Three things learned from Arsenal vs Man City
Arsenal lost a closely fought game with champions Manchester City at a loud and emotional Emirates stadium.
On a day that the Gunners scored their first goal in six attempts against the citizens at home in the Premier League, there were a few bright spots for the North Londoners and some signs that the so called process is beginning to bare some fruit all be it, in not the best circumstances on this particular day.
Guardiola spoke about this being the best Arsenal team he has seen “in the last 4,5,6 years.” Cue media talk of mind games by the Spaniard, however it must be said that in the face of a 2-1 loss, Arsenal may have shown more to prove those comments right than wrong.
Here are three key takeaways from an encouraging performance but ultimately disappointing result.
Thomas Partey will be missed
As Thomas Partey departs to start Ghana’s preparations for the African Cup of nations with a MOTM performance in tow against Manchester City. One thing is apparent. That was his best game in an Arsenal shirt. The Ghanaian was dominant on and off the ball, and outclassed his counterparts in the City midfield. He made the most dribbles (7) which showcased the press resistance he is known for that allows him to progress the ball to the players in the final third so effectively. Although, overall Manchester city struggled to respond to Arsenal’s intensity and therefore didn’t press as well, credit must go to Partey for his technical security, which enabled the home side to keep the ball for longer.
This new way of putting teams under sustained pressure comes from an effective press, and no player demonstrated comfortability with their assigned role more than the Ghanaian. He made the most recoveries in the opposition half with (5) to keep arsenal momentum flowing and particularly in the first half, Thomas Partey’s interventions were vital in ensuring that Arsenal had the better of the half.
Mikel Arteta has spoken of his desired formation being the 4-3-3 (although the team currently plays 4-2-3-1), and there have been numerous matches where Partey’s role as the “lone 6” has seen him struggle. It must be remembered that Manchester City’s Fernandinho came to city at the age of 28 and learned later on how to play the role, It might be the case that Partey is going through a similar learning phase and will need the pieces around him to excel at it.
As the former Atletico midfielder leaves for international duty, it goes without saying Arsenal will have to come up with effective solutions to replace the impact he has on that midfield. All eyes on Mikel Arteta and what that will look like.
Bukayo Saka. Genuine Premier league star
The academy graduate had a brilliant game and he is one of the reasons why so many gooners have faith in this side, it is developing little by little, but Saka played a huge role yesterday. The youngster had struggled at the start of the season, which was to be expected after the events of last summer with the England national team, however he has recovered to plunder 10 g/a so far this season, which at the halfway point is a healthy return.
The 20 year old has developed into a top class right winger and is showing that against good defenders. The stats back it up, he was the Arsenal player with the most xthreat (0.047) and least turnovers-he doesn’t lose the ball, let Saka advance to your box at your own peril. The eye test also checks out, Arsenal’s number 7 gets people of their seats and when he is in possession of the ball, the crowd is expectant that something good is going to happen, more often than not, it does.
Bukayo Saka is emerging as a top class premier league talent, if Arsenal are to continue to progress, The Hale ender and his teammates need to deliver this sort of performance more regularly across the season. That would appear to not be an issue for the superstar, who goes from strength to strength.
Arsenal play how they want to play for the first time against the best
Yes, Arsenal have beaten the likes of Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea before. Those victories are probably bright spots in the potential coaching ability of Mikel Arteta. Those wins in the managers’ debut season were good because of what Arsenal ended up with- an FA cup and a community shield. Whatever the final result, this game was a display that demonstrated that the Gunners could go toe to toe with top class opposition and hold their own.
The Gunners consistently pressed and harried Manchester City, but had the two wide forwards high and wide ready to spring onto the Manchester City backline, the Arsenal goal comes from Ben White aggressively stepping in and smooth interplay resulting in Tierney rolling it through for Saka to sweep home. Arteta’s side score those kind of goals often but the overall team effort in sustaining pressure and staying compact while out of possession was a coaching masterclass.
Gabriel Martinelli caused issues and had 5 shots, and was unlucky not to score at least once. Martin Odegaard consistently evaded City’s screening midfielders in his zone and had an influence on proceedings. The team is very well drilled on what specifics there need to be for the match objectives to be met. The profile of player, which was targeted in the summer transfer window largely helps in that respect, Takehiro Tomiyasu, who is both footed and technically and physically impressive is a great example of how Arsenal want to their players to play.
Mikel Arteta said after an away loss to Liverpool last season, “They have so many ways they can kill you, you press. Van Dijk puts a 70 yard pass on the feet of Salah and they are in behind.” Aaron Ramsdale and Martinelli reprised that situation in the game and it led to a big chance, but it also shows how multi-faceted, Arteta wants the threat of the team to be.
The North Londoners will still need to improve their results in these games but the first step was performance, and arguably that is what they demonstrated yesterday. The Gunners do not need to sit back and wait to intercept and be so passive, and as the profile of the team continues to change, they can impose themselves more often on the opposition. If they can avoid shooting themselves in the foot, then they have a good chance of getting closer to the top 3 teams in the medium to long term with this style of football.