posts a letter” Balotelli failing to deliver.

The Northern Irishman has wasted no time in recruiting for next season, already bringing in six new faces at the time of writing.

Charlton’s Joe Gomez (£3.5 million), Roberto Firmino of Hoffenheim (£21.3 million), Manchester City’s James Milner (free), Burnley striker Danny Ings (tribunal), Bolton’s Adam Bogdan (free) and Southampton right-back Nathaniel Clyne (£10 million) are the early Anfield arrivals to bolster what was a small side that struggled to cope with both Champions League and Premier League matches last season.

It is not a problem they will have this time around, which could work in their favour like it did two seasons ago, but with Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City being seven of Liverpool’s first eight away games and Jurgen Klopp still as yet being unemployed, Rodgers could well be soon nervously looking over his shoulder.

3) Arsene Wenger – Arsenal

Two successive FA Cup triumphs has certainly relieved some pressure on Arsene Wenger – it has silenced a few doubters, anyway – but this needs to be the season the Gunners finally start firing on all fronts.

The blow-your-socks-off signing of Alexis Sanchez for £35 million around this time last summer was the second sign of intent after the £42.5 million capture of Mesut Ozil the previous season from a manager who had attracted a reputation of being a bit stingy in the transfer market.

Sanchez swiftly showed with his performances why his manager paid the big bucks and the Chilean would later be named Arsenal Player of the Year.

Other signings Danny Welbeck, Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy, David Ospina, and January buy Gabriel Paulista did not quite have the same impact though – with unexpected progress coming from academy players Hector Bellerin and Francis “Le Coq” Coquelin.

Whether Coquelin really is the rock-solid holding role midfielder Arsenal have been craving for years remains to be truly seen, but for now it has filled a reasonably large gap in the “how far are Arsenal away from being Premier League champions?” puzzle.

One piece of the jigsaw has definitely been found, however with the acquisition of goalkeeper Petr Cech from London and title foes Chelsea for £10.9 million.

While the Czech Republic international was no longer the main man between the sticks for the Blues, he is still clearly a top stopper and a definite upgrade on both Wojciech Szczesny and Ospina with Jose Mourinho openly reluctant to sell Cech to a Premier League rival.

Unlike McClaren and Rodgers, Wenger is not wary of an early sacking, but only picking up six points from their opening 12 last season opened the door for Chelsea to romp to the title. A better start this August, and we may just see a first Arsenal triumph since that “Invincibles” team of 2004.

4) Mauricio Pochettino – Tottenham Hotspur

Despite failing to reach the much-coveted Champions League places, Pochettino’s first year as Tottenham boss was a success, finishing fifth and guiding the north Londoners to a League Cup final, but some fans are still not totally sold on him due to a lack of plan B.

The Argentine has wasted no time in planning for next season though, bolstering what was an, at best, dodgy defense with the proven Premier League buys of Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld (both undisclosed fee) who enjoyed successful seasons with Burnley and Southampton respectively in addition to FC Koln’s Kevin Wimmer (also undisclosed fee).

Spurs may attract some neutral admirers this season too with the English core that has the potential to develop in the coming years. Harry Kane had a phenomenal rise last season, going from third choice at Tottenham to most prolific English marksman in the Premier League in the space of seven months.

Ryan Mason, who has spent the majority of his seven-year Tottenham career out on loan to clubs such as Yeovil, Doncaster, Millwall and France’s Lorient ended the 2014-15 season as a once capped England international just a year after spending time on-loan at League One Swindon Town.

Eric Dier also found himself in the spotlight and the new additions of the aforementioned Trippier and Dele Alli (£5 million from MK Dons) join a rejuvenated Danny Rose, Three Lions regular Andros Townsend and Alex Pritchard who returns to White Hart Lane after two successful loan spells at Brentford and Swindon while, although Algerian, academy graduate Nabil Bentaleb will generate admirers from those who love a home-grown player.

This is similar to when he was at Southampton with Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert all getting England recognition as well as Calum Chambers, James Ward-Prowse, Nathaniel Clyne and Jay Rodriguez all earning plaudits while Pochettino was in charge at St.Mary’s.

