Torpid Second Half Compounds Familiar Failings In City Defeat

Manchester City 3 – 1 Arsenal

After conceding the opening goal inside the first thirty seconds, feeling frustrated at the manner of defeat is something new. Yet, as much as we were beaten by the better side, we were also our own worst enemies. Familiar failings – Keystone Kop defending, poor game management – add an unnecessary degree of aggravation to the outcome.

Pessimistic as I wrote yesterday’s preview, my mood sank when I saw the line-up. It was one which begged for the inclusion of Ramsey or Ozil. The creative link between defence and attack was missing; as much as Ozil frustrates, he might have made a difference to our ball retention. He could hardly have been as ineffective as Kolasinac or Iwobi. Or at least he would have been a different kind of ineffective.

Then again, would a different XI have contrived the same failings and conceded the same goals? I think so.

We were undone before we’d started, loading the pistol and shooting merrily at our feet. Iwobi did his familiar soft shoe shuffle on the right edge of the penalty area and lost possession. From the resulting cross, Aguero stole a march on Monreal and scored the first of three simple goals.

It was avoidable in every respect. Why did Iwobi fanny around with the ball and why was Mustafi so deep in the penalty area, keeping everyone onside? He ambled around with no positional sense whatsoever. It’s beyond a joke to the point where I question whether he should ever wear an Arsenal shirt again?

Strange Things Happen

Mustafi was at it again minutes later when he blatantly pulled back Aguero but inexplicably, no penalty was given. Wait, it was Martin Atkinson which explains it all. Thank god. But it begs the question of why Wenger and Emery persist with him? Without a doubt, he is the most expensive flop we’ve ever bought; a panic buy which damns the scouting network which thought he was up to scratch.

Unai Emery tried to explain afterwards that Mustafi was injured. However, I’d have cut him off mid-sentence as he’d explained everything succinctly:

No. I think last week he is with some problems also in his head 

No argument from me.

Thereafter, a strange thing happened: we started to play. Not fluidly but gradually we didn’t turn to jelly defensively. For a while at least, things got brighter. The catalyst was an equaliser straight from 1989. A near post corner was flicked on and from close range, central defender scored. For Bould and Adams, read Monreal and Koscielny.

During the remainder of the first half, Torreira and Guendouzi fought hard, won the ball and particularly young Mateo, distributed the ball with some aplomb. Yes, there were mistakes but he’s 19-years-old and showed more heart than some of his more experienced team-mates. There is an outstanding player in him screaming to be unleashed.

Shamefully, our game management proved askew once again. Getting to the interval all-square made the game tricky for the home side but we couldn’t manage that.

Shoot! Shoot! For Crying Out Loud, SHOOT!

City’s second goal was exquisite from a footballing point of view, begun by Gundogan’s delightful flick pass to Sterling. Yet defending was from another defensive dud. Lichtsteiner abandoned the pretext of being a right-back as he guiltily watched the ball while Sterling hugged the touchline. The Swiss followed the ball as the England man ran behind to latch onto the pass while Aguero lost Koscielny at the far post to tap-in.

A minute before half-time. All it required was concentration and ball retention, to calmly see the half out. The collective mentality was not to retain possession but to attack and nick a lead. It’s not a lack of experience because we have that in abundance; it’s a lack of application, a complete abandonment of footballing principles and a chronic lack of discipline.

Unai Emery bears some responsibility for that but the players are the ones on the pitch. There isn’t a leader among them who commands enough respect to be listened to. None of them is a genuine captain; not one of them.

Don’t expect me to talk of attacking play any more either. The 39th-minute is passed and that was the last time we managed a shot on target. No wonder we lost; the second half saw us robbed of momentum while the stuffing knocked out of us by the second goal couldn’t be sewn back into the bodies during the interval. We were a ragged teddy bear whose seams burst, sitting in a puddle of water in a torrential downpour. Downbeat, downcast and despondent; no fight left in us nor a shred of self-belief.

Misery

City’s third came from a familiar source: the Arsenal right. Lichtsteiner…what’s the point? He really is proving a costly free transfer. Aguero scored off his arm as he slid in. So what if it was handball, it made no difference and in the great of ‘football evens itself out’, that kind of made up for the non-penalty.

There is a lot of criticism of Emery for the defeat but I think it is a clear exposing of our weaknesses. This wasn’t a lesser side where we could score more to cover our deficiencies; this was a very good side which barely broke sweat in making us look worse than distinctly average.

People wonder why we aren’t showing any improvement on last season but where is the investment to make us better? Kroenke’s obsession with LA Rams means we won’t ever see a penny from him to make this club great again. After sinking $1.5bn into their stadium, he isn’t parting with any money for us. Ever.

