Nathan Ake’s right-footed strike shortly after the hour mark sealed the win for the Blues and kept alive Pep Guardiola’s hopes of winning the prestigious cup competition for a second time.
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Both sides will feel they had the chances to win the match but it was a carefully placed finish from an unlikely source that ultimately proved the difference.
We will discover our opponents in the last 16 when the draw is made on Monday evening.
Stefan Ortega Moreno was the first of the two goalkeepers called into action, palming away Takehiro Tomiyasu’s sweet strike from the edge of the box in the fifth minute.
City’s first chance came via an extravagant overhead kick from Erling Haaland who, after being beaten to a through ball by goalkeeper Matt Turner, reacted quickest and sent the looping clearance goalwards from 30 yards.
It was blocked by the covering Arsenal defence but there can be no greater example of the striker’s confidence.
Ortega Moreno was again at full stretch in the 21st minute when new Arsenal signing Leandro Trossard, on his full debut, shifted the ball out of his feet and fired across goal.
Our German shot stopper was equal to the effort but it was a reminder of the threat this much-changed Arsenal side posed.
Kevin De Bruyne looked to have broken the deadlock a few minutes later when he lined up a left-footed curler but it whistled agonisingly wide of Turner’s post.
In-form Eddie Nketiah had his first chance of the night just after the half hour mark, diverting Trossard’s cross wide of Ortega Moreno’s near post.
Haaland’s first half comprised largely of racing on to lofted passes sent in behind Arsenal’s defence. The Norwegian’s best chance before the break came in the 39th minute but his dink over Turner fell just the wrong side of the post.
There was a worrying moment for City in the final moments of the half as John Stones disappeared down the tunnel holding the back of his leg before he was promptly replaced by Aymeric Laporte.
After a quiet opening to the second half City rallied and eventually found the opener through Nathan Ake.
The Dutch defender turned finisher with a right-footed stroke inside the far post of Turner’s goal moments after half-time substitute Julian Alvarez had struck the woodwork.
That seemed to awaken the visitors, who responded with several attacks of their own, but a commanding defensive display frustrated the Premier League’s leaders and second highest scorers.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Alvarez found a pocket of space between defence and midfield and fired at goal only to see Turner hold the ball to his chest.
That was just a brief reprieve from Arsenal pressure, with the visitors trying everything to force an equaliser.
However, a determined City held out for a win that means FA Cup progress and undoubtedly a boost in confidence.
CITY: Ortega Moreno, Lewis (Walker 58), Stones (Laporte 45), Akanji, Ake, Rodrigo, De Bruyne (Bernardo 74), Gundogan (c), Mahrez (Alvarez 58), Grealish, Haaland
Subs: Ederson, Dias, Phillips, Cancelo, Palmer
ARSENAL: Turner, Tomiyasu, Holding (Saliba 45), Gabriel, Tierney (Zinchenko 66), Partey (Sambi Lokonga 45), Xhaka (c), Vieira, Saka (Odegaard 74), Trossard (Martinell 66), Nketiah
Subs: Ramsdale, White, Kiwior, Marquinhos
Man of the match
Nathan Ake – In a match that could have been won by either team, it was a man who is known for keeping attackers quiet that had the telling impact in front of goal.
Asked again to play at left-back, Ake undertook his defensive duties with great care. Toe to toe with Bukayo Saka, the lightning quick winger who has been integral to Arsenal’s form this year, Ake was more than a match.
Scoring the only goal of the game, with his weaker foot no less, was just the final component of another stellar performance from one of the most reliable members of our squad.
Pep and Arteta
The brains behind City’s historic Centurions and Fourmidables seasons in 2017/18 and 2018/19 are now in opposing dugouts.
This was the first meeting of the season between the two best sides in the Premier League and an intriguing tactical battle.
The pair have spoken in glowing terms about each other this week, a refreshing take on what looks set to become a tussle for the biggest prize in the country.
In this match, Guardiola appeared to ask his players to target the space behind the Arsenal defence with City sending calculated long passes for Erling Haaland to latch on to.
Arsenal looked to soak up those efforts, recover possession and spark their own counter-attacks.
With two managers that think so deeply about the game, there’s no doubt there will be plenty to learn from every meeting this season especially with many Arsenal changes anticipated for our 15 February clash.
We can expect to see the likes of Martin Odegaard, William Saliba, Aaron Ramsdale and former City man Oleksandr Zinchenko all feature from the start that night.
Stefan Ortega Moreno has played every domestic cup tie this season and looked a more than capable deputy to Ederson during that run.
He was again decisive when called upon, getting strong a hand to two first-half shots and twice racing off his line to deny our opponents in the closing stages.
Progress to the last 16 likely means more minutes for the German this season and another chance to impress the coaching staff.
Pep Guardiola reaction
"It was a tight game. A difficult one. We knew it would be for their quality. The second half was better apart from 10 minutes after the goal.
"When Bernardo [Silva] and Kyle [Walker] came on it was much better. I didn’t expect their approach to go man to man and it made the game difficult.
"In the second half we contacted Erling more than usual with Erling. It was a good victory and now the next round we will see."
What it means
City have qualified for the fifth round of the FA Cup for the eighth consecutive season and eliminated one of the favourites in the process.
16 sides will play in the fifth round with the draw to be made live on BBC One at 19:00 (UK) on Monday 30 January.
The Blues have been eliminated at the final four stage in each of the last three seasons since lifting the trophy in 2018/19.
Our next assignment is a week on Sunday when we travel to Tottenham Hotspur for an enticing Premier League clash. That is a 16:30 (UK) kick-off live on Sky Sports.
Antonio Conte’s side currently sit fifth in the Premier League and will be determined to close the gap on the Champions League qualification places.
The reverse fixture was played earlier this month, when a thrilling second-half comeback saw City run out 4-2 winners at the Etihad Stadium.
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