An Opportunity Amid Distress

Written by @ArsenalView_

In many ways Everton away, managed by Koeman, was going to be the toughest fixture of December.  If all the games that Wenger has played against Koeman were awarded points (in the league format), he would have 10 points from 12 games!  The strange albatross of the Dutch pretender to Arsene’s throne is an unusual one.  From my brief recollection, it is difficult to bunch Koeman’s teams that played us (Ajax, PSV, AZ Alkmaar, Southampton and Everton) into any common style characterestics that define his teams.

In many ways, Manchester City was the easier game for Arsenal than Everton due to their ropiness at the back.  Even in earlier seasons, when Manchester City was at their peak, it was a big fixture that we have fared better vis-à-vis games against the other top sides.  Unlike Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge, Arsenal has shown the ability earlier to get results at the Etihad.  Coupled with the suspensions of Aguero, Fernandinho and the injuries to Gundogan and Kompany, it provides us the best opportunity for an away win to a big side in the league, a marker to serve as a reference for our other big away games later this season.  I was saying this in Twitter earlier – Only Silva and De Bruyne will make a combined XI from the players that they have left for Sunday.  This is as good an opportunity as that we would probably get in the next many years to beat Manchester City at the Etihad.  If we look at the way Manchester City play, it should get clearer on how our strengths give us a good chance against this City side.

On Sunday, we can expect Manchester City to line up similar to their formation against Watford of 4-2-3-1.  Fernando should come in for Gundogan with the rest of the team to possibly continue as-is.  For a team that is built on short passing and with few pure wingers, it is interesting to pluck out the touches of the attacking 5 from that game (Toure, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling and Nolito).

Manchester City- Attacking 5 against Watford

Source: Whoscored.com (https://www.whoscored.com/Matches/1080740/Live)

The majority of the touches are on the wings.  They do not build much through the center, and vacate the space for the defensive midfielder and possibly a center back to anchor the play.  If we look at the game against Chelsea when they played 3-4-2-1, their heatmap continues to be oriented to the wings.  The key area to defend in this game would be low crosses whipped into the box for incoming runners.  If we can win this battle, we should be able to do well defensively. As compared to the prospect of facing a team which can run through the center like Liverpool, or a team which is strong in aerial crosses, I would accept the odds of facing low crosses into the box (albeit, Manchester City at its best, are probably the best in Europe in this game)

The real area that enhances our chances is their defense.  Their defense, including the goalkeeper, do not fancy a team that can press them in possession.  If we are on our game, the Sanchez- Coquelin nexus of pressing could provide us with the breakthrough in this game.  Their defense does not seem particularly strong against a quick counter attack, partly due to their high line and partly because their defenders are not really that good.  Some of our best goals have been on the break this season, and if nothing, Manchester City should give us plenty of opportunities on this front.

The Second Coming of Coquelin happened at the Etihad when he dominated the midfield alongside Cazorla against Fernando and Fernandinho.  A sulky Toure and Fernandinho should theoretically be an easier midfield battle for us to win.  If we can control the midfield and feed our wide runners, we should have considerably joy in this game.  I would not be surprised, especially in the light of the Everton game, that Arsene decides to sit deeper at the Etihad and play on the break.

For all my positivity, I would not be wholly surprised if we do concede.  Monreal has not had the best of seasons and a team focused on attacking through the right wing, like Manchester City (their right wing preference is clearer in the Chelsea game, as against Watford), could get some change against him.  A battle for Monreal against De Bruyne/Sterling/Silva does not fill my mind with the greatest of confidence.  I expect us to concede, but our best chance is to exploit them on the other side.  This Manchester City team has the ability crumble in a space of minutes, the way Leicester, and to a lesser extent Celtic, have demonstrated earlier this season.  If we have a proper go and have the “ten minute moments” that I talked about last week, we could storm into a healthy lead very quickly.  Everton was a depressing affair, partly because of where we had them when we took the lead.  We cannot afford taking the foot off the gas against Manchester City.  If I was a betting man, I would bet this game would not finish 1-0 to either side.  I expect this game to possibly end 4-2.  Hopefully we take the onus and finish on the right side of that score.



 

Gooner Ramble

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