Arsenal v Man City Review – Are we really making progress?

Have we made real progress? by Konstantin Mitov

It’s been 14 months since we told Unai Emery ‘Good ebening’ for the last time and the man was released after a poor run of results, and no real indication of how we will get back to the top 4 at least. Today, there’s a lot of praise for Arteta and the work he’s done, yet our league position of 10th doesn’t really back that up.

The squad he inherited was bad. I get it. Not quite top 4 material, but we’ve lost 11 games this year. That’s one more than the 10 we’ve won. In his entire spell at the Emirates (which wasn’t great, don’t get me wrong), Emery lost 13, drew 13 and won 25 in 51 games. He was removed because simply neither the results, nor performances had been great.

Today, it doesn’t feel as obvious as back then that the players aren’t playing for the manager, but results-wise the story hasn’t changed much, if anything it’s gotten worse. And I didn’t want to write much in my frustration that we’ve missed the chance to go back to a top 6 challenge, because the league season was wasted long ago.

The thing that really hurts me is the way we lose. It’s extremely simple mistakes that repeat in similar fashion that cost us and we show no character, ambition and desire to turn things around. There’s no shame in losing 1-0 to Man City, but Sterling, probably the shortest player on the pitch, scoring a header in the second minute, after they had a chance 20 seconds earlier? That’s pure ignorance.

We’ve conceded a few times this season in the first minute, just a few games ago the same thing happened at Villa and in the whole game, we barely produced anything to claw ourselves back into contention. Yesterday was the same thing, we had 15 minutes towards the end of the first half and you think “OK, in the second half we’ll push it more”, yet we were timid.

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 21: (L – R) Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City, Match Referee, Jonathan Moss and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal take a knee. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Aubameyang was awful again. He squandered opportunities against Benfica and yesterday his body language was atrocious. His link up play was non-existent with players trying to pass him the ball, and even his control was poor. For a 350k player that’s unacceptable.

The issue here is that there are too many up and down players at Arsenal. They get on form for a few games and then they disappear. I don’t believe if we had Lacazette up top something would’ve changed. Pepe was back to anonymous. The only real danger man I trust in this squad is Saka, a teenage kid! Sure Phil Foden shines for City for example, but there are quite a few senior players also doing the heavy lifting, and at Arsenal I just wonder who that is?

The only real miss we had was Partey, so I can’t buy the injury excuse. Nobody is excusing Liverpool because Van Dijk is missing, you deal with the players you have. City started with no CF against us and won comfortably which is the real issue.

Another problem I have is that we haven’t had a real CB partnership since Koscielny and Mertesacker. What is our best back 4? It rotates every game. Does it include David Luiz? Will he even be here next season? And can he be trusted with the amount of mistakes he’s made already? Is Holding our most solid CB? A player we almost gave out on loan, but kept because of injuries, has suddenly become integral to our defense, yet he couldn’t mark Sterling of all people for a header?

Gabriel started promisingly, but unfortunately we’ve sucked him into the Arsenal mediocrity camp, and Saliba who we paid 27 mills for is once again impressing in France, yet he couldn’t get a cup game here.

The work we’ve done by offloading Mustafi, Ozil, Kolasinac and Sokratis was really good. We slashed our wage bill and removed players who’ve been poor on the pitch or caused problems outside it. That’s all good, but some of the management decisions remain in question and our league position is where the answer should lie.

We’re now all eggs in the Europa league basket and I’m not sure we’ll easily get past Benfica in Athens. And I don’t want to judge a season on a cup competition unless it’s the Champions League, which we likely won’t participate in again next season. I think we’ve made some good deals in Partey, Gabriel and Odegaard (even on loan). I expect more from this squad, and on paper we can do it.

If we crash out of the Europa League, the season is dead and I want the board to come out and say what are our expectations and targets and how we plan to achieve them, because just throwing money at it won’t do it and I don’t even think enough money will be there to throw.

I don’t dislike Arteta, I think he’s a nice guy, but I fail to see how we’ve improved over the past 14 months, and I wonder how many more seasons we can afford to slip further down?

Konstantin

43 Comments

  1. PJ-SA says:

    Well written.

    Many on here cannot understand that the majority of Arsenal fans do not mind losing at all, what we mind is losing while showing zero “character, ambition and desire to turn things around” as you sum it up well.

    All I hear is trust the process, trust the process, trust the process being blindly repeated again and again. Is the process showing no heart/character until MA gets a full squad of exactly who he wants? Is the process to not even try regardless of who we are playing?

    Sure we don’t have the best squad but it’s not half bad either. I will never criticize a player for not being the best, not everyone can be the best and that’s okay. What I will criticize is players not busting a gut for the badge, and it’s quite clear that is missing in a lot of our games.

