Man City 1-0 Arsenal: Big six away day woes continue
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
Another trip to a 'big six' opponent, another failure to end our abysmal run of winless games stretching back to January 2015 at these opponents grounds. We've now gone 29 games without attaining all 3 points on the road against the big six. Even without the intimidating atmosphere that has impeded us in these fixtures in years gone by, we were still unable to claim anything against a below par Manchester City, who were lacking several key players.
A 1-0 defeat probably would've been met with relative indifference before the game. Expectations going into these games are so low, that frustration, disappointment or anger at such a narrow defeat would be somewhat unjust. However, the depleted nature of this Manchester City side, combined with the way in which the match played out left Arsenal fans quite frustrated at the result. On the balance of play, we probably deserved more.
After what was a timid opening 25 minutes, where we sat off City, not pressing at all and let them control possession, we finally burst into life as starboy Bukayo Saka carried an offensive side lacking ingenuity or any sort of fluidity in the final third. All of our good combinations came down that side, with Kieran Tierney and Saka linking up well on several occasions to create dangerous overloads on City's unconventional right-hand side.
If we'd taken one of the two good opportunities in this period leading up to half-time, in which we asserted ourselves and dominated the ball, we may well have come out of the encounter feeling much more positive about our prospects. First, Bukayo Saka showed superb determination to drive inside the half space, winning the ball back on two occasions, before playing a brilliant one-two with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and forcing an excellent save from Ederson. Then, after some ricochets and chaotic play, Aubameyang found himself one on one with the Brazilian goalkeeper, but was quickly smothered, with his effort not audacious enough to find the back of the net. This had been deemed offside, but replays showed it was in fact very clearly on. If you don't take these sorts of chances at a place like the Etihad, you can't expect to come away with anything. Adding to this a blatant penalty that wasn't given when Kyle Walker attempted to kick Gabriel's head off, and it's safe to say luck was not on our side yesterday.
The second half was a bit of drab affair. After City had notched up roughly 1.2 xG in the first period, they un-Pep like sat back and absorbed our pressure, managing just 0.2 xG in the second period. This weirdly passive tactical approach to the second period allowed us to build momentum as had a lot more of the ball, but we still lacked incision and penetration when getting into the final third, and failed to muster up another 'big chance' (xG of above 0.2).
Having said this, something I have regularly criticised about this Arsenal Arteta side is our concerningly low shot volumes. Including Aubameyang's onside shot that wasn't registered, we managed 12 attempts yesterday evening- 8 more than we managed at Anfield a few weeks ago, and double what we managed at the Emirates against Sheffield United a fortnight ago. City only had 13 themselves (Liverpool had 21 against us), so both our ability to prevent shots was improved and our ability to create shooting opportunities was much improved, despite quite a few of them being long-range, low xG efforts. It's still a much needed step in the right direction.
Ultimately, we're all left feeling disappointed at what could have been. Nevertheless, let's look at the bright side and the good elements of our performance. We move.