I find a modicum of joy in the Rams defeat last night. Schadenfreude? No, I just detest the miserable wretch which owns this club and is insistent on running us into mediocrity. The sooner the parasite is gone, the better.

That isn’t going to help us any time soon. Chelsea face City next weekend while United face Liverpool after the FA Cup 5th round. Big games for them while we face ‘routine’ matches. We’ll scrape through and be back in the ‘race’ for fourth. Somehow, this ragtag bunch may yet claim a Champions League place.

God knows how.

’til Tomorrow.

38 thoughts on “Torpid Second Half Compounds Familiar Failings In City Defeat

  1. buckagh says:

    Good review YW can’t add or disagree with any of it.
    Lots of empty seats at the Emirates are inevitable

  2. Wailesy says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I’m totally over Emery not playing Ozil. He needs to sort this shit out now. Ozil for 50+ mins replaced by Ramsey or vice versa but ffs he has to play them. It probably wouldn’t of made a difference to the score line but we might of had a few more cracks at goal. We do have a favourable run in so yes we could just nick it. Wouldn’t that be a laugh.

  3. Aussiefan says:

    Stupid by Emery not playing the one player who could unlock the City defence. (M.O.). He could not defend any worse than Iwobi and certainly better than “the new boy” Denis S(22). Someone must tell Emery that we have to score goals as our defence is leaking and the one who can feed the two strikers is ??? (M.O.)

  4. Pete the Thirst says:

    Not unexpected, but annoying to watch the same defensive failings repeat over and over.

    Iwobi giving away cheap possession on the edge of the box in the first minute is right out of the Wenger 2.0 model. The lad clearly needs some coaching, but if he ain’t going to learn he needs to be dropped.

    The back four looked like they hadn’t practised the offside trap. It was picked apart easily by City. Here’s a thought try marking the centre forward. You know the guy with the faux-Lesbian dyed hair?

    Playing 2 up front away from home was foolish. Either Laca comes deeper or one is dropped.

  5. Pete the Thirst says:

    Guendouzi was our best player. At 19 he is showing the older pros how to get stuck in and move the ball forward at pace.

    He needs to play regularly with Torreira.

  6. YW says:

    I still can’t work out what Mustafi was doing for the first goal. It’s just bloody stupid.

  7. C says:

    YW,

    I’m still trying to work out how Lichtsteiner and Kos seemed to almost refuse to follow the runs of Sterling and Aguero time and time again.

  8. C says:

    Thought Leno made some saves to keep it 2-1 but was let down (common theme this season) by his defenders.

    Torriera and Guendouzi are proving to be quality and quite a couple of findings to form quite a base for both present and moving forward.

    For as inconsistent as Iwobi and Sead were all match, I thought we got even poorer when they left the pitch and lacked any sort of anything down the flanks.

    Felt for Lacazette and Aubameyang.

  9. Dalm says:

    I feel a bit for Iwobi – semi hospital pass in the area a few seconds in, we play a possession game & had a flat back eleven at that moment – we are t coached to put it I. Row z & he had no out ball & in that moment to receive, think and lose the ball…..Suarez looked like Ozil light.
    Please give me a Martin Hayes or Perry groves – some one who will TRY

  10. LSG says:

    Brilliant stuff , YW. I watched the Super Bowl for the first time in a decade or so to enjoy Kroenke’s defeat. I just wish it had been more one-sided. #PrayForDangote

  11. Alex Ice Cream says:

    Why not 5 in midfield with Auba on the bench? Auba pretty much offers goals and nothing else. Playing 2 upfront yesterday was suicide. Ramsey should have played instead – at least we might have a had a chance to stifle them in midfield or at least push them back a bit. We were outnumbered in midfield but Emery did a Wenger i.e. nothing.

    Why not make the change at 2-1 when we were still theoretically in the game?

    Matty G showed the way. He’s too good for this team already!

  12. LSG says:

    The gulf in class is obvious and the new regime has done little about it. We recruited smartly but not that aggressively this summer and not in a coordinated way with the new coach. The club was confused by the Gazidis paralysis ahead of his departure and thus dropped the ball on selling Ramsey and/or Ozil in the summer. It has neglected to reinforce defensively to address a key weakness and area of long term injury to pursue top 4.

    But Emery deserves some criticism as well for his choices and decisions as well. You pointed to the main ones, YW. I don’t understand playing Lichtsteiner, subbing on Suarez, playing Iwobi in the right, neglecting Ramsey starting and not bringing on Ozil.

    In the grand scheme, however, he deserves more time and more backing from the club and fans in this transition year. We haven’t fallen back desperately, can still fight for top 4 with a more favorable schedule than our competitors for that spot, and can still compete for EL.

    Under KSE, that’s about what we can expect this season and we will have to see if Raul and his regime can develop a coherent strategy that works for AFC in its circumstances and in this league to progress. Jury out on him and Emery at this point.

