They started as they left off last season. Not just the champions, Manchester City, who were attacking, imperious and awesome at times but Arsenal also.
The Unai Emery era got off to a defeat which was maybe predictable enough given the opposition but after all the expectation of the Spaniard’s levels of preparation, the analysis, the drills and organisation the defensive failings were all too familiar to what he inherited from Arsene Wenger. It will take time to undo bad habits and it is hard to see players such as Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi fitting in.
Arsenal tried to go toe-to-toe with City but were just not up to it – not yet anyway – and, for example, they eventually abandoned the routine of trying to play the ball out from the back as they constantly gave away possession under pressure. When goalkeeper Petr Cech played it long there were ironic cheers.
Arsenal looked like what they are – a team searching for an identity and a way forward. City looked like what they are – a team determined to retain the Premier League title and laid down another marker of that intent with goals from Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva in each half.
The only criticism would be the number of opportunities City spurned because this could have been a far more emphatic score-line and probably deserved to be.
Sterling’s goal encapsulated Arsenal’s enduring frailty as he ran across goal easily evading Hector Bellerin and Matteo Guendouzi, with milky efforts to stop him, and shot right-footed past Cech for his 50thPremier League goal. The goalkeeper, selected ahead of new signing Bernd Leno and given the captaincy, seemed to react late having taken up a bad position in the first place and looked ponderous throughout although he did well to later deny Aymeric Laporte from close-range.
Just after the hour Sergio Aguero should have sealed it when Guendouzi – on his debut and looking a little out of his depth – completely mis-judged the flight of the ball and allowed the striker to run free on goal from his own half only for Cech to turn away his shot.
No matter City immediately attacked again with Sterling and Benjamin Mendy combining for the defender to cut the ball back. Bernardo Silva, once more impressing, struck it superbly left-footed and high into the net to end any doubt over the result.
Arsenal worked hard; they created half-chances but there was another familiar failing as they attempted to walk the ball into the net. Emery has work to do.
This in from Opta:
- Most touches (72)
- Most passes attempted (47)
- Most fouls won (3)
And in terms of his teammates… Granit Xhaka lost the ball 19 times - more than any other player.
Souness says Man City outclassed Arsenal
“Started well, got their goal, Arsenal never gave up, people will talk about Cech but he kept the score down.”
Great win for Man City. They weren’t at their best, didn’t look entirely concentrated on the game at times but really were in control of that one. Arsenal are disjointed and not on the same level.
90 mins+4 - Arsenal 0 Man City 2
City are just winding down the game now. Or they were until De Bruyne decides it’s a good idea to shoot from 25 yards. He batters the ball over the bar.
The Emirates is already basically empty… “look at that. It’s no longer Wenger causing that!” says Neville.
90 mins+2 - Arsenal 0 Man City 2
Ederson’s made another mistake, passing straight out for a throw-in. Arsenal don’t take advantage as Lacazette boots over from 10 yards or so.
90 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 2
Cech has almost handed Jesus a free goal. He’s trying to make a short pass, makes no effort to disguise it and it’s about a half yard away from coming off Jesus’ foot as he closes him down. Cech’s not the man for this job. Not yet anyway.
88 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 2
Sterling comes off to be replaced by Leroy Sane. I think the game might be done now.
86 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 2
Mistake by Ederson! Arsenal could be in here! But Ozil wastes the chance and the goalkeeper recovers.
A pass forward is brilliantly controlled by Bernardo, who skins Lichsteiner and moves inside, drives at goal and tries to thread in a striker on the left. It’s deflected, Sterling gets a chance to shoot but is blocked, Mendy’s shot is saved.
Arsenal counter, Ozil has the ball in the net but there’s an offside.
84 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 2
Mendy’s first touch to kill a long clearance from Cech there was mental. At full speed he kills it and takes the thing forward in one movement…. and it’s a shame his cross from wide left after that is easily cleared by the Arsenal defence.
I think it would be harsh to judge Emery’s Arsenal too much on this, but the worry for me would be Xhaka and Mustafi seem to have picked up exactly where they left off….
— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) August 12, 2018
82 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 2
Man City getting way more shots away from close range. Also more shots in general.
80 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 2
Comedy moment. Aubameyang is juuuuuust offside, lobs the goalkeeper and Laporte powers in to clear off the line and stop the goal just in case… but ends up hitting the post, which clangs off his own face and then he goes flying into the back of the net.
78 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 2
Guendouzi has grown into this game. He’s constantly asking for the ball, moving into deep positions to pick it up and then carry it forward.
76 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 2
Arsenal fans are singing “He’s won more than yoooou – Arsene Wenger he’s won more than you” to the Man City fans who are winding up the home support with some of their own musical numbers. It’s the ultimate ‘my dad is harder than your dad’ battle.
74 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 2
De Bruyne is booked for a heavy tackle on Torreira, bringing his studs down onto the Arsenal midfielder’s ankle.
Bernardo has been absolutely amazing today. His movement and sense of where everyone else is means he’s always in control when on the ball.
72 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 2
Torreira’s first involvement is decent. First touch, look up, small sideways pass. Arsenal keep the move coming and suddenly the ball opens up for Guendouzi to shoot! He gets underneath it and slices way into the air. A dreadful effort.
70 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 2
Torreira makes his Arsenal debut and replaces… Xhaka! Big call. Guendouzi has great energy and keeps snapping at tackles but he’s made a lot of errors. Let’s see what difference this makes.
67 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 2
Arsenal go on the attack and win a corner. Their first of the Emery managerial era. It’s not great… and cleared away. Arsenal then try to take a free-kick quickly and are pulled back, which annoys them even more.
Replays on that corner show that Mendy may have pulled Mustafi the ground from the corner. VAR would have made that a penalty.
Just put it in already.
BERNARDO HAS MADE IT TWO!
Great move by City! They’ve turned on the style and caught Arsenal out there. Somehow they get five vs four in attack, Xhaka runs to help but the defensive shape is all over the place. Bernardo pops up on the penalty spot to smash first-time past Cech.
63 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
AGUERO IS ONE V ONE! A long ball is completely missed by Guendouzi and Aguero has the entire half to run into! He gets to the box and De Bruyne is completely free to his left to convert the tap in but Aguero shoots and Cech saves superbly. What a miss! Will they regret that?
63 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Michael Oliver is telling Fernandinho to wise up and that his team needs to stop time wasting. Guardiola looks a little nervous on the touchline. Lacazette controls the ball superbly with a little jump, Sterling is judged to have fouled Guendouzi, who had lost control of the ball.
61 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
De Bruyne fires the corner in, the referee gives Arsenal a free-kick. G Nev reckons City have made a mistake trying to wind up the home fans here with deliberate time wasting 2/3rds of the way through. Their definitely louder now than they have been for most of the game.
59 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Man City are about to send on De Bruyne. They’ve let their grip loosen on this game and could well let Arsenal back into it.
Mahrez comes across to take a corner. Lichsteiner is getting shirty with Laporte, implying that he’s tried to headbutt him.
Mahrez is then substituted before he gets a chance to take the kick and walks off reeeeeeeeaaaaaally slowly.
56 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
SO CLOSE! Arsenal have shifted to a 4-2-3-1, Ozil as the 10. Mkhitaryan intercepts, passes inside, Lacazette picks up the ball and shoots from 25 yards but his volley is wide of the far post. The Emirates has woken up now!
54 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Xhaka gets his inevitable booking, this time for kicking out at Aguero’s knee as he runs inside the pitch. Sterling goes on a driving dribble into the box and runs the ball out for a goal kick.
Lacazette is about to come on, probably for Mkhitaryan, who has been bad on the ball and woeful without it. He’s just wandering around, no energy to close down the man on the ball and was the one who didn’t help out Maitland-Niles in the first half when Walker and Mahrez were destroying them.
And I’m wrong again. Aaron Ramsey comes off instead.
52 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Stones gets across to slide in and stop Aubameyang running away down the left wing on the counter-attack. Ramsey is a little out of sync with Ozil – who’s having a decent game by the way – and passes out for a throw.
