Old dog new tricks!
Arsenal 0-2 Man City
The real stuff landed yesterday and it landed with a bump; the opening fixture against last season runaway champions Man City lived up to all our fears. It wasn’t as horrific as many will paint, but that 33 point gap looked cavernous at times.
All the pre-match talk was about formation; Cech or Leno? Can we defend corners? And playing down expectations. “Emery has only had them 3 months playing this system, Peps had three years”, perhaps getting our excuses in early or lending ourselves to the growing narrative from the media - Rome wasn’t built in a day, it’s a new era, he’ll need time etc. How many clichés can you have before K.O?
The team filtered through on social Media and it caught many slightly off guard. Cech in goal (not happy but I can live with it), Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis and Maitlaind Niles (what we all expected), Ramsey, Xhaka and Guendouzi (woah there, that’s a risk), Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Aubamayang (predictable). New boy Torriera on the bench (fitness?) and no place for Nelson who performed so brightly in pre-season. (I’m probably banging the worlds smallest drum for his inclusion). So nerves were jangling again, playing a kid at DM again City? “yikes”, however, by the time K.O did arrive the Emirates had regained it’s optimism, “why can’t we do this?”
The first 10 minutes saw us start brightly. Guendouzi looked energetic drawing a foul and a yellow from Sterling, Ozil floating and Ramsey pushing forward in a press with an early weak attempt at goal. However it didn’t take long for the groans and mumbles to re-surface, Xhaka giving the ball away and Sterling skipping through our box, no challenge, good save from Cech. On 15 mins with the predicted goal from the City, pressure materialised, Sterling leaving Guendouzi centrally outside our box. His shot curled round a static Sokratis and possibly unsighted Cech. 0-1. A collective shrug of the shoulders and puffed out cheeks, “well that was easy”. Could Cech have done better? At the time I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Bellerin had our first real chance on 20 mins with a good strike straight at Ederson, and then on 21 mins the near horror show that pretty much summed up our afternoon. Cech, trying so hard to perform the passing move out of defence and with City sensing blood, he took a pass back from Guendouzi and attempted a left footed sweep out to Mustafi. He had completely lost his bearings and very nearly put the ball in the bottom corner; thankfully he missed! A case of trying to teach an old dog new tricks.
That put the willies up everyone and you could see the confidence begin to sap from the players. Walker then beasted Maitland Niles who had looked impressive, replaced by LichSteiner before the first big cheer from the crowd as Cech, faced with a choice of a pass to Mustafi deep right or Sokratis deep left decided to punt a long one up front. His confidence dissipated along with the crowds patience with a back line not suited or ready for this passing style. You need movement and straight passes into midfield for it to work, and neither were on show. A good double save from Cech after another Xhaka mistake led to a Marhrez free-kick. Then the first real “oooh” from the home support came just before the break. Aubamayang, who had been quiet, made the City keeper dive, but replays showed it was well wide. 1-0 HT and I was happy it was only one, Gents here I come!
On 52 mins another comical mishap on the left as a promising build-up saw Ramsey pass the ball out of play. He looked at Ozil as if to say “well that’s another fine mess”, was hooked 3 mins later for Lacazette - and the Emirates lifted for ten minutes. Lacazette’s energy and willingness to press caused City a few problems; his introduction also seemed to breathe new life into Aubamayang, perhaps taking the pressure off him a bit. That small glimmer of light was nearly snuffed out on 63 mins as a mistake from Guendouzi let in Augero one on one with Cech. Luckily for us, the little Argentinian bundle of joy chose to shoot straight at Cech rather than give De Bryune the easy tap in; “got away with that one”. But not for long! Two minutes later, Mendy and Sterling combined well on the left to find Bernado Silva free on the penalty spot. He despatched the ball into the top corner, and the game was gone.
As the big clock on the South stand ticked away, we saw more comedy as Guendouzi lent back to try a shot at goal; “high, wide and handsome?” No, try a rugby conversion. Then towards the end of the match Ederson seemed to get a bit bored, giving us three guilt-edged chances from poor passes -the easiest falling between Lacazette and Ozil, both players leaving it for the other, and neither taking the chance. Ederson saying “thanks lads”, gleefully jumping on the ball. From the stands it looked like City were giving us a chance, and with their fans telling us Wenger left because we were shit, we reminded them he’s won more than them. Is this as good as it gets? De Bryune had a dipping effort at the end of the 4 mins added on, and that was that.
Overall we were never in it today, and looked completely at odds with the system Unai Emery is trying to introduce. You can see what the Head coach is trying to do but the players aren’t there yet. It all feels a bit like Klopp’s first season with Liverpool. A work in progress, and we won’t play City every week, but Emery needs to start Torriera, and drop Xhaka and Cech for the game against Chelsea. If Wenger was still in charge you would probably see the same team; I don’t think Emery will be that loyal.
Positives: Guendouzi despite errors, Torriera good cameo and Lichsteiner did well at Left back. Negatives: Xhaka again! And Cech trying to use his feet.
Possession Arsenal 42% Man City 58%
Attempts Arsenal 9 Man City 17
On target Arsenal 3 Man City 8.
Cech - Please don’t put me through that again Mr Emery. Good saves but kick it long son, kick it long.
Bellerin - Tough day, Mendy, Sterling and Mahrez had the beating of him. Get your hair cut!
Mustafi - The look of total fear in his face at times reminds me of Senderos. He tried but never really looked comfortable.
Sokratis - Got booked for a cynical foul but I kind of like that beastliness. Didn’t do too much wrong today.
LichStenier - Replaced Maitland Niles (6/10) early and I thought did quite well, got forward in the second half.
Guendouzi - He’s young and will make mistakes but the boy never hid and kept trying.
Xhaka - More of the same I’m afraid, looks hopelessly out of his depth at times which is odd for an experienced international. He’s slow, got an early yellow and gives the ball away in dangerous area. Nice hair is about all I can say. Drop him!
Ramsey - Huffed and puffed, looked a bit off the pace and got further forward than Aubamayang at times. Pressed well, needs to be pressed on that contract.
Ozil - Drifted and floated without producing anything substantial. Another off day against a top four side - it’s becoming ‘a thing’.
Mkhitaryan - Not great, runs a lot but looked more like Perry Groves today.
Aubamayang - Quiet first half, looked better when Lacazette came on. I have faith he will improve more than some of the others.
Torriera - looked neat and spots danger 7/10. Lacazette looked dangerous though fluffed a great chance 7/10.
Next up Chelsea away..... FFS