I expected us to lose against City because they’re two years into the development of their team under Pep. His training, his identity of his team, the way they press, the acquisition of the types of players he wants; all of it was quite clearly evident yesterday as City we’re controlled, they took their chances when they got them and in reality it felt like we never really got going against the Champions.
Perhaps I’m naive though, because I did think that we’d see a little more from The Arsenal yesterday, even taking in to account the fact that Emery has basically had two months to work with these players and that’s it.
When I say I thought I’d see more though, I’m almost exclusively talking about going forward, because I thought we were pretty poor in that respect. It’s Monday morning, I’m on the train and I haven’t watched any replays of the game, but to me I can only really recall one or two big chances created and nothing to majorly test Ederson in the city goal.
And that’s where the disappointment and regret comes this morning because City are far from purring at the moment and I wondered if we might be able to catch them a little cold on the first day. Especially when we were going forward.
I thought Auba was quite for most of the game, but Özil and Mkhi were particularly anonymous and this is the type of game in which you want us to see the best of those players. Ramsey too was ok going forward and carried on looking busy throughout, but we just seemed to lack a spark going forward, and that worried me a bit.
Hey, I’m not going too ballistic though and it feels like most of the fanbase has reacted in a similar fashion, which is an encouraging sign. I guess we all knew that City were way better than us and the game yesterday just showed us what a pickle Wenger left us in. We are the sixth best team in the league and yesterday it showed. At halftime I spoke to the lads in the concourse about it feeling like we could have been watching Watford playing City at home. The reason I say this is because of our lack of chances and drive going forward. When teams like Watford play City they kind of already know they’re one down early on and so the game becomes a little like containment and the hope of the odd chance that might lead to a goal. That’s what it felt like to me in the first half and again that’s why I guess I was a little disappointed with players like Mkhitaryan, who looked invisible for large parts of the game.
Midfield was where the surprises were seen and Guendouzi starting raised an eyebrow or two, but the kid did alright. He doesn’t look out of place in this league and is composed enough on the ball, but we were reminded that he’s a young kid who will make mistakes and he was poor for their first goal and make a rick in the second half that could have led to Aguero scoring in the second.
I guess we just need to accept that this is what we’re going to get from a promising player, but at least he showed enough for people to get excited, which is more than I am say for Xhaka. For me he looked very rusty and given he came back late to the team you can understand, but in the cold light of day you just wonder whether we’d have been better off having a player with more energy and movement in front of our back four rather than the Swiss midfielder.
Which is why the Torreira substitution was heartwarming because he also didn’t look out of place and slotted in to the team well. He’s a player that I think we’re going to grow to love but if the faith is also going to be put in for Guendouzi then you do wonder what that will mean for Xhaka, certainly in the long term, because on yesterday’s performance you wonder whether he’ll be getting a start next week.
What is clear with Emery is that there is no favourite in this squad. Rambo was hooked after 58 minutes for a tactical switch when Emery realised it wasn’t working – a very welcome sign indeed (that he wants to change it, not that Rambo came off) – and I think we’ll see players playing one week and not the next based on how he thinks the opposition will line up. That’s comforting to know as a fan and I hope we get another indication of that against Chelski.
What I also hope we see is that Leno is given a shout. Watching Petr Cech middle his way through a role in the team as sweeper-keeper was uncomfortable at times, suicidal at others, especially when he nearly passed the ball into his own net. Many of us have wondered why on Earth we were buying what sounded like an average ‘keeper from the Bundesliga in Leno but, just like Pep did when he signed Bravo and replaced Hart with him because he was better with the ball at his feet, perhaps that’s what we’re seeing now. Perhaps Leno is the player for now like Bravo was for City?
Perhaps the same can be said about our back line too though? I felt for Maitland-Niles up against that City team and then picking up an injury. It’s the last think you want on the first weekend of the season but this is The Arsenal, and every year we have somebody who gets crocked on the first weekend, the unofficial ‘sacrificial lamb’ as it were. The footballing gods sadly chose Ainsley and I’m sure we’ll now find out he’s out until December.
Lichtsteiner came on and did alright though, but I’ll look forward to seeing Monreal back, perhaps even with Lichtsteiner on the right hand side against Chelski? It’s probably unlikely because I don’t think Bellerin did much wrong.
This was always going to be a tough ask. This start to the season – when you look at what most of the other ‘big’ teams have got to play as they get their players up to speed – hasn’t exactly helped Emery and so for me I think most of us are probably viewing the season as a reboot after that game. Which means even a point at their place is probably just a bonus.
Right, that’s enough from me for one day, so you have a good one. We’re off and running. Up the Arsenal.