In yesterday’s pre match blog I said that I thought the midfield pairing would have a bearing on the outcome of the game. I think it’s fair to say I got that one a bit wrong.
In fact, it was the midfield two of Guendouzi and Torreira who I thought came out of the game with any semblance of appreciation from some of the Arsenal fans in the wake of another top six away defeat.
It was our defence – and specifically on that right hand side – that did all of the damage against us yesterday at The Etihad and, having seen who was lining up on the right hand side yesterday, it’s easy to see why that was.
Firstly, Stefan Lichtsteiner, looking every bit his age in a league that requires pace and intensity for most of the season. Perhaps it’s easy to see with the benefit of hindsight how a guy in his mid thirties coming from a slower league like Italy was always going to turn out badly. But the ‘on paper’ sense that we had got ourselves an experienced and versatile player from the Italian Champions has long since evaporated.
Every one of City’s goals yesterday came from his side and quite frankly, when you look at his decision making for the third goal, you start to wonder how this guy ever played so regularly for a team like Juve.
He’s been a terrible acquisition, he costs us goals and points and at this point I think Unai needs to look at yesterday as an opportunity to bring Jenkinson back into the fold. Let’s have him and Maitland-Niles fighting for the right back slot because Lichtsteiner is painful to watch at times.
It’s not all on him though. Let’s also look at the fact that Unai effectively handicapped himself from the start by playing Alex Iwobi. Once again he is showing how painfully out of form he is, once again he is getting a free pass every week, once again we have to watch his brain dead performances.
Yesterday he offered nothing going forward. But what some people tell me is that he is a willing runner and will track back. I’m sorry but just watch him for that second goal we conceded. He literally does nothing other than fill space. He doesn’t pick up a marker, he doesn’t occupy a defensive position which a ball might go in to, he just trots around a bit on the edge of the corner of the 18 yard box.
And yet he continues to be picked.
Look, I know Unai has had injury problems and that has hampered the team, but yesterday we had Ramsey, Özil and even the new signing Suarez on the bench. I don’t know about Suarez as he’s only just joined, but nobody can convince me that Ramsey and Özil night have offered more than Iwobi, because Iwobi did NOTHING in the game. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
But Emery is turning him in to a ‘project’ just like Wenger and as it stands I think we’re now seeing that Iwobi will never be good enough for a team at the top of the Premier League. And by ‘top’ I just mean ‘top half’.
It’s gutting really because we all love to see a youth prospect break through but we’ve seen too many of these performances in the last couple of years and I think it’s time we cut our losses. Or at least send him out on loan for a season and see if it reignites his career. Because right now it’s looking pretty stagnant.
Which is a perfect descriptor for our second half. We all knew we’d most likely lose. We all know City are miles better than us. But the second half performance was devoid of any creativity and it felt like City just felt a little sorry for us, hence just closing out the game with little or no threat from us.
And that’s why I’m a little cheesed off this morning, because I would have hoped for a little more threat from an Arsenal team with two deadly strikers in its starting XI. But therein lies more frustration, because the team Unai named was devoid of that creator in midfield yesterday. I thought Guendouzi had a good game and along with Leno had decent games, but they aren’t game changers offensively and why should they be? They did their jobs well but with nobody to pick up that ball with a bit more vision facing forward, we were always going to struggle.
And that’s why I’m getting frustrated with Emery right now. I’m not suggesting he should go, I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t be behind him all the way, but we can start to question his decision making and at times this season that has been questionable.
I do also wonder what impact the multiple formation changes from game-to-game is having. Are the players able to build any momentum when there’s a different set up to learn each week?
Yesterday we started the game in a 4-4-2 and actually in the first half there was a bit of positivity about the play. But in a reverse of most games this season, we came out in the second half and looked devoid of any invention or desire to drive forward. It was painful to watch at times in the second half and City probably could have handed us a battering if they’d have been more clinical.
It was a poor performance and that doesn’t leave a good taste in the mouth if I’m honest with you. The manager has some thinking to do because we need to see a different Arsenal team next weekend away to Huddersfield.
Catch you all tomorrow.