Pochettino will get a good opportunity to get some early points on the board once the difficult task of Manchester United away is chalked off with Stoke at home, Leicester away, Everton at home, Sunderland away and Crystal Palace at home following that as they look to go one step further and finally reach the promised land of the top four.

Maur of the same please, Poch: Promoting academy members and reaching cup finals makes Pochettino a popular man.

Maur of the same please, Poch: Pochettino with rising star Harry Kane.

5) Manuel Pellegrini – Manchester City

It is fair to say that Manuel Pellegrini starting the 2015-16 season at the helm of the Citizens a little surprising.

His pedigree of taking Villarreal to the semi-final of the 2005-06 Champions League and fellow Spanish side Malaga to the same stage five seasons later got him the Manchester City job with the target of making them in a force in Europe, which he has so far failed to do so.

Winning the league title in 2014 did Pellegrini’s reputation no harm, but a trophy-less season where City did not really challenge for the title, only made the last 16 of the Champions League and round four of both the FA and League Cup was underwhelming to say the least.

A huge rebuilding is expected at the Etihad this summer with young talents Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne, Jack Wilshere and Fabian Delph all linked with a move to the blue side of Manchester in order to give them a new lease of life and restore them as champions of England, and finally get them to worry Europe’s elite.

Failure to do so, however, may just result in the Engineer Pellegrini needing a servicing.

Manchester City 1 (Aguero ’69) Barcelona 2 (Suarez ’16, ’30)

Luis Suarez’s return to England resulted in a bang as his brace put Catalan giants Barcelona in a commanding position ahead of the second leg at Camp Nou.

The ex-Liverpool forward, who netted 31 goals in 33 league matches on English soil last season, set Luis Enrique’s side on their way with just 16 minutes played.

His headed knock-on landed back into his path and he was agile enough to steady himself and slot the opener into the bottom corner.

Suarez slid in his, and Barcelona’s second, on the half hour mark off the base of the post to all but end the tie as a contest before half-time.

A traditionally sumptuous bit of Barcelona pass and move resulted in the second which Ivan Rakitic started and Suarez finished, with a jinking Lionel Messi run and a pinpoint low Jordi Alba cross in-between.

Sergio Aguero responded on 69 minutes with an equally aesthetically pleasing strike, he latched onto a neat David Silva back-hell and lashed the ball into the back of the net to keep slim City dreams alive.

Gael Clichy was given his marching orders four minutes later though for a second miss-timed challenge and his second yellow card. The first of which for slicing down Rakitic, and a similarly stupid challenge on Dani Alves brought Clichy’s night to an end.

Messi had a 90th minute penalty saved by Joe Hart, and the headed rebound went wide to keep City somewhat in the contest, but with an uphill battle.

Manchester City 1-2 CSKA Moscow (Toure ‘8; Doumbia ‘2, ’34)

Sparks flew in an explosive night on a bad tempered bonfire night clash where Manchester City ended the contest with nine men looks to have left their dreams of qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League in tatters.

Fernandinho, who came on as a half-time substitute, received yellow cards in the 62nd and 70th minute in a mad eight minutes for the midfielder.

Yaya Toure was shown his marching orders nine minutes before the end for stupidly shoving Roman Eremenko when the CSKA Moscow man disposessed him.

Toure was already on a yellow that he picked up 16 minutes earlier but his push merited a straight red.

A brace from Seydou Doumbia either side of Toure’s free-kick provided goals in an eventful evening at the Etihad.

Doumbia, who scored both of CSKA’s goals in the 5-2 defeat the last time these two met at the Etihad, opened the scoring with just two minutes played when he headed home Bribas Natkho’s free-kick.

His effort, coming after just 90 seconds, is the quickest goal of this season’s competition so far.

Toure levelled the scores with his first goal in nine Champions League outings six minutes later but Doumbia hit back again with 34 minutes on the clock.

Five of Doumbia’s 10 Champions League goals have now come against City.

