The match at the Etihad again brings up the perenial question about Arsenal’s fortitude and ability to win the premiership title to the fore.
Having watched a very poor second half where Arsenal failed to keep the ball or make any meaningful foray into the enemy’s half, I am less convinced .
It was not just the poor work in mid field where a seemingly tired Mezut Ozil failed to dictate, where Xhaka and Coquelin played without purpose but also the poverty in attacking potency that let off a less than convincing but fighting Manchester City.
With Iwobi uncharacteristically huffing and puffing on the left flank, Arsene sat unperturbed on the bench waiting for the clock to hit 70 mins before making a substitution. Personally I prefer an animated coach on the bench. A sedated figure twiddling frozen thumbs does not give me inspiration.
When a marginally offside Sane slotted the ball into the net a few minutes into the second half it made the job tougher for an Arsenal team that plodded and plodded without an anvil.
A Raheem Sterling shot into the left corner blew the wind out of Arsenal’s sails as Arsenal trailed 2- 1. After that goal Arsenal looked rugged and listless. The introduction of Mohamed Naser Elneny and Giroud sparked a little run but the damage had already been done.
Pep Guardiola will take heart from the way his team pushed forward in the second half. Arsene Wenger will still be fighting with the zipper. Publicly he will take the blame for the loss as he usually does. Privately he will be scratching his heard about what is afflicting his team.
Those who are perennially doubtful of the strength of Arsenal’s backbone will seize this opportunity to say, “I told you so”, “The team is faltering as usual”.
There is no doubt in my mind that Arsenal has a good bench this season. How to put that bench to good use is the prerogative of the coach. Arsene took too long to freshen up a team that seemed to play with a defeatist mentality. A team that looked mentally sapped of vitality.
A Mourinho whether rightly or wrongly would have taken out an effective Mezut Ozil. Wenger, brilliant a coach he may be, sticks to his stars. Right there is where the team loses it.
Anyone watching that game would seen how Arsenal struggled with the game second half. It was less to do with what Manchester City was doing and more to do with what Arsenal couldnt do right.
Whilst the season is not lost yet, the experiences of the last decade are not far away when the team stumbles the way it did this afternoon at the Etihad.
Until next time folks…
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