Arsenal Fail to Impress Again Against Manchester City: Analysis

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Arsenal Manchester City
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Freddie Ljungberg the Arsenal Interim Head Coach shakes hands with Man City Head Coach Pep Guardiola before the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Manchester City at Emirates Stadium on December 15, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Arsenal again lost to Manchester City on Sunday in what was a carbon copy of their last five league matches against the same opponents. This is just a continuation of a trend against not just City but against virtually all opposition for the Gunners.

Arsenal Falter Again Against Manchester City

Score Early, Play Keep-Away

Pep Guardiola employed the same tactics he always does at the Emirates on Sunday. Manchester City simply probed the Arsenal defence for weakness and, when they faltered, punished the hosts.

This happened twice very early on and three times before the half. After that, it was as simple as defence via possession with a few timely tackles (and fouls) sprinkled in along the way.

That is the exact same tactic that Pep Guardiola has used at Manchester City against Arsenal since he arrived on English shores and it again paid dividends. The timely fouls in particular sealed the three points.

The Gunners did have an early attempt when Gabriel Martinelli broke in on goal but was denied by Ederson. That was, unfortunately for the home side, their only shot on target of the match.

Manchester City either tackled or fouled an Arsenal man with the ball every time they lost possession and felt under threat in transition. So, instead of catching City out of position or with stretched lines, the Gunners had to build play from the back time and again to at least try and breach the visitor’s net.

The result was just six total shots from 42% possession and a clean sheet. Arsenal simply haven’t learned their lesson against Manchester City and it has come back to bite them yet again.

What Can Be Done?

The two goals from Kevin de Bruyne were class as was his second half shot that Bernd Leno finger-tipped on to the crossbar. However, just because he isn’t in the best shooting position, that doesn’t mean the defence should turn off and not close him down.

Raheem Sterling should also have been closed down better by Sead Kolasinac for his strike. This isn’t a new problem for this team and it is at times ridiculous to think that such errors can’t be coached out of a player.

Aside from that, Freddie Ljungberg said it best:

“If you look at City, when we were able to counter against them – and that was one of our game plans – they had five yellow cards from bringing us down when we had a chance to counter. That’s tactical and they worked on that.

“That’s something that we need to do. Maybe we need to learn to be more cynical when opponents have a chance to counter us. That is a bit of a weakness of ours and maybe we need to take those fouls.”

What City do with these tactical fouls isn’t illegal and they spread the damage out effectively; three of the five players who picked up cards were substituted to make sure not to go down to ten.

What’s Next

Arsenal have an entire week without a fixture before traveling to Goodison Park to face Everton on Saturday. After that comes a trip to Bournemouth, both of which are winnable games.

With a heavy defeat sitting not so distantly in the club’s rear view mirror, this week may be the opportune time to name a new permanent head coach. The news will lift both the fans and the players as there will finally be a solution and therefore stability around the vacancy.

Plus, whoever the candidate may be they will get time to enmesh themselves with the players with plenty of time before the Europa League returns, which at this time seems Arsenal’s likeliest route back into the Champions League.

Either way, if something isn’t done at the club soon these results may become the new standard.

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