  13. Totteridge man says:

    Not surprising about the defeat. We did not lose by cricket like figures. Yes, players should perform. But the buck stops with the coach. The Kroenkes seem to think that we are a mid-table club. I do not see any progress so far, and do not expect it in the medium term. The coach is on 2 year contract with an option. Defence is crying out for years and not fixing it will lead us no where.

  14. consolsbob says:

    Come on, YW. Tell us what you really think.

  15. Bill says:

    Great review yogi and very accurate and balanced.

    I understand your theory of having a player to link defense to attack but having watched Ozil and/or Ramsey try to do that for the last 2 years it’s hard for me to understand why you would think either of those players would have helped. We had 42% of the ball possession which is more then our usual when we play city so possession was not a problem and correct me if I am wrong but I think scorewise that was the closest we have come to city in 2 years. We actually scored a goal against them which had not happened in the last several games so the evidence suggests it was our best effort against them in quite some time. Based on that evidence I would argue that emery’s tactics actually gave us the best chance we hVe had in quite a while to somehow nick a result against them.

    Mustafi is a liability and we need to sell him ASAP. Lichtensteiner has been a mess and he should retire today and we need an upgrade over Iwobe. The fact we start those players and we have some fans who have watched the team for the last 2 years still think Ozil could help us shows just how weak and unbalanced the squad which Arsene built really is.

    We all thought Arsene leaving would instantly improve our defense and the fact it has not gotten better is a huge indictment on emery

  16. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    Great post YW and nail right on the head. Unfortunately he will leave our club in tatters before he relinquishes the cash cow that is Arsenal. Screw Stan the goddamn parasite. As for the rest of it, it the same old mistakes come back to haunt/taunt us time and time again. No game management, comical defending and over exuberance in possession. Roll on Huddersfield, some away points might be a novelty! And if we can’t get them from Huddersfield we might as well give up now!

  17. thrillbo says:

    I didnt realize it but we actually had a re-union of the chuckle brothers here, Mustafi and Kos. Something is just mentally wrong with us when playing defense. So often we are on the wrong side of the player, just basic positioning things. Mustafi and Kos – here is a tip. When other team has a goal kick, dont let Aguero get behind and goalside of you. And for the love of god dont let the ball bounce just clear it.

    Matty Guendo showing everyone the way. Pace, passion, strength. He was the standout player in first half for me, all over the pitch helping his team.

    Honestly guys I think our D issues will not go away until we settle things out. We rely on wing backs to get to touch line and provide width, meaning we have 3 center backs (does mustafi count?), ok 2.5 center backs, no full backs, maybe 1 of guendo/torreria. We ALWAYS overcommit to attack and leave the defense exposed. You see Licht sprinting up the wing, no where near the ball, just leaving us in a bad position. I happens time and time again. Maybe we just let our wingers provide width instead of our defenders? brilliant fuggin idea m8 !

    I’m not sure how city does it but they let 5 or 6 players run wild in the attacking third, the other boys gotta stay positionally sound to stop counter attack. They look solid, fluid, and quite deadly honestly. A tier above the gunners.

  18. nicky says:

    Yogi,
    One of the most cruel, masterly, incisive, post- mortem of a team’s performance ever.
    I wish I could write like that. 😉

  19. LSG says:

    nicky,

    What happened to positivity, Nicky?! But I do agree with you about YW’s review!

  20. Totteridge man says:

    The coach should ensure that we need to be progressing towards top4, and that we are in for silverware. Sitting as a mid-table team does not help the aspiring players like Guen and VTorreira.
    Guen and Torreira , whose performance would have been noticed by the Scouts of top teams in England and Europe, may come with attractive bids and CL football for them, in the next season. They are young and want to progress their careers.

  21. Blue Yonder says:

    While I still maintain Emery needs time to make Arsenal the team he wants (and we need) them to be, I am mystified by some of his player selections. Iwobi being the main head-scratcher. At the start of the season, albeit for a couple of games, he looked re-born under the new coach but now he looks like he did with Wenger. So he has ability. No matter, he deserves little time with the squad and certainly not starting.
    And what can be said in favour of Leichsteiner starting any more?
    I’d like to see the lineup comprising players with the enthusiasm of Terreira and Guendouzi, but that would probably mean starting the youth Xl.

  22. Garim says:

    Ive been reading this blog for years, but i think ive only posted a couple times.

    I dont know why the picking on Emri’s team selection. He was brave going forward, knew they were going to score a couple, and i think was hoping that Laca and Auba, could link up and score by themselve, with just a sprung ball from Guendouzi…

    I think Kos is a great defender, but when you pair him with Mustafi, he is always desperate. He doesnt know what mustafi is going to do next anymore then the rest of us. I think Socratis and Kos, together are very solid.