50 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
City controlling possession. They’re also getting a lot of touches in Arsenal’s final third and are having no trouble beating the Arsenal press.
City get forward, Aguero sets himself up for a shot and wins a corner.
48 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Ramsey is still pushing high up the pitch for Arsenal, Cech kicks long. Ramsey gets back to double up on Sterling wide left… City win a corner.
It’s headed away and Arsenal are on the counter! Until Ozil is left short by Mkhitaryan’s poor pass.
KICK OFF 2
We’re back! No changes to the players on the pitch but there might be to Arsenal’s approach.
Man City start the second half.
Half time chat
“You know what? It’s a really good indicator of a good football team is the pace of passing. No rolling, just smashing the ball into feet.”
He’s dead right. City’s passing is so impressive. They batter passes at high speed because they know their teammate will control and move with it, which means attacks are that much quicker the opposition can’t get into a defensive shape fast enough to cope.
Arsenal aren’t playing badly here, they are just a team in transition. Players are adjusting to this new post-Wenger era, Emery doesn’t have all the exact players he needs to get his ideas onto the pitch accurately and City are, as Neville pointed out earlier, “a freak”. This isn’t a normal Premier League team, it’s elite level football. Arsenal will have a much better gauge of where they’re at against lesser teams.
That said, it’s only 1-0!
Half time stats
You can see how wide the Arsenal centre-backs are when on the ball. That’s from the whole ‘play out from the back thing’ which City are doing really well to destroy.
Emery has a bit of work to do. Not just at half time… long-term.
Man City took their foot off the gas a little towards the end there which allowed Arsenal to grow into the game and calm their ragged nerves. The goalkeeper as midfielder experiment has been a disaster for Emery so far – will they keep up with Cech trying to play that way?
It’s only 1-0 so City aren’t in control yet… but they seem a couple of levels above Arsenal right now.
45 mins+4 - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
MAn City’s playing out from the back is putting them in trouble now! Arsenal capitalise, Mkhitaryan plays a one-two with Ramsey and shoots! But Mendy tracks him and wins a goal kick.
45 mins+1 - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Emery urges his players forward, bellerin passes into Mkhitaryan, who turns and finds Aubameyang! He cuts in from the left onto his right foot and shoots! Wide. He gets his technique all wrong there.
44 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Laporte switches play with a brilliant pass and Mahrez’s first touch inside the Arsenal area is astonishing. Corner to Man City. Headed away.
42 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Mahrez is wide right, has heaps of space and cuts onto his left foot. His shot to the far post is inches away!
Arsenal fans applaud Cech for deciding to hit the ball long. Emery’s tactical plans are being laughed out of the Emirates by the home support.
41 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
What a bit of skill that is. Amazing. Mahrez knows Lichsteiner is getting tight to him so fakes to take the ball with his back to him and instead rolls the ball behind himself. The inevitable outcome is a foul and that’s what he gets.
Cech has passed straight to Man City’s midfield again – this playing from the back thing is dangerous.
And Cech has almost done it again! A risky chipped pass nearly puts Mustafi in a world of trouble but thankfully they get away with it. And it might have helped! Man City are drawn out, attracted to the loose ball by Arsenal’s box and the counter-attack is on!
Well. It was. Man City back in possession.
39 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Aubameyang sprints to reach a ball over the top into the right channel but Laporte slides in well to block. Arsenal recover possession and pass forwards until Lichsteiner’s ambitious cross from the left is caught by Ederson.
37 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Sterling attacks down the left, bamboozles Bellerin and passes inside the box, cleared for a throw.
Lichsteiner knows what he’s doing and is getting across to Mahrez instantly, blocking that pass out to the right wing for Man City. He gives Mahrez a little shove as well to ‘let him know he’s there’.
35 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Great run by Ramsey! With two touches he’s found space in the right channel and bursts away from Laporte and Fernandinho! He passes inside, Mkhitaryan gets on the ball after a superb first-time pass from Ozil… and then City crowd him out and win a throw.
