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Arsenal cement worst ever start to season with humbling collapse at Man City

Arteta under pressure as Gunners are thrashed at the Etihad

28 August, 2021 — By Richard Osley

Mikel Arteta is struggling

FA Premier League
MANCHESTER CITY 5 (Gundogan 7, Torres 12, 84, Gabriel Jesus 43, Rodri 53)

HOW low can Arsenal go? After a breathtakingly bad display at Manchester City, don’t rule anything out.

There are lots of excuses and explanations that manager Mikel Arteta may reach for and, of course, the Gunners were up against the champions of England.

But the manager looked utterly clueless once again today (Saturday) and the players devoid of thirst for the challenge of playing the country’s best. The moment that summed up this ugly start to the new season came when Granit Xhaka – the player who Arteta has backed with a new contract – dived two footed into a challenge that could only lead to a red card.

Arsenal were already 2-0 down at this stage and with their backs against the wall, and here was the man talked up by the management as the experienced pro and one of the deputy club captains showing his mindless streak. Arteta can talk about unprecedented injuries and misfortune, but this was Xhaka’s eleventh career sending off. Arteta slapped him on the back as a sign of support as he left the field. Again, it seemed like he thought this was all unfair and unlucky, rather than the obvious moment of stupidity that it was.

Xhaka was halfway out of the door in the summer, but the manager eventually invited him back and now puts his name on the teamsheet first for every game. You can see why so many fans are beginning to question the advice that they must ‘trust the process’.

You will hear about the patience that Liverpool showed, allowing Jurgen Klopp to cultivate a championship winning side at Anfield.  Klopp, however, did not pass 18 months in charge with a list of so many avoidable errors. Arteta has his fingerprints on the signing of Willian on extortionate wages and the failure to manage a talent like Mesut Ozil. He repeatedly trusted the loose cannon David Luiz and does the same with Xhaka.

Some players who showed promise have cycled backwards under his tutelage, while the French prospect William Saliba must wonder how he has not been called upon when he watches the hapless defending of Calum Chambers, Cedric Soares, Rob Holding and, today, also Saed Kolisinac – another player who had more than half a step away from the club only a few days ago but still made the starting XI.

Goalkeeper Bernd Leno played well today but Arsenal used a fair chunk of their transfer window spending, which passed the £100 million mark, on buying a back-up stopper, the summer after letting Argentina international Emi Martinez leave on the cheap. Another bit of mismanagement.

The list goes on, but worst of all is the failure to generate a spark in the players that are on the pitch, or even provide some strategy on how to defend as a unit or to score a goal. It’s played three, won none, drawn none, lost all three, nine goals conceded and not one scored. Hopeless.

The speed of which City went ahead underlined the gulf in class and enthusiasm.

Arsenal had held the ball well for about five minutes but that was going to be the peak of their achievements. In their first attack, Pep Guardiola’s team delivered a cross which Ilkay Gundogan – far smaller than those in red around him – was somehow able to reach first and head into the net. Five minutes later and it was already two: Ferran Torres steering the ball home after several botched attempts to clear the ball.

Then came Xhaka’s party trick of getting a red card, before a tap in for City forward Gabriel Jesus returned a 3-0 half time score.

It was then just a matter of how many City would score. Arsenal were literally playing just to keep the score down with nearly every player behind the ball. Even then City found space to create a host of chances. They may have taken more but settled for Rodri’s long range strike and a header from Torres – again scored while unmonitored by the big centre halves.

Raheem Sterling was wasteful in his pursuit for a place on the scoresheet but it made no odds to City.

MANCHESTER CITY: Ederson, Walker (Zinchenko), Cancelo, Dias, Laporte, Silva (Sterling), Rodri, Gundogan, Grealish, Gabriel Jesus (Mahrez), Torres
SUBS NOT USED: Ake, Doyle, Fernandinho, Palmer, Steffen, Stones

ARSENAL: Leno, Soares, Tierney, Chambers, Holding, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Odegaard (Maitland Niles), Smith Rowe, Saka (Elneny), Aubameyang (Lacazette)
SUBS NOT USED: Lokonga, Mari, Martinelli, Okwonko, Ramsdale, Tavares


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