Unai Emery suffered defeat on his Arsenal debut as Manchester Citicked off their title defence with a 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium.
Raheem Sterling capped a relentless start from the reigning champions with his 50th Premier League goal inside the quarter-hour mark before Bernardo Silva secured the win with an exquisite second on 64 minutes.
Emery has been tasked with taking Arsenal to the next level after Arsene Wenger’s departure at the end of last season – but it was a familiar, disjointed performance from the Gunners, who visibly need time to adapt to their new manager’s philosophy.
For Pep Guardiola and City, it was business as usual as they took their place among the Premier League’s early pacesetters having started the defence of their crown with an eighth consecutive opening-day triumph.
Arsenal: Cech (5), Bellerin (6), Sokratis (5), Mustafi (5), Maitland-Niles (5), Guendouzi (5), Xhaka (5), Mkhitaryan (5), Ramsey (6), Ozil (6), Aubameyang (6).
Subs: Lichtsteiner (6), Lacazette (5), Torreira (5).
Man City: Ederson (6), Walker (7), Stones (6), Laporte (6), Mendy (7), Silva (8), Fernandinho (6), Gundogan (6), Mahrez (6), Aguero (6), Sterling (8).
Subs: De Bruyne (6), Jesus (5), Sane (n/a).
Man of the match: Bernardo Silva
The sense of optimism and anticipation was tangible ahead of the start of the Emery era at the Emirates, but that soon dissipated once City had found their groove.
Sterling was a constant thorn in Arsenal’s side and, five minutes after drawing Petr Cech into action with a near-post drive, the England international fired City into a deserved lead, skipping past Hector Bellerin and Matteo Guendouzi before lashing the ball beyond the unsighted Gunners goalkeeper.
Raheem Sterling in action at the Emirates
Bellerin registered Arsenal’s first attempt on target on 21 minutes, playing the ball through Benjamin Mendy’s legs before testing Ederson with a swerving drive, but that proved to be a rare venture into opposition territory for the besieged Gunners.
City responded immediately as Sergio Aguero fired a shot into the side netting and, from the resulting goal-kick, Cech nearly scored a bizarre own goal as City pressured the Arsenal defence, determined to play out from the back.
Petr Cech got the nod ahead of Bernd Leno in goal, while new signings Sokratis and Matteo Guendouzi made their Premier League debuts. Summer arrivals Lucas Torreira and Stephan Lichtsteiner started on the bench. Riyad Mahrez made his top-flight debut for Man City, who left Vincent Kompany, Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus on the bench.
Cech got down low to his left to keep a Riyad Mahrez free-kick out on 28 minutes, and recovered well to prevent Aymeric Laporte from converting the rebound, before Mahrez and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang flashed efforts wide before the interval.
A last-gasp deflection prevented a rasping Aguero drive from doubling City’s lead on 50 minutes, a lead which Arsenal could have erased had Alexandre Lacazette’s dipping volley found the target five minutes later.
Bernardo Silva celebrates scoring Man City’s second goal
Arsenal were fortunate not to go two goals behind when Cech brilliantly prevailed in a one-on-one with Aguero, after Guendouzi’s missed clearance released the City forward through on goal, but a minute later City doubled their lead when Bernardo Silva ruthlessly dispatched Mendy’s cutback.
Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil found the back of the City net as Arsenal pushed for a response, but both efforts were ruled out for offside as Emery was left to reflect on a debut defeat.
What would VAR have changed?
Arsenal could well have had a penalty had Video Assistant Referee been in use. Gunners defender Shkodran Mustafi was visibly hauled to ground by Benjamin Mendy in the 69th minute, but referee Michael Oliver was unmoved by Arsenal’s appeals.
Arsenal have enjoyed just two victories in their last nine opening weekend Premier League games, drawing three and losing three.Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 10 opening Premier League fixtures (W9 D1), winning the last eight in a row.Unai Emery is the first of Arsenal’s last six managers (including caretakers) to lose his first league game in charge of the club, since Steve Burtenshaw lost 0-1 against Tottenham in March 1986.Pep Guardiola remains unbeaten against Emery in all competitions, winning seven and drawing four of their 11 meetings.
Sterling has been directly involved in 12 goals in his last 12 Premier League appearances for the Citizens, scoring five and assisting seven.Manchester City full-back Benjamin Mendy registered two assists in a game in Europe’s big five leagues for only the second time ever (also for Monaco v Nice in February 2017) and for the first time ever away from home.Bernardo Silva has scored five goals in his last seven Premier League starts for Manchester City after failing to score in his first nine.
Unai Emery: “Manchester City’s performance showed us that we need to continue the process of improving. They deserved the result. We are a new team [that needs] to improve. For me today, I was frustrated that we lost but it is also one more experience and continued progression.”
Unai Emery acknowledged that plenty of work lies ahead of his Arsenal side
Pep Guardiola: “Our average level is high, we cannot deny that. I’ve said many times I have the feeling we can improve. Still we are not good enough to know exactly what we have to do, but in general I cannot be more satisfied from what I saw against Chelsea and Arsenal.”
Pep Guardiola is adamant his Manchester City side can improve despite a perfect start to the season
Man of the Match – Bernardo Silva
City were at their devastating best in parts but had a measure of control throughout, thanks in no uncertain terms to Bernardo Silva. With his namesake David not in the squad, the Portuguese effortlessly picked up the Spaniard’s responsibility in midfield. And when City needed to put the game to bed, up he stepped with the most clinical of finishes.
Man City vs Huddsf’ld
Arsenal travel to Stamford Bridge to take on London rivals Chelsea next Saturday at 5.30pm. Manchester City host Huddersfield on Renault Super Sunday – at 1.30pm.