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.
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