Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City squared off against Wenger’s Arsenal in another English Premier League Matchday. Both teams were part of the chasing pack trying desperately to stop (or at least catch up with) Conte’s locomotive.
While it wasn’t sure what to expect from the game, as both teams had contrasting recent forms, it was sure to be a cracker no thanks to the points at stake.
On one hand, there was a certain Manchester City side desperate to return to the days of going several games unbeaten. On the other hand, the clubside from London, who even though had just come off a loss at Everton, wanted to make sure names they kept up pace with the league leaders.
The game ended with Man. City winning the game by a 2-1 scoreline. But as with all games, this one had it’s own storyline. And that’s what you’re about to read in this article.
Arsenal’s First Half
This was the half Arsenal ran the Cityzens ragged. By the fourth minute of the game, the Gunners were already up by a goal thanks to a sleeping City defense and an alert Arsenal forward line who noticed it and took advantage.
In this half, Arsenal enjoyed quite a nunber of things, namely:
– A Poor Zabaleta
Zabaleta was a pain to watch for most City faithfuls in the first half of the game. His runs (forward and back) were mostly mis-timed while he did little next to nothing to provide wide support for Man. City’s ‘strikerless’ formation.
He was constantly caught off-guard and wasn’t alert enough to work towards stopping the first goal City conceded. Describing him as a liability to Man. City and a blessing to Arsenal during the first 45 wouldn’t be exaggerating in any way.
After the half, Man. City seemed to boss Arsenal in all areas as regards stats (except the goal of course). But one man was a glimmer of hope for Arsenal throughout the half (and the entire game).
Sanchez is his name and he was the closest to exciting that the Gunners had on offer on the day. Alexis kept chasing after every ball sight and refused to remain passive like Ozil and co.
Most times he got frustrated by how deep the Arsenal players preferred to play, instead of coming out to attack. His enthusiasm was one of the many highlights of the first half of the game (asides the goal and Sterling’s empty-goal-mouth chance that was missed).
If I may add, please forget Giroud if you’re a Gunner. Alexis Sanchez is Arsenal’s best hope for a striker.
– A Disjointed City
‘A house divided against itself…,” the wise book says. This was another highlight of Arsenal’s 1st half. Even before they conceded that goal, Pep’s men looked at odds with each other.
Yes by halftime they were leading as regards goal attempts and possession and passes completed. But, they only had one shot on target, and were playing like a team at war… with itself! Arsenal took advantage and took a lead into the break.
Manchester City’s Second Half
– The Tactical Change
It was nothing serious. Zabaleta was removed and Sagna was brought on. But it felt like as if a complete overhaul had taken place! 4 minutes into the second half, Leroy Sane scored the equalizer for Man. City.
For the next 15 minutes or thereabout after that goal, Arsenal would go on to feel the full force of a Pep-Guardiola-led side. It was tiki taka as like in the days of old (Hello Barça!)
The Gunners were starved of ball possession and all they were suddenly good at was chasing the ball, unsuccessfully. Few minutes later, they were chasing both ball possession and the game itself, thanks to a goal from Sterling.
It’s not sure what was at work: whether it was Pep’s ‘Pep Talk’ (pun intended) or the deleting of Zabaleta. But either ways, something happened to the Cityzens in the dressing room. And they came out a transformed side.
– Arsenal Played Strangely
Take nothing away from the landlords of the Etihad Stadium. Their 2nd half performance was great. But Arsenal’s strange display made things even easier for the Cityzens.
Arsenal played poorly, without passion and seemed to be more interested in defending, rather than attacking. As mentioned earlier, Sanchez was left to do most of the chasing while the others preferred to wait for the Man. City players to come and have a go at them.
And names like Silva and Yaya and Sterling and KdB certainly enjoyed doing that.
– Kevin de Bruyne’s ‘Pass of the Season’
Just before this pass, Man. City players had been struggling with getting the ball into the opposition box successfully. Most times they tried, they failed, woefully.
Then came de Bruyne’s magic:
“Kevin de Bruyne, while stationed on the halfway-line, receives a throw-on, chests it down, and hits one of the best passes you are likely to see all season. An inch-perfect cross-field diagonal pass which stays low and begs Raheem Sterling to run onto it down the right flank. Sterling controls it, drifts into the box, before cutting in on his favoured left foot and squeezing a low shot past Petr Cech’s near post.”
For some, it may just be another EPL game that has come and gone.
But, with City finally beating another ‘Top Four’ team and Arsenal playing ‘as usual‘ whenever Santa’s in town, the chase is on!
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance writer, football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter <a href=”http://twitter.com/rotdav”>@rotdav</a> and on <a href=”https://ng.linkedin.com/in/rotimi-daramola-5b4374a2″>LinkedIn</a>