Mikel Arteta said there was a reason why he did not select David Luiz from the start against Manchester City, after the Brazil defender’s disastrous appearance from the bench contributed to Arsenal’s 3-0 defeat.
The centre-back gifted a goal to Raheem Sterling, then was sent off for the foul on Riyah Mahrez which was also punished with a penalty, scored by Kevin De Bruyne. It was an awful first return to the Etihad Stadium for Arteta, who left his role as Guardiola’s assistant in December to take the Arsenal manager’s job, and David Luiz’s rustiness was key, reports The Guardian.
“I don’t know what will happen with his contract,” Arteta said of David Luiz, who he brought on after 24 minutes following an injury to Pablo Marí, and whose current deal runs out at the end of June. “I know what happened today. I know the way David reacted because I know him well, not only as a player but a person as well. There was a reason why I didn’t select him from the start and he had to play because Pablo got injured. He’s always going to try and give you his best.”
Granit Xhaka also left on a stretcher after an early injury. “They are getting assessed at the moment and we will know something more probably tomorrow morning,” Arteta said. “Pablo’s one did not look really good, to be fair.”
Arteta kept things short in his virtual post-match press conference and gave little away when asked about the absence of Mesut Özil from the squad. “It was a tactical reason,” he said, before adding upon being pushed: “Because I need players in other positions as well, so that’s why I decided to leave him out.”
Pep Guardiola was pleased by Manchester City’s impressive return to action. It had been 101 days since the Manchester derby defeat at Old Trafford and there were plenty of unknowns but City coped better with the situation than Arsenal, and Phil Foden completed a comprehensive 3-0 win.
“The game, 11 against 11, the first minutes was typical after two months off without a lot of energy for both teams,” Guardiola said. “We were lucky to score the first goal at the end of the first half and after with the second one, the penalty and sending-off, it was much easier. But in general after two months, we didn’t know exactly how the team, how it’s going to feel, we make a good performance against a good team.
“Absolutely we can get better. We have respect for Arsenal because we know exactly what they want to do but it was little bit of a mystery to know how the team would be after more than two months out. But we have dynamic players, they need not much training sometimes to get the condition. The problem is not now, to play this game at this level. The problem is the amount of energy you expend without having the good physical conditions for the next games.”
The match was not without problems for City. Eric García, a surprise starter, left the field on a stretcher late on, having had lengthy treatment following a thumping collision with his teammate Ederson.
“We are concerned about Eric, of course,” Guardiola said. “He is conscious, but I think he is going to be tested tonight because a kick in the head is always so dangerous. The doctor told me he was conscious and then they asked me to be with you. I’m pretty sure we’re going to do absolutely everything to be sure that everything is fine and well.”