Manchester City Preview: It’s All About the Manager (Again)…

If London’s weather is anything like here, an already thin crowd will be sparser this evening. Highbury’s record low of 4k isn’t under threat but comfortably, if tonight’s match goes ahead, the attendance will be the lowest at the Emirates.

That’s no surprise. Arsène gave his usual line of defence at yesterday’s press conference. Basically, Arsenal owe him a living because he turned down everyone else down through the years. No names, no pack drill but we all know with whom he flirted every time a contract was due for renewal. He stayed for two reasons: control and security, neither of which came elsewhere.

So we reach the regular weekly convocation at London Colney. The questions came and the language is florid and evocative. Nobody expected him to resign but a little mea culpa goes a long way. We’re beyond that now.

Arsène quelled his Wildean spirit long enough to call for perspective. “We have lost a final”, he said, blaming those pesky fans for being used to “going to Wembley and winning.”

Wilfully obtuse or noodling into his dotage? It must be the former otherwise the players wouldn’t respond to him.

The pressure on him is immense and under these circumstances, media activities are surely unpleasant. That’s part and parcel of the £12m salary he is unable to walk away from. He gave Kroenke an out: “My job is to focus on performing and my job is to perform.”

It entwines with Ivan’s 2011 mantra about the relationship between Wenger and the fans. To paraphrase, the manager will be out if his relationship with us breaks down. No amount of superglue to repair it. Twice he’s ignored the opportunity to walk off into the sunset with a trophy tucked under his belt; there isn’t likely to be a third time lucky.

Sap Our Strength

The perspective Wenger wants isn’t one he is prepared to publicly agree with. Our form is awful this year with six defeats in 12 against opposition – Manchester City and Tottenham aside – which is distinctly average. Losing to Östersunds at home didn’t impact on the aggregate but it reinforced the negative aspects of our form. Another defeat to a team we shouldn’t lose to.

Gary Neville gave Sky what they wanted when he savaged the team on Sunday. It provoked the social media activists who proclaimed the former United man was a pundit because he was a crap manager. Or he loved City because of the money they spent. Basically, anything but admitting he was right when he criticised our style of play.

That was always Wenger’s Get Out of Jail Free card: Wengerball. We didn’t win much silverware but we looked good losing. The media had his back; they do now but only for stabbing practice.

It’s the reality of his situation. Tetchiness about journalists job security doesn’t stop the questions being asked. Wenger can feel the walls closing in on him and knows results are the only way to stop it happening. There isn’t an accomplice to help him. We face the consequences of our electronic echo chambers, he has the same with the coaching staff who are afraid to take his methods to task.

The result is a more ‘direct’ style of play. Simple passing and movement are no longer effective. Where we once laboured but eventually broke sides down with pass after pass, we now labour. The ‘out ball’ is a defender putting his foot through the ball and asking Cat to chase. It’s not an ‘out ball’ if he doesn’t get to it; it’s just a ball that is coming right back at you.

Lose the Truth in a Complex of Lies

Arsenal is a club in desperate need of revitalisation. We need fresh blood. Chips talking about breaking the club’s transfer record twice means nothing when the money isn’t spent wisely. A squad with gaping holes all over the pitch is not going to be repaired by two £50m strikers. They help but you still need goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders to come in.

And underpinning it all, you need an effective managerial philosophy.

Someone talked out of school later in the day. Jack Wilshere rejected the contract offer on the table and inevitably is heading for the exit. Tough-talking through the back pages by club and player. It’s the way of the world, mirroring the brinkmanship of the Brexit negotiations. How talks between Jack and Arsenal are going is anyone’s guess and within that, everyone has a view on whether the club’s stance is right or wrong.

Wilshere holds the whip hand. Arsenal staved off disaster with Mesut Özil staying but the England midfielder presents another problem. Not only for the midfield but in being homegrown. Reliance on youngsters to fill those quotas continues the problems of a dual-stream squad; we lack the depth when injuries and loss of form strikes. There’s a balance to be had and we’re heading in the wrong direction at present.

Anyway, to tonight’s game if it goes ahead. Sunday’s team with Mkhitaryan coming in. Defensively, we’ll switch to a four with Chambers making way. We’ll either put in a performance which makes you wonder why we play so awfully most weeks or get shredded.

The line-up:

Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Kolasinac; Xhaka, Ramsey; Wilshere, Özil, Mkhitaryan; Aubameyang

Enjoy the match (if it goes ahead) wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.