Aww that’s a shame. Maitland-Niles can’t continue and has to hobble off. Lichsteiner comes on in his place to make his Arsenal debut.
33 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Maitland-Niles can hardly even walk on his ankle (it’s not his arm) and hobbles off. That might be the last we see of him.
And I’m wrong again. Here comes the left-back. City will target him immediately and hope to catch him out.
31 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Walker absolutely batters his way past Maitland-Niles and Mkhitaryan for pure pace. M-Niles can’t keep up and does his best to track… gets in front and then goes down as the two collide. He’s hurt and might have damaged his arm, possibly. Emery gives some tactical instructions to Bellerin and Guendouzi.
30 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Free header for Laporte! But he’s put it wide without power. Oh me oh my that is close.
Cech is not good at playing out from the back and City are cleaning up as they try it.
29 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Gundogan fancies it… but it’s MAHREZ! SAVED! Cech’s spilled it though and Laporte comes flying in for the rebound! Cech blocks again! Fantastic goalkeeping. Arsenal are in trouble here. Corner.
27 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 1
That’s a big mistake! Gundogan slides in and wins the ball superbly, City are in attack mode and Sokratis has to slide in and wipe out Aguero before he can pull the trigger. It’s a yellow card for the Greek defender and a free-kick for City. A few players fancy this one. On the edge of the area.
25 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
This Man City shape is so fluid. Players are moving all over the place – it’s a nightmare to defend against. Cech looks exhausted, leaning on his knees as the ball is near the City box… I’m not sure what he’s done to get that tired so quickly.
Mahrez and Sterling have swapped positions… and Aguero is wide left or something. Sterling comes inside the box, loses the ball, wins it, drives to 10 yards out and shoots low but Cech saves.
23 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
“Oh dear oh dear,” says Tyler as Cech nearly puts the ball in his own net under virtually no pressure. Ironic cheers from the crowd as he manages to pass to a teammate at the next opportunity.
21 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Mkhitaryan drops deeper to finally give Maitland-Niles a hand and prevents Mahrez being able to get on the ball in an ocean of space.
Mendy’s been caught out here and there’s a chance to shoot! It’s Bellerin on the ball…. Ederson saves!
19 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Guendouzi gives the ball away again. He’s dead young so let’s forgive him but he’s not been good so far. Or at least the things he’s tried haven’t come off anyway.
Xhaka passes the ball straight out of play trying to chip a diagonal pass over the top for Maitland-Niles.
17 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 1
Same thing happening again. City are finding space on the right and are able to get forward. There’s a two v one on Maitland-Niles the whole time.
Wow that is brilliant! Sterling scores!
Dreadful defending from Arsenal. Bellerin loses his man, Guendouzi doesn’t do anywhere near enough and Cech doesn’t get across to stop it either but Sterling won’t mind! It’s a great finish from distance.
13 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 0
Sterling moves from wide to inside, Mendy goes from inside to wide… the ball is worked quickly around the box, Walker joins in and crosses from the right but Cech catches. Sterling soooo nearly threaded a disguised little pass between the centre-backs there.
“That’s not right, someone needs to help the lad,” says Gary Neville of Mailtand-Niles.
12 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 0
Maitland-Niles is leaving a little too much space on the left for Walker and Mahrez to use… Guendouzi has accidentally passed straight to a City midfielder but gets away with it, Arsenal try to counter but City are quickly back to block.
Ramsey goes down on the edge of the area off the ball! He wants a free-kick or penalty but the referee doesn’t care and play continues. Arsenal moving the ball around well.
10 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 0
That’s absolutely brilliant from Sterling. Mess-esque dribbling from the wee man as he ducks and dives using close control to go round Mustafi and fires a shot at the near post. Cech is equal to it and blocks for a corner… but that is cancelled out by a foul in the box (I think).
8 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 0
Loose pass from Xhaka and City have men over! Aguero is threaded in on the left of the box but is tackled. City are pushed all the way back and build up in a three of Walker-Stones-Laporte.
