How City ruthlessly shut out Arsenal- Tactical Points
By Vinay Shankar (Tactical Analyst)
A lacklustre performance interspersed with some moments of quality but playing catch-up after conceding such a soft goal against this City side makes it that much harder to get into the game:
Starting games well is crucial against City and giving away that early goal similar to the League cup game makes the execution of any tactical plan almost impossible to carry out.
Necessary rotations among defensive personnel meant Arsenal were second to everything and City seemed to be cruising. Both full-backs were slow to the diagonals to Sterling and Mahrez and Arsenal were under relentless pressure for the first 20 minutes or so. Cancelo playing as a third midfielder forced Saka inwards leaving a rusty Tierney having his hands full with Mahrez.
City’s false-nine setup meant both Holding and Mari were dragged out of position trying to man-mark. De Bruyne, Gundogan and Silva all seemed to be moving around in this role and if one-centre back follows their man, another attacker will attack that space so it’s a risky strategy.
Clear coordination between the midfielders and the centre-backs is crucial in plugging these spaces. Rotation and fatigue would have certainly impacted this coordination to start with but as the half wore on, the strategy seemed to work better as Arsenal started to win the ball higher up the pitch (especially aerially) and create problems.
There were too many sloppy passes and poor touches all across the board as Arsenal gave the ball away under minimal pressure. Playing out from the back wasn’t working very well initially but as Tierney started to push higher up the field from goal kicks and Xhaka’s passing between the lines became accurate, Arsenal’s threat from the left grew exponentially.
As our left side flourished, we got into the same really promising positions but the end product was visibly lacking throughout the game. Building up from the left with a front five of Tierney, Saka, Aubmeyang, Odegaard, and Pepe, left the Ivorian free on the right but the passing around the edge of the box was the biggest frustration.
Aubameyang and Odegaard weren’t really in sync too much in this game and this prevented Arsenal from building out from the back and create the overloads consistently. There were a few instances around the end of the first half when Odegaard started to make runs in behind to stretch the play but these runs were few and far between and the Norwegian generally stayed deep when Arsenal had the ball and limited his impact.
While City’s right created most of the havoc in the first, they seemed to focus things down the left in the second half and Bellerin was caught out on quite a few occasions. The Spaniard’s body positions tend to leave blind-sided to wingers running in behind and many teams seem to have picked up on this recently.