219 thoughts on “Manchester City Preview: It’s All About the Manager (Again)…

  1. Phil

    From what I have read and seen, PEA has the same problem as Lacazette. He is a finisher but not someone who creates his own shots and goal scoring chances. As a team we just don’t create very many good high percentage scoring opportunities for our forwards which makes it very difficult for them to score.

    According to reports, PEA’s biggest asset is his pace and ability to get open on the counter attack or get behind the defense. Unfortunately we rarely counter attack and the slow pace of the way we play means the defense has a chance to set up and that leaves no space behind the defense for PEA to run into when he is playing off the final shoulder of the defense which really neutralizes his #1 asset.

  2. Bill,
    I agree that Pea would be suited better to a counter attacking set up.
    But we rarely play like that anymore, and when we have the chance , we eventually slow it down, and go backwards again.
    PEa isn’t showing a lot of energy ( to me ), and not creating space, or opportunities for the mids to use him.
    Admittedly, there was a complete disconnect between him and the everybody else on Sunday , so I have put that aside.

  3. C

    You and I both know that for the majority of the last 2 years we have been poor on both ends of the pitch. Scoring 5 twice against Everton and 5 against Huddersfield this season papers over the cracks and makes our goals scored look better then it really is but we are not a very effective attacking team. We truly suck at defending.

  4. Bill,

    But in most of the games we have lost we have actually managed to score, so you could argue that the forwards are at least doing their job to some extent. It’s conceding 3 against Swansea, 2 against Watford and 3 against United which has been the issue. We aren’t able to keep it tight at the back and usually don’t concede just one goal. The results against City have been the worst because we have only managed to score 1 goal against them, whilst conceding 9 in three games.

  5. And look at the game against Liverpool, We go 2-0 and then have a purple patch in the middle of the game where we score three and take control of the game, but our defence then go and shoot themselves in the foot again and we get a point. If you are up the other end of the pitch you would be pretty pissed off to score three goals and only get a point.

  6. Wavey

    We have been good at papering over the cracks by running up the score against teams that don’t defend against us such as Everton. However, I suspect very few people who watch us regularly would think that we have been an effective attacking team this season or most of last season

  7. There are several differences when you watch City play and compare them to us. The critical differences are the energy level they play with on both ends of the pitch and the speed with which they move the ball. Their first 2 goals both started with Sane beating several Arsenal players and bombing down the left wing at pace leaving several of our players in his wake and getting the ball into a dangerous area while we were still chasing shadows. Kolasinac stood and watched while Bernardo Silva cut inside on his stronger left foot with the greatest of ease for the first goal.

    The 3rd goal was a counter attack and they went 2/3 of the way down the pitch in a flash and there was tons of open space in our penalty area becasue most of our defensive players were still running backwards towards our own goal and watching from behind.

  8. City is a possession team and we think of them scoring goals after complex long passing moves but the reality is they create their best high percentage chances because they move the ball forward with pace and get the ball into the penalty box before the defense can set up. The 2nd and 3rd goals both started midway in their defensive end and in each case it took about 3-4 passes and just a few seconds for them to score. They move the ball forward past the initial wave of defensive players so quickly that defensive teams do not have time to press them in City’s defensive side of the pitch.

  9. Before there was always hope. Hope that we had the players to come back and go on a run. Now it looks rather bleak. Its like Wenger has gone and had some botched surgery on the squad. It looks in worse condition than ever. Where is the width? Where is the creativity in the final third? we have one type of midgefielder and one type of striker.

  10. Forget his coaching, Wenger needs to go just on the basis of ruining the squad and stock piling it with center midgefielder/strikers.

    The pea looks like he couldn’t hold up traffic as well ditto lacazette. No. Width, no hold up play no speed…this could get very messy.

  11. Wavey,

    Wavey absolutely correct. Defensively and in midfield this team has been a shambles.

    How often do you hear AW bemoan other teams only have 2-3 shots on target and score. Defending is not in this teams DNA. Defending is the part of the Game that AW has failed to get to grips with over the last 4-5 seasons.

  12. We’ve become a millennial version of Liverpool

    Just without the European Cups to look back on

  13. Arsenal shareholders (Wenger included) have been laughing all the way to the bank for years at our expense (we are paying highest ticket prices ever!) and lack of transfer activity expense.

    Enough is enough. Revolution … Liberty!

Comments are closed.