6 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 0
Sterling is booked for a really heavy follow through Guendouzi… and the Frenchman has felt that one. He’s down receiving treatment, hobbles off… but should be OK to continue.
There’s a high tempo to this one early on! Walker sprints beyond the defensive line on the right wing and sends a cross into the middle but it beats everyone.
4 mins - Arsenal 0 Man City 0
Laporte apologises to Aubameyang for kicking him and bringing him down to the floor. The Emirates is pretty noisy, which is nice, and Ozil has been caught offside chasing a long pass from deep.
2 mins – Arsenal 0 Man City 0
Arsenal start on the attack and Guendouzi gets his first touches of the ball! But accidentally knocks it out for a throw-in.
Ramsey manages to get onto that throw and shoots on the volley! But he hasn’t caught that one properly and it’s harmlessly into the goalkeeper’s hands.
How the teams line up
These won’t be accurate but I think this is what it might look like. Ozil will be wide right or left, Ramsey might be a 10 at times so it’s more of a 4-2-3-1.
Man City will be all sorts of weird. I expect Sterling, Mahrez and Bernardo will end up in the 10 space and half spaces and it’ll be a 3-4-3 in possession maybe?
It’s so hard to tell.
The new boy
A 19 year old who was playing at FC Lorient last season and here he is starting against the champions!
What do we know about him? Not a huge amount… but with a little (Football Manager scouting network) research I know he’s a deep lying playmaker who can either sit or create in slightly advanced positions, has great anticipation and technique, works hard off the ball and has high potential. They reckon he could be an excellent midfielder in the future without necessarily going on to be a superstar. We’ll get a good indication of that today anyway!
The managers pre-match
“[I played against an Emery team] a long time ago. He’s a manager from Arsenal, to become a manager of this kind of team you have to be a good manager.”
On how Emery’s Arsenal might line up:
“We’ll have to wait and see. It’s early to work out the way he’ll play his team.”
“First of all we want to continue the good things, this team they were doing. Transmit our style, above all one thing is the team transmit passion, energy, supporters transmit passion and also tactical things on the pitch, larger things on the pitch Manchester City (something else I don’t understand)”.
I think what he’s trying to say is that he wants to see much more done off the ball by Arsenal, showing some aggression and leadership and drive.
This is a photo of some Arsenal fans helping someone get a sofa into their house with the use of a ladder.
Matteo Guendouzi is perhaps the surprise in the Arsenal starting XI…
…while City are pretty much as expected. That is, scarily good.
The art of defence
If Manchester City keep their regrouping rivals at bay for another season, they will be the first side to defend the Premier League title in ten years.
It’s been a surprisingly slippery trophy to keep hold of, thanks in part to a more competitive field of title contenders but also to some catastrophic attempts at defending it. Chelsea, twice, have found themselves a yard or more off the pace just a few months after topping the pile, while Leicester’s pinch-yourself triumph – and the ill-fated follow-up campaign – already feel like distant memories.
Such is the changing landscape of a Premier League where a club can spend £170m in one summer without even flinching. But, for once, that club wasn’t Manchester City. A mere £63m was laid out this close-season, almost all of which went on their long-term target Riyad Mahrez. There are few holes in Pep Guardiola jigsaw, and continuity of excellence is what he believes will make them the first back-to-back champions in a decade.
On that note, we come to Arsenal. Continuity had been their thing for almost a quarter of a century under Arsene Wenger’s unwavering philosophy – for better or, increasingly, worse. But Wenger has now moved on and that, too, already feels like a long time ago.
Within two weeks of Wenger’s departure, the new man was announced: Unai Emery has the intriguing task of following an era that was perhaps past its sell-by date: surely no club needed a breath of fresh air more than Arsenal. Emery’s new bodies have been smart-looking alterations rather than bold statements of intent: Stephan Lichtsteiner knows how to win, Bernd Leno is the most modern of goalkeepers, while Lucas Torreira is a new attempt to plug Arsenal’s enduring midfield void.
If it ain’t broke, they say, don’t fix it. These two, in their own way, are looking to prove that. JJ Bull will be here to take you through it all…
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