Pontus Wernbloom, who was shown a yellow card after 28 minutes, pulled back Sergio Aguero 77 minutes on the clock but Sergei Ignashevich was booked instead in a case of mistaken identity on a night where very little went in City’s favour.

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Kompany, Clichy, Navas (Nasri ’45), Toure, Fernando (Dzeko ’65), Milner, Jovetic (Fernandinho ’45), Aguero

Subs not used: Cabellero, Sagna, Boyata, Mangala

Yellow Cards: Fernandinho ’62, Toure ’65, Aguero ‘89

Red Cards: Fernandino ’70, Toure ‘81

CSKA Moscow: Akinfeev, Fernandes, Ignashevich, V.Berezutski, Schennikov, Wernbloom, Dzagoev (Efremov ‘86), Eremenko, Natcho, Musa, Doumbia (Milanov ’66)

Subs not used: Chepchugov, Berezoutski, Nababkin, Cauna, Bazelyuk

Yellow Cards: Wernbloom ’28, Ignashevitch ’77, Eremenko ‘79

Red Cards: None

Man of the Match: Seydou Doumbia

PREVIEW: Manchester City vs CSKA Moscow (19:45 BST)

MANCHESTER City go into their fourth game of this season’s Champions League still looking for their first win of the group stage.

Manuel Pellegrini’s men have two points from a possible nine going into tonight’s clash at the Etihad, seven fewer than leaders Bayern Munich.

Opposition CSKA Moscow only have one point themselves, which they picked up in the reverse of this fixture, a 2-2 draw in Russia on October 21.

Russian champions CSKA fought back from two goals down, although Bedras Nacho’s equaliser from the spot four minutes from time came in controversial circumstances as Seydou Doumbia went down easily in the box.

That game was played in a near- empty stadium due to a ban on CSKA fans for racist abuse.

Premier League holders City have won four of their last five matches in the league, their most recent three points coming in the 1-0 Manchester derby win at home to Manchester United with Sergio Aguero’s goal separating the sides.

Moscow meanwhile are without a win in two domestically following a 0-1 home defeat vs Zenit St. Petersburg and a 3-3 draw against FC Ufa

Frank Lampard is expected to be fit for City and could make his first appearance since the Citizens’ 4-1 win over Tottenham.

Eliaquim Mangala and David Silva are also in contention to return but Aleksander Kolarov will definitely sit out the match with a calf injury.

CSKA however will be without Kirill Panchenko and Rasmus Elm who have knee and stomach problems respectively.

 

Manchester City 4-1 Tottenham (250 word report)

Four goals from Sergio Aguero secured three points for his side to ensure Manchester City kept up the pressure on league leaders Chelsea while Tottenham dropped to sixth. 

The Argentine opened and closed the scoring, slotting home two penalties in-between, missing another while great Dane Cristian Eriksen provided Spurs’ solitary strike.

Aguero put his side 1-0 up 13 minutes in with a delicious finish into the bottom corner past a despairing Hugo Lloris.

Tottenham pegged City back 139 seconds later when a two-on-one scenario ended in Roberto Soldado teeing up Cristian Eriksen for 1-1.

26-year-old Aguero restored Man City’s lead on the 20 minute mark, converting a penalty after Frank Lampard was controversially brought down in the box by Erik Lamela.

He had a second penalty saved by Lloris later on in the first half but his third spot kick of the contest was buried like the first, sending the France number one the wrong way with 68 minutes played.

The game was put beyond doubt with a quarter of an hour left with Aguero fetching his fourth of the match, angling a shot away from the hapless Lloris.

Soldado had a penalty of his own saved by Joe Hart, the England goalkeeper diving to his right to keep out the Spaniard from 12 yards where he is usually so reliable.

Despite the convincing looking scoreline Tottenham did provide a good contest against the champions and could even have gone in front early doors but Ryan Mason’s shot was saved by the feet of Hart eight minutes in.

Manchester City 4-1 Tottenham

Four goals from Sergio Aguero secured three points for his side to ensure Manchester City kept up the pressure on league leaders Chelsea.

