Arsenal were exposed, brushed aside and humiliated in a desolate performance that saw them suffer a 3-0 defeat to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday… and now they get to do it all over again in the Premier League.
Perhaps they don’t need to relive the nightmare though. Here’s how The Gunners can, finally, learn from their mistakes.
WRONG MIDFIELD SET-UP
Arsenal were immediately at a disadvantage once the team sheets were out. Wenger opted for a 3-4-3 formation and their central midfield two of Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka was always going to be outnumbered and outmanoeuvred by City’s three in the middle.
In the absence of Raheem Sterling, Pep Guardiola chose to play Kevin De Bruyne in a wider role and solidify his central midfield with a double pivot of Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho while the elusive David Silva operated ahead of them to ensure there was no shortage of creativity from the middle.
Wenger effectively looked at the area in which Guardiola’s side could hurt his the most and decided to give them free reign of the midfield territory.
The likes of Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere were caught in between dropping into midfield to get involved and helping the largely isolated Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up front. They wound up doing neither. If Arsenal are to have any chance against City on Thursday, they need to get the balance in midfield right.
CENTRAL DEFENSIVE THREE
With only Sergio Aguero leading the line for City, he gave Arsenal’s three centre-backs the runaround. Often two of the central defenders were left without a man to mark while there was confusion as to who picks up whom especially when the Argentine dropped off and the likes of Leroy Sane and Silva made runs forward.
Arsenal would’ve been far better served employing a 4-3-3 system like they did against Tottenham, a game they lost 1-0 against superior opposition but at least made it a contest while the formation worked in their victory over Chelsea back in January.
LACK OF INTENSITY
Wenger set his team up to press City but apart from a few good spells at the start of the game, they didn’t pull it off. While the system was flawed, the players have to accept responsibility for the lack of intensity in their play. Guardiola’s side were miles ahead in terms of energy and invariably emerged victorious from 50-50s.
Apart from Wilshere, no Arsenal player really put up a fight, especially after going two goals down. The foundation of so many City attacks is laid down by their build-up play from the back and on Sunday, they were allowed to have it all their own way as Arsenal didn’t close them down quick enough. It’s not just about their energy off the ball though.
Once they gained possession they didn’t move it quickly enough or through the right channels. Arsenal need to get Ozil and Wilshere on the ball sooner and they can in turn attempt to release Aubameyang. Henrikh Mkhitaryan will offer another line of supply for the Gabon striker on Thursday but he can’t be relied on to work hard off the ball.
The then Germany captain penned a three-year deal at Old Trafford in July 2015 as he was reunited with his former Bayern Munich boss in the north west.
However, that link ended after just a year as Van Gaal was sacked and replaced by Mourinho, who froze the experienced midfielder out to such an extent that United had to write him off as an asset in their club accounts.
Schweinsteiger made a brief return to the squad before joining Major League soccer’s Chicago Fire last March, when Mourinho admitted regret at the way he handled things – treatment that irked predecessor Van Gaal.
“Schweinsteiger was, of course, older but not too old,” the former United boss told Sport Bild.
“His body was not able to keep up with the high demands of Premier League.
“Bayern sold him to us as fit player, but, in fact, physically he had reached the end.
“How Mourinho treated him after me, Schweini did not deserve this. But it explains the situation, how it stood with Schweinsteiger.
“It’s a shame because he is a player like Luis Enrique, Mark van Bommel or Philipp Lahm – the guys who always present on the pitch.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
It’s the easiest way to attack Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola and the most-tiring method to downplay his achievements.
Forget his revolutionary tactical innovations, the tired argument goes that the Catalan is nothing short of a chequebook manager whose achievements rely on him lavishing vast sums on recruiting and retaining the game’s grandest talents.
These tropes will come into fresh focus on Thursday when Arsenal and City renew hostilities in the Premier League, less than a week since the latter’s one-sided victory in the League Cup final.
It’s parsimonious Arsene Wenger versus spendthrift Guardiola. But do the characterisations stand up to scrutiny?
Make no mistake, Guardiola has been backed to the hilt since he switched to Etihad Stadium from Bayern Munich for 2016/17.
Abu Dhabi-backed City Football Group have sanctioned a £448 million (Dh2.3 billion) outlay, this lavish spend currently turbo-boosting their side into a 13-point advantage at the top – with a game in hand.
In contrast at Emirates Stadium, owner Stan Kroenke is infamous in American sport for owning franchises which stay in the black but never win trophies. But it is not like the sixth-placed Gunners are minnows.
The Soccerex Football Finance 100, which ranks the world’s top teams based on both their playing and fixed assets, money in the bank, owner potential investment and debt, this January put them behind only City in regards to financial power.
Has the infamous caution of Wenger, the holder of a masters degree in economics, meant not enough pressure has been applied? Was this season’s transfer profit of £7.6m (Dh38.5m) on a £106.7m (Dh540.4m) spend his decision, or the club’s?
The party line since repayments on the Emirates became less onerous in 2014 is that the purse strings are open. Why is there precious little to show for this?
6 - Most points won by managers in the Premier League since August 2016:— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 30, 2017
Antonio Conte: 138 (59 games)
Pep Guardiola: 136 (58 games)
Mauricio Pochettino: 123 (58 games)
Jürgen Klopp: 117 (59 games)
José Mourinho: 113 (59 games)
Arsène Wenger: 112 (58 games)
NO GAINS, BUT PAIN
Looking at pure transfer spend, Wenger has invested just north of £200m (Dh1bn) since Guardiola’s arrival at City.
The Spaniard has spent more than double this amount, but there can be few quibbles about what City have gained. This is certainly not the case in north London.
Previous club-record-buy Alexandre Lacazette £52.7m (Dh266.9m) has not started in the top flight since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was bought on January 31 – little more than six months since his arrival.
Chronic absent-mindedness has been an aspect of Switzerland defensive midfielder Granit Xhaka’s displays since being bought from Borussia Monchengladbach for £35m (Dh177.3m). Spanish striker Lucas Perez is back on loan at Deportivo la Coruna a year since scoring once in 11 Premier League run-outs.
No wonder chief executive Ivan Gazidis has dramatically revamped the recruitment department.
TRAINING FOR THE BIG BUYS
Away from football’s piranha tank of the transfer market, the training pitch is where managers should find solace.
Even here, Wenger’s returns demand scrutiny. The lionised figure who transformed British football two decades before Guardiola and crafted the 2003/04 Invincibles is long gone.
Guardiola has spent big but invested much personally. England centre-back John Stones and Germany winger Leroy Sane are just two recruits who have progressed exponentially under his gaze.
For Wenger, France centre-back Laurent Koscielny is arguably the last non-academy recruit who has grown under him – and he was bought in July 2010.
Don’t be blinded by the big numbers. Guardiola’s bottom line beats Wenger every time.