    1. ozziegunner says:

      👍PJ-SA, show professional pride as a well paid footballer and pride in playing for the Arsenal.

  2. Silentstan says:

    I said when we were interviewing UE that Arteta was not the right man. A club our size should
    Not be breaking in ex players. The decisions at this club for years has been suspect. It is clear Arteta must go, look at the screw ups. Ozil , Saliba ,Willian , Balogun. persisting with our of form players Aubamayang and Pepe. Continued mixing up the CB’s. Lacca scores 4-drop him. Not bettering Bellerin. Selling all KT back ups. We are heading for no European involvement and people keep saying Arteta is moving us forward. There is no evidence of tyis whatsoever

    1. Sean says:

      I totally agree with you. Those idiotic decisions from Arteta really baflles me.

    2. ahmad73 says:

      Silentstan: you have nailed it. Arteta is out of his depth.

  3. Baba sagna says:

    There’s a saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step. The only mistake Arteta made was beginning with two cup wins, he set the bar high by starting his journey with two steps. Most Gooners knew in their hearts that the club’s rebuild would take a lot of time due to the self sustaining policy and the clear rot in the insanely unbalanced squad. Infact most were even willing to give the manager up to three years to set his squad, but the cup wins made some think that the rebuild has been bypassed and we were unto winning things. This manager has only bought two starting players in Partey and Magalhaes, the rest are rotational options which means his rebuild hasn’t even started yet. we have two striker’s with only one attribute each,whereas his system needs a striker to be dynamic, he’s had to make use of what he has and yet Arteta is a bad manager to some. Most folks on here who slate the manager everytime are mostly the ones who already hate him or are still sore because their preferred manager Ancelotti or Mourinho weren’t hired. For me, I can see what Mikel’s trying to achieve, if others fail to see it, that’s why we’re humans. But blindness also has a limit.

  4. Vinnie2000 says:

    Nice written, Mr Konsastin!!👍👍..D creator of realistic and non-sentimental posts!!
    Arsenal currently has made progress honestly, in Defensive areas!! We now concede lesser goals!!
    Holding, Gabriel and Pablo Mari are better, stronger and seemed focussed than Mertesacker, Gabriel Paulista, Kolsielny, Djourou of AW years!!
    Also Mohammed Elneny and Partey has added Steel in d DM area!!
    D Team’s is attack!! Aubameyang, Lacazette, Pepe and Willian re washed-out players!! They are way too slow n sluggish!!They should be offloaded ASAP!!
    Speedy attack win you games!! Look@Leceister!! Harvey Barnes, Vardy, Perez, etc..Man utd, Martial, Rashford, Daniel James, Greenwood..
    Remember our attack of Iwobi, Alexis Sanchez and Walcott in 2016/2017!! Attack is simply Arsenal’s problem!!

  5. Sean Williams says:

    Arteta sadly has not improved us in more than a year at the helm. He is not a good manager of men, or tactics, or most importantly……playing football. He is stuck in a slow archaic style of football that is so hard to watch. The lack of desire that Arsenal have shown to get a quality manager is sad. We are a dying monolith of a club, without the balls to say goodbye to the worst manager for a long long time. We need a manager on the level of Rogers, Ancelotti, Guardiola. We are making history as the most useless team in Arsenal history. Why? Because of rubbish, self harming management!

  6. antonioro says:

    Arteta out!Enough is enough.The “ king of sideways and backward passing” must go.He is clueless yet arroogant.14 months to do nothing other than increase mediocrity and confusion.No excuse.Experienced managers(Big Sam) coming in the middle of the season and producing instant impact and results with relegation materials.Cannot substitute experience with hypes for “ future success”.As bad as he was(giving the poor support he received),Unai Emery was a master of the game compared with this inept so-called “ coach”.I mean,why is Arteta”s case different than Lampard case?Lampard is truly a legend and ine of the greatest in history of football.But this didn’t shield him for being sacked when results didn’t back him.But Arteta?A nobody?Who’s keeping this mediocre “ coach” on the bench?

