Result: Arsenal 0 – 3 Manchester City
Competition: Premier League
Date: 16 Dec 2019
Venue: The Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Torreira, Guendouzi, Ozil, Martinelli, Pepe, Aubameyang
Subs: Martinez, Luiz, Willock, Nelson, Smith Rowe, Saka, Lacazette
Arsenal were taken to school by Manchester City as they went down 0-3 at home to the Premier League champions. City blitzed Arsenal with 3 goals in the first half as the Gunners struggled to impose themselves in the game.
This result makes it 1 win in 12 games for Arsenal who have a series of tough matches, including Chelsea and Manchester United, on the horizon.
After rotating heavily for a midweek Europa League game, it was no surprise that Freddie Ljungberg reverted to the team selection that made an impact against West Ham.
It was a very offensive line up with Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac taking up the full back positions and Ozil being trusted to keep the game ticking in midfield while dropping back to make the numbers when defending against City’s metronomic passers.
The only chance for Arsenal to get something from this game was to attack and Martinelli led the way with a powerful run within the first minute. He took on 2 players and Ederson had to step out to push the ball out for a corner.
However, it only took Man City 30 seconds to hit back and score with their first chance on goal. Jesus received the ball in the channel and beat Chambers to square the ball across the box. The Arsenal players were all sucked into the box but were not aware of their surroundings as De Bruyne received the ball unmarked to lash in a scorcher on target. 0-1 to Man City.
Arsenal continued to look for an equalizer though City seemed to be able to keep them at an arm’s length while operating at second gear. City were patient and they picked off Arsenal’s defence on the counter on the 15th minute mark as De Bruyne replicated the same move that got them the first goal. He took on Chambers and squared the ball for an unmarked Sterling to ghost in from the right and finish from close range. 0-2 Man City.
The Gunners were tidy in possession as they sought to regain some confidence after conceding two goals. The midfield trio of Ozil, Torreira and Guendouzi kept the ball moving but they could not break down the City defence. In his desperation, Guendouzi even resorted to a silly looking dive to win a penalty – the Frenchman was lucky to not have been given a yellow for that embarassing attempt.
Arsenal’s evening looked to go from back to worse as Kolasinac, our only fit left back, went off injured as he rolled his ankle after being tackled by Rodrigo. Bukayo Saka was on course to replace him at left back but with the youngster waiting on the sidelines to come on, Man City punished Arsenal again to make it 0-3. De Bruyne rolled passed Guendouzi and hit a spectacular shot with his left foot from outside the box to have the ball curl into the bottom corner.
The Belgian’s incredible prowess with his long shots was on show just a minute later as he wrapped his foot around the ball to take it towards the top corner at pace. Arsenal had Leno to thank for as he got his finger tips to the ball to deflect its path towards the post.
The Emirates was silent as injury time approached. City have been lethal in attack thanks to a Kevin De Bruyne midfield masterclass. While Arsenal had some tidy moments in possession, they did not play at a fast enough pace to trouble City. Defensively Arsenal looked confused as they were neither doing a high press nor engaging in a deep block.
Ljungberg had his work cut out for him during the half time team talk.
Arsenal came out of the tunnel eager to raise the tempo of their game. The forward line was more aggressive with their press and the defence took a risk in pushing higher. It was this approach that got Arsenal their first decent chance of the game when Aubameyang got his head to a cross from deep only for it to go wide.
In what seemed like a surprising move by Ljungberg, he called off Ozil on the 57th minute in place of Emile Smith-Rowe. The German playmaker showed his frustration by kicking his gloves in the air – definitely not the best way to react to a substitution (or to dispose of your gloves).
City continued keeping Arsenal at an arm’s length by keeping possession and applied a bit of gamesmanship with some tactical fouling to halt the home team’s momentum.
The last ten minutes of the game was a non-event as Manchester City kept the ball expertly in a glorified game of rondo – completing the humiliation for the Gunners.
This was not a game where fans expected Arsenal to win but the lack of drive and application should be a cause for concern, not just for interim coach Ljungberg, but for the Arsenal hierachy and any prospective managers considering the role of head coach.