    Im surprised to hear so many of you asking to have seen either ramsey or ozil. I think going with both Laca and Aubu, Emeri shows he trusts them more then Ozil, and frankly, Ramsey is gone. The coach is investing in the players that may be here next year, Sead, Iwobi, Torreria and Matteo.

    Frankly, im happy we scored a goal. We were always going to ship 2 or 3. It turned out to be 3, and thanks to Torreria, and Matteo, it wasnt 5.

  23. LSG says:

    Garim,

    I think our chances of top 4 or winning the Europa League are very remote if he prioritizes working only with those players and ignoring the qualities of Ramsey in particular and even Ozil for the remainder of the season. The chances aren’t great as it is of course. My main complaint is the club’s lack of clarity and inefficiency—this should have been determined in the summer or some plan worked out for January if this is a transition year.

  24. nicky says:

    LSG,

    Sorry, LBG but at 95 there is a limit to my vocabulary! 😉

  25. consolsbob says:

    How come every other top club ended up with an owner who may well be selfish bastards but who are not actually killing it with neglect. Quite the reverse really.

    Wtf did we do to get the really bad apple?

  26. Bill says:

    We used to complain about Arsene’s lack of tactical flexibility and now we complain that Emery does not have a plan and seems to switch tactics depending on the opponent. I have no problem with criticizing a manager and I think Emery has not done anything to improve our defense and he deserves criticism for that. However, with a few exceptions its hard to decide who are our best 11 players and Emery is hamstrung with a weak squad that was built to play Wengerball so he has to adapt and be flexible if we hope to compete with teams that have better players then we do. You can’t go into the Etihad against Man City and try to play football with them or you will get crushed.

  27. Bill says:

    I think part of the problem we have with Emery is the unrealistic expectations we had coming into the season. The idea any manager has the magical ability to make a whole group of players individually better is a myth. The idea that highly experienced players like Mustafi, Xhaka, Ozil, Elneny, Mkhitaryan were struggling because they were not being coached properly and those players and others like Iwobe only needed to be “coached up” to suddenly become top players was completely unrealistic.

  28. LSG says:

    consolsbob,

    I ask this all the time. Why could we not have been bought by FSG? #PrayForDangote

  29. LSG says:

    I expected 5/6th this season. I think the long unbeaten run raised some hopes and beating Spurs and drawing at home but largely outplaying Pool raised expectations.

    But I never had a huge amount of confidence in Emery either. Unfortunately, however, the best coaches were in PL jobs or not attracted to KSE owned club declining under AW’s last years and out of the CL. Only someone like Emery whom PSG decided not to renew and had to reestablish his reputation at a relatively big club or a novice like Arteta we’re going to come. The coach I think we could have got who seems good at improving teams at least short term was Lucien Favre. But he never seems to have been in the running. Now he’s doing quite well at Dortmund.

  30. Wailesy says:

    Ignoring our defensive woes. This is a better team than last season’s. The inclusion of Torreria and Guendouzi has strengthen our midfield by providing some cover to this ageing hapless back 4 as well as some creativity. This is exactly what players like Ozil and to a lesser degree Ramsey need to flourish and provide service to 2 up front. Ozil hasn’t ever had that stability in midfield at Arsenal, In that year he broke the record for assists we at least had a solid Merts/Kos partnership going on.

    It’s a real shame because for the 1st time in so many years we have a pretty potent front 2 but Emery can”t or won’t find a spot for our most creative player.

  31. Bill says:

    Limestone

    Your tepid optimism regarding Emery may turn our to be accurate and your concerns regarding finding a really good manager who will put up with KSE is sobering. The fact that Emery has struggled so mightily with our defense certainly raises huge concerns. However, I accept that he is trying to patch up a poorly constructed squad and that will take some time. We talked about this last summer and I am right with you in your expectation of 5th/6th this season.

    Wailsey.

    I think Emery has dropped Ozil because he is no longer effective and having Torriera and Guendouzi is not going to change that. His goal and assist totals in the last 4 years have been 25, 17, 12 and now 4 this season. I am sure emery has studied the film of the last 2-3 seasons and it has to be even more clear to him just how much the performance and the production have dropped off. He is a very 1 dimensional player who is no longer very good at that 1 dimension.

  32. Bill says:

    Wailsey

    In his last 15 games for Germany in the world cups and Euro 2016 Ozil has 2 total goals and only 2 assists. His dropping productivity is not just related to playing for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal.

  33. Wailesy says:

    Bill,
    I’ve never cared too much for stats. Goals scored and clean sheets are really all that matters. True Ozil’s performances have dropped off but he can still provide that bit of magic to unlock a defence and to create a platform for our strikers to play off. Who else can do that at present

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