    1. gotanidea says:

      Arteta also made an instant impact last season

      Even if we lose EL, Kroenke would likely not fire him due to the economic problems. So we’d better support him till summer, since we’ve got no budget to replace him with expensive managers like Allegri

  7. gotanidea says:

    Yes, because we’re more solid defensively and have made more good crosses. Unfortunately the five red cards have demoralized the squad and Arteta made some weird tactical decisions

    If Aubameyang has to start as a lone striker again with Odegaard behind him at the upcoming Benfica game, Arteta has to make sure their positions interchange swiftly. In the last two games, their positions were to static, Aubameyang couldn’t hold the ball at all and Odegaard’s style was just too similar to Ozil’s

    In my opinion, Arteta shouldn’t have tinkered with the winning team too much. Either make Lacazette, Smith-Rowe and Saka start together, or make Aubameyang, Odegaard and Smith-Rowe swap their positions frequently

    1. PJ-SA says:

      I’ve mentioned this to you before but I’ll say it again.

      A good defensive structure provides a platform for a swift, efficient attack and well as solidity at the back. It does not only mean conceding less goals.

      1. PJ-SA says:

        You mention more good crosses which I agree with completely, we have definitely put in more crosses.

        May I ask to who on earth are we crossing to?????Terrible tactics when you look at our attackers.

        1. gotanidea says:

          Conceding less goals does actually show our defense improvement, especially after the goal galore humiliations in the end of Wenger’s tenure

          Aubameyang and Lacazette were supposed to connect with the crosses, as what Mane, Salah, Firmino, Jesus and Sterling did. Unfortunately both Aubameyang and Lacazette aren’t as good as Liverpool’s trident, in the heading department

          If you have time, please watch this excellent analysis about Liverpool’s crosses and their trident’s heading ability, starting at 04:30:

          youtube.com/watch?v=3gP5s9YVYBs

      2. Baba sagna says:

        I’m sorry sir but who are the swift and efficient attackers you talking about? Aubameyang? Lacazette? Pepe? Willian? Please enlighten me

        1. PJ-SA says:

          I said attack, not attackers, please read properly.

          1. Baba sagna says:

            Oh sorry sir, but doesn’t an attack consists of attackers? Please elaborate more sir? And the original question hasn’t been answered sir.

          2. PJ-SA says:

            If you need help identifying good players then maybe footballs not for you, not sure if you understand how football works. You do understand that a whole team can be involved in an attack right? Not just attackers

            Saka
            Martinelli
            ESR
            Odegaard
            Auba+Laca (on their day)

          3. Baba sagna says:

            Lol… you contradict yourself man, joining an attack doesn’t make you an attacker. So why did you bracket Auba and laca as (on their day) considering the fact that they are our senior goalgetters and bearing in mind that you said our swift and “efficient” players. If you understand an atom of what you’re saying then why would an efficient player need to be on his day? Or do you find efficient too big a word? Sorry man, I think Darts is a better sport for you…

  8. Singing Camel says:

    This is a very odd season because of the truncated schedule. It’s impossible to play a settled side with little recovery time. I completely agree that continuity would bring an upturn in performance and results but the reality is we have very few exceptional players to start with.
    Arteta said he needed 6 players to truly play his brand of football and I trust that he is correct.
    I’ve written the season off and want this to now be a lengthy pre season for Arteta to plan moving ahead.
    I’m thrilled to see ESR, Saka develop and I’m sure KT, Martinelli will continue to improve when they regain full fitness.
    These players will need to be built around but I’m excited we have some genuinely great prospects to develop.
    I’m interested to ask fellow Gooners how many of our Squad would get into the following sides-
    City
    Liv
    Man U
    Che
    Lei

    If you think our current squad should be well represented in those teams then I’m happy for you to criticise Arteta.
    If barely any of our players feature in your sides(5-6 players) I can’t see how you expect us to be high up the league at present.

  9. Mobella says:

    Base on our standing on the table no and we could move further down if Leeds win today. Arteta has made us concede less but that does not translate to better defensive unit because our defending is atrocious and comedic and we likely to concede goals every game than score one. Our defenders are marking empty space instead of opposition players, they mark or tackles . We finished 8 last season having lost 10 games now we are in 10th In 25 games with 11 loses and people call that improvement. Is 10th now higher than 8th in positioning.

  10. Wyoming says:

    Emery had by today’s standards a phenomenal first season. Making the EL final and finishing 5th in the league missing Cl by just one point with a dog of a squad. The board got greedy and demanded top 4 immediately which Emery could not deliver. Arteta led Arsenal to the worst league placing in 25 years and a humiliating EL exit in the round of 32. An F A cup win after the covid break papered over the cracks. Much was expected this season especially with Bellerin and Tierney available the addition of central defence of Gabriel and Partey the ultra expensive frontline of Auba Laca and Pepe and the emergence of Saka and the return of Martinelli. However Arteta has struggled to get a tune out of this much vaunted squad. Emery was sacked for not making top 4 but Arteta has been retained though he only just scraped EL. Also Arteta unlike Emery can speak good English and like a politician can convince fans that after every loss to a crummy rival it was just bad luck and we were the best but for injuries and refereeing
    decisions. So what is stopping Arsenal sacking a Manager with a terrible record two seasons running despite an expensive squad? I think Arteta’s chances of retaining his Managers job rests solely with him winning the EL.

