Arsenal show same recurring problems in defeat to Manchester City

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Arsenal show same recurring problems in defeat to Manchester City

It was a case of different manager same story for Arsenal on Sunday night, as the team rolled over in the second half of their defeat to Manchester City.

Strangely, there will have been a sense of optimism from the team and their supporters shortly before half-time, with it appearing as if they would be going in on level terms at the break at the Etihad Stadium.

The Gunners got off to the worst possible start, conceding inside the first minute as Sergio Aguero stooped to head the hosts in front early on. There was an absolute onslaught inside the first five minutes from the Premier League champions, who it seemed would be well out of sight by the time the break arrived.

However, Laurent Koscielny headed them level in the 10th minute, with it appearing as if Arsenal had rode the storm and come out stronger on the other side. The Gunners even enjoyed their own spell in the game of slight dominance, growing into the game but were rarely able to really test Ederson in the City goal.

Then came the game’s turning point, as Aguero tapped in the home side’s second on the stroke of half-time, which ultimately proved to be a killer blow for Unai Emery’s team, as they failed to ever really recover from the setback.

Sergio Aguero

Lack of belief

When Arsenal came out for the second half, they looked a beaten side already.

At no point during the second half did it appear as if they were ever going to get anything from the game, with Aguero’s second of the game completely taking the wind out of Arsenal’s sails.

Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi stopped getting on the ball as confidently as they had in spells of the first half, while Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were non-factors in attack.

Out of possession was perhaps where the most alarming signs came, as Arsenal treated their opponents with the utmost respect, rarely going and hunting in packs to try and win the ball back. Instead, the greatest positive to have come from the second half for the away side came from the fact they weren’t hit for five in the way they were during their trip to Anfield earlier in the campaign.

A club the size of Arsenal should be aiming for far greater than damage limitation when they visit the ground of one of their top-six rivals, yet for far too long it has been an inevitable result and the manner of the defeats have been all too familiar.

The team somehow managed to concede in the first minute of the game from a scenario which saw all 11 players in their own box and Alex Iwobi in possession of the ball with the opportunity to clear his lines. Instead, he was disposed, leading to Aguero’s close-range opener.

Arsenal haven’t won away to a top-six rival since 2015 in their exemplary 2-0 win over City at the Etihad Stadium, but after their loss on Sunday have now taken just six points from a possible 57 in games against other top-six sides.

Arsenal Denis Suarez

Team selection

The team selections of both managers were relatively surprising to all before the game, with City lining up with a fluid formation that saw them look like a 3-6-1 in possession of the ball and 4-3-3 when defending.

As for Arsenal, they were brave in playing a flat 4-4-2, allowing them to play with both Aubameyang and Lacazette in central roles in attack. The pair did not vindicate the manager’s decision to give them the opportunity to play alongside each other, as both were ineffective in attack.

It was something of a catch 22, as it must be noted that neither player really received any service of significant quality, but they were also unable to create any chance of their own in the match. It is what separates them from other top forward lines such as City’s and Liverpool’s who have players in Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane and Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane respectively, who can make chances from nothing.

Arsenal never possessed a great counter-attacking threat in the game, with it telling that their goal and only big chance of the match came from a set-piece.

The lack of creativity in the Gunners’ midfield was made all the more glaring by the fact that Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Denis Suarez were all on the bench for the Gunners, with the latter pair coming on as substitutes.

There was a sense of urgency from Ramsey when he entered the pitch, though Suarez struggled to make his impact in his first game for the club. Sead Kolasinac started as a winger on the left for Arsenal, but the decision to use the Bosnian in a more advanced role didn’t pay off.

Just two weeks ago, Arsenal thrived against Chelsea playing with a midfield diamond and it seems would’ve benefited more from playing such a system at the Etihad Stadium, after relinquishing a man advantage to Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva in midfield. Ramsey was excellent at breaking the lines in an advanced role in that game, with there being no real drive coming from the midfield, particularly in the second half.

Arsenal

What more can Emery do?

Unfortunately for Unai Emery, his hands are relatively tied at this moment after failing to receive significant backing from the club’s board in January.

The Spaniard was eager to sign a new winger last month, as moves were made for both Ivan Perisic and Yannick Carrasco, though the club’s decision to only sign players on loan ultimately blocked both deals from being completed.

At centre-back they are still short of quality in comparison with their rivals and were unsuccessful in their attempts to sign Gary Cahill from Chelsea. Meanwhile, Stephan Lichtsteiner was given a torrid evening’s work by his opposite number Sterling, who had the beating of him whenever they were isolated together.

Arsenal supporters will have only been left all the more frustrated by the Los Angeles Rams’ involvement in the Super Bowl later on Sunday night, who have been at the forefront of Stan Kroenke’s mind while the Gunners play second-fiddle.

His investment into that team has resulted in success, even though they were beaten by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the showpiece event in Atlanta. As for Arsenal and Emery, they are left to work under far more restrictions than the rest of their rivals, with City especially highlighting that fact with their unlimited cash resources.

Emery has made mistakes in his time at Arsenal, but it is still very early on in his time and he is yet to be given the backing needed to get his own players in. How many of his signings in Bernd Leno, Sokratis, Lichtsteiner, Torreira, Guendouzi and Suarez would make the starting XIs of their other top-six rivals?

Arsenal fans were singing “we bought it all” at the Etihad Stadium, in reference to the lack of investment of their majority owner in Kroenke, who consistently profits from the club and uses it elsewhere.

Moving on from Arsene Wenger was just the first step for Arsenal and it could well be only after Kroenke has departed that we truly see a change in their fortunes.

Unai Emery Arsenal
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