Sunday, January 18, 2015

GEEKSHEETS: ARSENAL home

Contrary to the firm and lucid words of that good fellow Manuel Pellegrini (to the effect that there were two reasons for City's defeat here, a wrongly awarded penalty and a lack of creativity), I put it to you that there were in fact three reasons and not one of them was a wrongly awarded penalty.

1) WELL DRILLED VISITORS Arsenal played (excellently) a structure that they seem seldom to be even mildly bothered with. In its solidity and depth, it stifled City at source, blocked the talents of David Silva and Sergio Aguero and paved the way for the fast forward-breaking players to shift into gear. In this respect, the defensive play of Coquelin was imperious, as was fellow reserve Bellerin at right back, who gave Milner no chance to shine at all. Standing out even more was a player, who has often appeared lightweight and ill at ease against the really top sides, Santi Cazorla. A vivid display from him put even David Silva in the shade. By finally embracing the idea that Arsenal don't have to be aesthetically perfect every week, Wenger managed to blunt City's own beautiful build-up play in the process.

2) DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD STALENESS In choosing Fernando and Fernandinho, Pellegrini supplied the game with a midfield duo who managed only to duplicate each other's simple stuff, and in Fernando's case, not to any great standard. Missing was the thrust of Yaya Touré and the variety of passing he and Samir Nasri provide. Although Fernandinho was successful with a number of early diagonal balls out to Jesus Navas, as the game wore on, they both got bogged down trying to play short balls that were intercepted time and time again by a hungry and well drilled Arsenal middle order. Playing this duo has worked in away games, where a certain tightness can function to the teams benefit, but here, in a home game where City had the onus of splitting a tightly packed Arsenal open, they were too alike. In this respect, Pellegrini's post match analysis was correct. One wonders then, in retrospect, why he played them both? Presumably he thought that Arsene Wenger would wait until hell freezes over before setting up Arsenal to play like they did.

3) POST INJURY STIFFNESS Once again City's main players looked like they had been hurried back into action a little too quickly. Was Vincent Kompany ready? Although he started well, his passing was a little ragged and he over-elaborated on several occasions. Worse still he picked up a booking for pulling down Giroud and - worse again - he gave away the penalty that set Arsenal on their way, by standing in the way of Nacho Monreal. Despite Pellegrini's protestations, it looked like a good shout by refere Mike Dean. Meanwhile Sergio Aguero looked off the pace at first but grew into the game as City took over in the second period. Still, by the end, he was caught out by the pace of Kieran Gibbs and pulled him back, earning himself a yellow card.

You can read here my ESPNFC player ratings for City


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