    1. ozziegunner says:

      Wyoming, after finishing 5th and losing the Europa League final (both improvements on Arsenal’s previous season) in his first season, without any say in the players bought for him to coach, Emery was sacked in his second season for losing 3 games in 8. Emery was a well credentialled, experienced manager.
      After the same number of games under Arteta, Arsenal is 14 points worse off. Credit must be given to Arteta winning the FA Cup, but a Club like Arsenal can’t live off this for too long.
      A Club will lose credibility if managers/head coaches are not judged by the same criteria.
      Emery although a proven manager, was unable to communicate effectively in English to players (multi linguil for the most part), but more importantly with the media and fans. He would have been better taking a leaf out of Bielsa and Ponchettino’s (initial) book and given his press conferences with an interpreter. Unfortunately he lost the public relations battle, something in which Arteta is so far holding his own.
      Given that the last manager to lose 10 games, not 11 in a season was Terry Neill and he was sacked, Arteta has to be under pressure. All we should expect is for Arsenal to judge all managers to the same performance criteria, otherwise it will be too far back.

  11. lcw says:

    ” We slashed our wage bill”

    Sorry this statement is not accurate. Whether the money is paid as lump sum or monthly, it qualifies as big spending and a loss.

    We gave away those players for nothing. On top of that, we invested heavily in players who are not producing like Auba and Willian.

    “we’ve made some good deals in Partey, Gabriel and Odegaard “.

    First of all we could have skipped Gabriel since we had Mary and Saliba.

    Second we made the decision to play without a No 10 only to play with two No 10s later.

    You can hate on Ozil all you want, but his departure cost us double by releasing him for free and by paying for a less qualified replacement.

    Why are they a good deal when we are loosing?
    We were winning more with the players we discarded.

    Listen, nobody should dislike Artera and shame on those who do, but let’s stop lying to ourselves.. His hiring brought in the worst period in Arsenal’s history and will have ramifications for time to come.

  12. Wyoming says:

    My comments are not going through today

  13. Adajim says:

    you see no improvement, but I see how we have improved defensively. Those mistakes you mentioned such as against villa and yesterday were personal player mistakes which has nothing to do with the coach.
    I dont know what is the situation with Martinelli but I feel the presence of lacca and AUBA are really on the way of his progress, he himself hasn’t done much, he is a gamble, ppl want him because of his last season contribution but since coming back from the injury he only had one good game, so in training he probably hasn’t reached the level MA wanted. We all could hear Solsjer telling Rashford to press against him in the Utd game, which shows he wasn’t doing great

    And AUBA, ppl say he is like Vardy and will do well in counter attacking side, but his positioning is awful for a counter attacking side. A lot of time he doesn’t position himself well, most people blame our midfield for sideways passes but do you care to know why we pass sideways? The attack are not giving enough movements to get good passes. I saw ODE passing back too, this confirm the lazy nature of our attackers

  14. Adajim says:

    Most people complain about Xhaka and our midfield been slow. May I remind you that the only Shit we had came from KT and the pass is from Xhaka, this happened because KT made the run, why is AUBA not making such run into space? Why is he staying in a congested space. I hope MA understand lacca and AUBA have past their best, I hope he start believing in Martinelli and get another CF

    1. Adajim says:

      The only shot on target

      1. Declan says:

        I think you had it right the first time🤣🤣

    2. ozziegunner says:

      Adajim, in the games Odegaard has played, he has taken up positions in space only to have players, such as Bellerin ignore him. Aubameyang needs the ball to feet with him running towards goal, thus the ball has to played quickly into space. His productivity has dropped off because he is not making these runs, as you state. Also he seems to have lapses of concentration that cause inexplicable misses, such as against Benfica. However Arsenal continues to play crosses into the box with no proficient header in the forward line. The treatment of Martinelli, as well as the dropping of Lacazette, when in scoring form, as well as the constant tinkering with line ups are unfathomable.

  15. Sean says:

    Yes, we progress backwards. Mikel Arteta is a Dimwit that must be sacked. Totally clueless!!! Pepe plays much better on the left while Saka plays much better at the right and yet against City, he swap their position. It is clear that Odegard is not having a good game and he took more then 75mins to sub him off with ESR?

