custom polo hats Manchester City 3
As the last manager to engineer a victory over Manchester City, many might have hoped/feared that Arsene Wenger had a trick up his sleeve. He has faced Pep Guardiola three times since the Spaniard arrived in England, winning, drawing and losing one game each. Few sides give City as close a game as Arsenal.
That much proved true for periods of Sunday meeting, but that will never be enough against a side so confident, dominant and ever improving. Arsenal were impressive for the opening 15 minutes and for sections of the second half, but derailing City would require a perfect performance right now.
Even momentary lapses in concentration are punished when made against Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva and Sergio Aguero, and so it proved here. Each goal from the home side was a result of the hosts capitalising on an individual mistake with ruthless efficiency.
This was not necessarily a game that proved Arsenal are not good enough, just that City are too good. The title can never be won in November, but it already seems quite weird that there is a possibility they will not be crowned come May.
Wenger emphasised the need for before the game, and so his decision to start Francis Coquelin at the heart of his defence was entirely contradictory. That the Frenchman was substituted after 56 minutes suggests that even the professor accepts this experiment backfired.
The idea of playing a central midfielder in central defence is not alien, nor is it wrong. Eric Dier transitions smoothly between the two roles for Tottenham, and Arsenal have used it to varying effect in the Europa League this season. But that has only ever been with Mohamed Elneny, an accomplished passer. Coquelin is no such thing.
The 26 year old recorded the lowest passing accuracy of any starter, including goalkeepers (65.2%), meaning that Arsenal were often unable to alleviate pressure by playing out from the back, and surrendered possession straight back to City. The best centre halves spread calm throughout the team, but Coquelin presence had the opposite effect. Arsenal often looked panicked when forced into making decisions in their own half.
Giving Coquelin his first Premier League start since May 13 in a game of such difficulty and importance was a risk; making him centre half lost them the game.
As if to highlight the gulf between the two sides, they both made two changes:Kyle Walker and David Silva came in for the hosts, while Coquelin and Alex Iwobi were drafted in by the visitors. One side replaced their Ferraris withLamborghinis, while the other checked the times for public transport. Being a Sunday, they were unreliable.
It is not as though Arsenal did not have other options. Just as he was against Liverpool in August, Alexandre Lacazette was left on the bench in a big game. This decision was not quite as cataclysmic, but the absence of a central striker was telling. Lacazette will feel that he made his point with a goal nine minutes after coming on.
Wenger has been careful with Lacazette ever since he arrived as the club record signing. The Frenchman is far from a guaranteed starter six Arsenal players have more minutes in the Premier League this season. But it is November, and the manager must show more trust to a player he courted for years.
Benching Lacazette away in big games at Liverpool and City tells you Wenger never really wanted him.
Signed him to shut everyone up. I think both of them are very good players, Wenger said in October. me there no difference, and each time it very hard to decide who starts. This was proof, were it required, that at least one of them should.
Yet Arsenal started the brighter, winning a couple of corners and putting City on the back foot in the early stages. The pre game narrative was that Arsenal would have to absorb pressure then rely on counter attacks, and a front three of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Iwobi suggested that was the plan. But the first real chance of the game came from City breaking with speed from an Arsenal corner. Raheem Sterling played in De Bruyne who laid the ball onto Aguero, but the Argentinean shot was high and wide.
It was a precursor to how much of the game unfolded, as City flooded forward with numbers after winning possession in their own half on a number of occasions. Laurent Koscielny was left in two versus one situations twice, with only poor passes preventing City from capitalising each time.
Conversely, Arsenal only created one real chance on the counter attack, as City relied on tactical fouling to suppress any potential uprising. Be it through a lack of nous or simply an inability to maintain the pace, Arsenal failed to break up play with the same snide fouls.
Wenger choice to deploy a back five was not necessarily the wrong one, but the personnel absolutely was. The Gunners had three shots in the opening ten minutes as they held their own against the league leaders,
but City eventually found their feet. After Aguero early shot, their first real chance came when Coquelin misplaced pass eventually found its way to Leroy Sane, whose delivery was perfect but Sterling was, as his genes dictate, a little short.
Seven minutes later came a pair of mistakes, Sead Kolasinac and Iwobi both passing to blue shirts in their own half, and this time City capitalised. After Petr Cech saved his initial effort, De Bruyne combined with Fernandinho to fire across the keeper and into the bottom corner.
Arsenal approach was fine, but a game against this calibre of opposition demands no mistakes, or at least very few. In the first half alone, Kolasinac, Iwobi, Coquelin and Granit Xhaka all handed possession over to City, who created a goalscoring opportunity each time. On this occasion, they took it.
The goal bore similarities to De Bruyne strike against Chelsea, the Belgian trading a one two with a teammate before placing the ball beyond a despairing keeper with surprising power. Thibaut Courtois and Cech are not easy opponents to beat from range or angle, but then De Bruyne is developing a habit for making the extraordinary seem anything but.
are not allowed to do back heels, so it is always good, simple passes, De Bruyne told Sky Sports ahead of the game, and it is a salient point. Other players would have tried a convoluted flick to try and create an opening when 25 to 20 yards out, but by keeping it the opportunity presented itself. With the help of Fernandinho, he provided the foundations for an impressive victory.
Speaking of convoluted flicks, how many moves broke down at the feet of Aaron Ramsey? No Arsenal player was particularly efficient in possession at the Etihad Stadium substitute Jack Wilshere recorded the highest pass completion percentage (90.9%) but there are few more frustrating footballers than the Welshman.
His display was not helped by Sanchez, with the pair continuing their bizarre on pitch feud which involves constantly refusing to pass to one another when in acres of space, but Ramsey was far from blameless. The 26 year old often comes across as trying to be too clever when, as De Bruyne for example has realised, the pass is sometimes eminently more effective. Against a team that cherishes the ball, his shortcomings were evident.
Arsenal were struggling to cope with the pressure at times, yet the scoreline stayed at 1 0. Coquelin, Xhaka and Sanchez were all guilty of sloppiness in possession, and the result was a disjointed performance throughout the defence, midfield and attack.
Were Arsenal half as precise as City with their passing in the attacking third, it might have been 1 1 at half time. If they were a tenth as meticulous with their passing in defence, it might have been 0 0. They created more chances for City through their own passing than they did with their own.
Wenger, as he often does, was keen to point the finger of blame at the officials (maybe he read this at half time). The penalty Nacho Monreal conceded on Sterling was soft, and City third goal was indeed offside. But that rather misses the point that this Arsenal side were once again the architects of their own downfall. Playing against City is a tightrope, and the Gunners were wearing the wrong shoes.
And yet they almost went into half time on level terms. On the one occasion they initiated a successful counter attack, it was a raking ball launched over the halfway line by Iwobi for Sanchez to chase. He duly did, and then played in Ramsey down the left. The Welshman cut onto his right foot before trying to sneak in a low,
powerful shot at the near post. Only a smart save from Ederson maintained City lead.