Manchester City look imperious. It will take a Hulk, Daenerys Targaryen, her dragons and a Pele to stop them this season. Our 2-0 loss to the champions on Sunday meant that Unai Emery became the first Arsenal manager to lose his first league game since Steve Burtenshaw in 1986. In Emery’s defence, I doubt any of the previous managers faced a team as remarkable as City. The efficiency of their passing, the way they effortlessly attack space with the ball and choke the opposition without the ball is frightening. Man, I wish Wenger made way for Pep a few years ago!
We lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Pierre Emerick Aubameyang as the lone striker. The surprise inclusion was the spunky Matteo Guendouzi in midfield. The French youngster made mistakes, but his bravery in possession and physicality are positive signs for the future. He reminds me of a more erratic young Sergio Busquets.
I was not to concerned by the result as City are going to do much worse to other teams in the league, but a few things left me uneasy:
1. Granit Xhaka is not cutting it
Granit Xhaka has an excellent passing technique. Last season he completed 3116 passes, more than any player in the Premiership. I know you can make the argument that it’s easy to complete safe passes, but that’s oversimplifying it. I have said before that I feel there is a top-class player in there waiting to come out, but I am becoming increasingly concerned by his inability to compete in a high tempo game. He looked a level below all other midfielders on the pitch and as we know, a great central midfielder knows how to have a decent game even when they are not on form. We need to see some improvements quickly.
2.Petr Cech’s shot stopping
It’s his shot stopping that distresses me, not his passing. I’m less anxious about his passing as not all teams will be able to press us as effectively, but if Emery is going to use him over Bernd Leno, he needs to save attempts like the Raheem Sterling shot that put City 1-0 ahead. Cech usually has more difficulty diving to his right, so it was worrying that he couldn’t react in time to his left. I know he made some decent stops to keep us in the game and the defence and midfield could have done better for the first goal, but we can’t be conceding from shots like that.
3.Lack of fluidity in our attack
Our front four of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Aaron Ramsey, Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil did not gel as a unit. I spoke in my last article, that the quality of our attack gives me confidence for this season, but this display wasn’t positive. They lacked conviction with their forward pass and failed to create meaningful space for each other. I was pleased with the pressing of Ramsey, but it’s going to take time for us to implement a co-ordinated effective pressing style. Alexandre Lacazette looked impressive after coming on for Ramsey in 54’. He was our most likely and hopefully earned a spot for Saturday’s fixture. It was nice to see a tactical substitution early on in the second half.
The Chelsea game this Saturday will be much easier, but with us not having won at the Bridge since 2011, the psychological hex may still linger.
Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea lined up in his favoured 4-3-3 formation against Huddersfield at the weekend. Despite winning 3-0, Chelsea were far from convincing with Huddersfield going close on many occasions.
It’s important for Emery to register his first points quickly. The excessive reviews of his first game by media is just a flavour of the scrutiny he’ll be subjected to.
We need to be braver and more accurate with our forward pass on Saturday. Hopefully our front four can gel in time to put Sarri’s new system under pressure.
Chelsea are favourites, but I’m confident we can get a score draw or even nick a tight 2-1 victory. All hexes have a sell by date (fingers crossed).
Come on Arsenal!