  16. Tony says:

    Matinelli’ is as good as Saka, like it or not adajim’ he needs game time as much as possible to keep him boosted but MA I don’t know what’s milking his brain constantly leave him benched. Honestly MA tinkers more than Emery and that’s badt.
    Criticize Holding as much as you want, I dare say Holding got some balls than Auba. Auba was totally a badt deal, I like him but I wanted him gone 260k was okay for him but his greediness got out of control yeah it did.
    Naturally I dislike Pepe why because his clumsy. Gervinho was better..

    1. Vinnie2000 says:

      @Tony!! How Pepe is so rated by some fans surprises d hell outta me!!
      A player whom u say Gervihno is better than speaks volume of his quality!! This is same Gervihno who we all slated as an ‘headless chicken winger’ and was sold by AW after 2 seasons!!
      Pepe is languid and lacks skills and any special football ability!! An atrocious waste of 72M!!
      Aside that, This Arsenal team ain’t bad defensively!! DM is quite good!! Problem is d Attack!! We hav’got Deadwoods there!! Just don’t want to mention their names!!

  17. Grandad says:

    Any progress we are making is limited by the lack of real quality available to Arteta.Look at it this way, how many players in our squad would have a hope of holding down a place with the likes of Man City or Liverpool, despite their problems this season.To my mind only Partey, Tierney and Saka would have a chance while the likes of Martinelli and ESR might interest these Clubs.That in a nutshell, is how far we have fallen down the pecking order.Players such as Leno, Holding and perhaps Gabriel can still be effective in the EPL but as for the others, they are either last their best of they have never been of the quality we need to be a force again.I don’t envy the task before Arteta , which is why I will not jump on the band wagon of supporters who continually criticise him.He has a huge challenge ahead of him, and I wish him well.

    1. ozziegunner says:

      Grandad, unfortunately Emery wasn’t given the same patience. Some of the football Arsenal played in the Europa League in reaching the final was top class, despite only being head coach, no say in player recruitment and a severe injury toll.

      1. ClassyGunner says:

        Ozzie, I think the sacking of emery was right. He stupidly prioritized EL when 3rd in the PL was firmly in grasp and ultimately lost both.

        1. ozziegunner says:

          CG, I am not arguing that Arsenal did not do the right thing sacking Emery, because a club always finds it easier to jettison a manager, than to get rid of the players who downed tools on him. The players downing tools in both the run in at the end of the season to throw away top four and the Europa League Final cost Emery his job. My question is why isn’t Arteta held to the same standards for equity and fairness?

  18. Dan kit says:

    The football this season as been on par with the diabolical football we was seeing under Emery which does not bode well for Arteta come end of season,unless he can pick up now and go in a good run in the EL (I don’t mean getting to the final and being totally embarrassed)and maybe climb up a Few spots in the league im afraid we could be once again looking for a new manager .
    It was never going to be an easy task picking up the mess Emery left behind but he managed it in his first 6months and now the bar as been set to high for him to reach it again .

    1. ozziegunner says:

      Dan, Emery did not leave a mess; it was the players undermining him.

  19. Grandad says:

    Ozzie, I hear what you say but we are where we are and to my mind there is no point in !looking back on the merits, or demerits of Wenger or Emery.The point I am trying to emphasise is the poor quality of our squad and the failure of experienced internationals such as Auba, Lacca and Xhaka to make a real contribution.During the past decade our failure to recruit wisely has led to our downfall.Compare us with Leicester City who have not paid more than 25m for any player during that period.A team is only as good as its weakest parts.Leicester have 3 quality right backs, we do not have any.Leicester has 3 quality centre back, we , at best have perhaps.Leicester has the best DM in the League.We do not have a quality DM.And so it goes on and on.Basically we do not have enough good players to bring about a resurgence in our fortunes.

    1. ozziegunner says:

      Grandad, I don’t disagree; however it doesn’t help when the players don’t pull their weight and don’t play to their potential.

  20. jon fox says:

    Konstantin, unlike the woeful araticle by Highbury Hero just yesterdaY which made no attempt whatever at balance, YOUR far better article DOES at least give some balance, so praise then for that at least.
    I do differ a great deal on your conclusion though, as I knew all along that MA inherited a club in a shambles and had a massive job to remove all our non productive deadwood and coaster, which he has not yet concluded.

    Though he has made a good start at least in removing many of those harmful types. He has also made mistakes it is true and Willian must be by far the worst of those. It is imperative that Willian is somehow moved out ASAP.

    But, given the appalling uninterest of our dreadful owner with no financial input from him, no manager on earth could work miracles with a still unbalanced and not good enough squad.

    I know it will take time and have the patience to wait. So many do not and that is the difference between those who live in the real world and those who consider themselves entitled to all they want and want it NOW!

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