Manchester City upset with Arsenal tactics, fouling in title tussle

MANCHESTER — It takes a lot to annoy Manuel Akanji but the composed Swiss giant was ticked off with Arsenal's persistent fouling in their draw at Manchester City.

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Akanji was echoing the view of those wearing blue in the stands at Etihad Stadium as the home supporters were incensed with the lack of cautions for Arsenal's players, particularly in the first half, as they walked the tightrope and got under City's skin.

Speaking to reporters after the draw, Akanji, who was excellent, was asked about Arsenal's fouls throughout the game and none of them leading to a yellow card.

"Yeah, I don't understand," Akanji explained. "In the first half was a very late tackle on Stefan [Ortega] and for me that is clearly a yellow card. I don't want to say it was just against us but it was also some decisions against them but I don't understand that he gave a foul for. There are rules and I think there are clear yellow cards where it should be. I remember the action with Jorginho once where he did a tactical foul, then a second one, and he didn't even give a yellow card for one foul. I didn't understand some decisions but we still should be able to score a goal."

Did it work for Arsenal to disrupt City's flow?

"Yep. Definitely," Akanji admitted. "When we got through sometimes they stopped us with the fouls and if there's no actions to it. It is hard."

Arsenal beat City at their own game

Now, City have often been branded the masters of the tactical foul. Rodri in particular is a genius at clogging up midfield and giving away small fouls which don't lead to a yellow card but disrupt opponents.

Arsenal beat Manchester City at tactical fouling and given Arteta's close understanding of the way City operate, it's something which has helped the Gunners frustrate the reigning champs this season as they limited City to just one shot on target despite having 72 percent possession on Sunday and they shut out City in both games as they won 1-0 at home and drew 0-0 away.

"Today we know why there were no goals, because they played very defensively and we weren't able to score a goal up front," Akanji chuckled.

There is a rivalry brewing between these two and there's a real edge developing as they're now going head-to-head consistently for trophies.

And remember: if City beat Real Madrid and Arsenal beat Bayern Munich in their Champions League quarterfinals over the next few weeks, we will see these two go head-to-head in the UEFA Champions League semifinal too.

What now for City?

Despite falling three points behind leaders Liverpool and remaining one point behind second-place Arsenal with nine games to go, Akanji feels like City are in a good place heading into the final stretch as they aim for a double treble.

"I am confident," Akanji told Pro Soccer Talk. "Obviously we wanted to win today but we didn't get the three points. But it is still all open. Nine games in the Premier League, we got a quarterfinal now against Real Madrid next week. In all the competitions we are still able to win them all and hopefully we will do it."

Akanji was also asked about the attacking players not quite finding their rhythm, which has been a reoccurring theme against the top teams this season as City have failed to win any of their six games against the current top five in the Premier League (scoring just five times) and they host fourth-place Aston Villa on Wednesday (watch live, 3:15pm ET on Peacock Premium).

Is it just about their attacking players clicking at the right time in the final third?

"I hope so. In the end it is not my decision who plays up front," Akanji explained. "They are all giving their best and trying to play in the next game. On Wednesday we've got Aston Villa and then hopefully show our best and win the game."