It’s a script that is becoming distressingly familiar. The club seems to have added wilting against top competition to it’s season-long trend of underperforming against weaker sides. It’s not a good combination.
What was frustrating about today’s match was that Arsenal were in it for a while. The first half was played evenly - the Gunners clogged up the middle of the pitch and stifled City’s high-powered attack. The City goal came off a terrible positioning mistake from Shkodran Mustafi combined with a non-call on a bump from Sergio Agüero that could have gone either way. But by no means was it one of those “it was coming all along” goals.
The second half was a completely different story. City dictated the play from the opening whistle and after a number of close calls / chances rebuffed by desperate defending, City broke through. Vincent Kompany redirected an Ilkay Gundogan shot from a training ground corner kick play. City added a third goal 7 minutes later off a sublime turn and finish from David Silva that turned Calum Chambers inside out.
At 3-0 down, the air seemed to go out of Arsenal. The Gunners never really looked a threat to score in the second half, definitely not after City extended the lead. Arsene Wenger brought on Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi but neither were able to make an impact, and really, those two probably can’t make enough of an impact to bring Arsenal back from 3-0 down against City.
So where does the criticism for the performance fall? For me, it’s on Arsene Wenger. Yes, players made technical mistakes and poor decisions, but the real difference in the match came at halftime. Whatever changes / adjustments Pep Guardiola made worked. Whatever Arsene Wenger did, did not.
The boss was not able to make adjustments that got Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Mesut Özil on the ball more and away from whatever City was doing to limit their touches. He did not make any changes in personnel or to the formation when City took the match to Arsenal in the opening 15 minutes of the second half. He got thoroughly out-coached.
There’s no shame in losing to Manchester City - they’re a great team with a lot of talent. When they play their best, there are few teams that can beat them. But today, they weren’t at their best. Arsenal’s simple mistakes and poor coaching squandered a chance to win silverware and beat a top team. And that’s what is most frustrating about the loss.
The good (?) news is Arsenal will soon have a chance to make amends. In four days, Manchester City comes to the Emirates.