Two of his goals were penalties while the others were delicious finishes into the bottom corner past a despairing Hugo Lloris.

The Argentine also had another spot kick saved in an encounter that saw four penalties awarded in total by referee John Moss.

Visitors Tottenham were too handed an opportunity to score from 12 yards but a normally reliable Roberto Soldado was denied by Joe Hart in the second half.

Sergio Aguero will take all the headlines though and deservedly so with a spell-binding performance that began with an effort that he lashed past Lloris with 13 minutes played.

He had his second six minutes later when he sent Lloris the wrong way from the spot following a debatable foul on Frank Lampard by Erik Lamela.

It was three for the 26-year-old with 68 minutes on the clock, scoring his second penalty goal after three attempts after Federico Fazio pulled him down in the box, the defender was sent off for his misdemeanour.

Aguero’s fourth came 15 minutes before the end in similar fashion to his first, gliding a shot past the hapless Lloris.

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Despite the convincing looking scoreline Tottenham did put up a good fight against the champions. Hart needed to save low to deny Ryan Mason eight minutes in.

Cristian Eriksen’s goal materialised a quarter of an hour in after Soldado robbed a dallying Fernando in midfield and the Spaniard teed up Eriksen who smashed home first time past Hart off the underside of the bar 139 seconds after his side went behind.

Manchester City: Hart, Clichy, Demichelis, Kompany, Sagna, Milner, Lampard (Fernandinho ’28), Fernando (Toure ’77), Navas, Silva (Jovetic ’70), Aguero

Subs not used: Caballero, Kolarov, Boyata, Dzeko

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Dier, Fazio, Kaboul, Rose, Capoue (Dembele ’60), Mason (Vertonghen ’70), Chadli, Eriksen, Lamela (Townsend ’60) Soldado

Subs not used: Vorm, Stambouli, Adebayor, Kane

Man of the Match: Sergio Aguero

Arsenal 2-2 Manchester City

Title contenders Arsenal and Manchester City battled to a 2-2 draw at the Emirates stadium, three of the four goals coming in the second half.

Sergio Aguero gave Manchester City the lead 28 minutes into the game when he arrived on the edge of the six yard box to nip in and score from Jesus Navas’ pass.

Nacho Monreal, who kept his place despite Kieran Gibbs’ return from injury was at fault as Navas was given acres of space on the right hand side.

Jack Wilshere tied the game up just after the hour, providing the finishing touch to a typical Arsenal build up of neat passing play. Wilshere gilded past Gael Clichy and dinked the ball over Joe Hart after a one-two with Aaron Ramsey.

Alexis Sanchez completed the second half turnaround 16 minutes before the end, superbly volleying in a Wilshere header after Ramsey’s cross wasn’t dealt with efficiently enough by Vincent Kompany.

Martin Demichelis ensured City went back to Manchester with a share of the spoils however when he headed home a corner seven minutes from time, being left unmarked by the Arsenal defence.

Jack the lad: Wilshere equalizes for Arsenal

Jack the lad: Wilshere equalizes for Arsenal

 

Manchester City had chances to win the game in the closing stages, putting the Gunners under the pressure with a late flurry and even had the ball in the back of the net, but Samir Nasri was offside.

Their best opportunity however was shortly after their opener but David Silva’s effort was well kept out by Wojciech Szczesny but in reality, the Spaniard should have put his side further ahead.

Arsene Wenger will be happy that his side picked up a point today as Arsenal’s record against the top four was poor last season but a late injury to Mathieu Debuchy could be a severe one and it will have left a sour taste in the mouth of his manager.

Debuatant Danny Welbeck was also replaced on 88 minutes due to injury.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy (Chambers ’81), Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini (Arteta ’90), Wilshere, Ramsey, Alexis, Ozil, Welbeck (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’88)

Subs not used: Ospina, Gibbs, Cazorla, Podolski

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho (Kolarov ’77), Lampard (Nasri ’45), Navas, Silva, Milner, Aguero (Dzeko ’67)

Subs not used: Caballero, Sagna, Mangala, Sinclair