It’s very much a case of back to the drawing board for Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta after he witnessed a terrible display and an all-round awful 90 minutes last night as the Gunners went down to a 3-0 defeat against Manchester City in the Premier League. It was roughly three Covid-19 months since the top flight has seen any football and it could easily be the feeling of Gunners fans everywhere that they wait another three months before they are in action again, such was the paucity of the performance.
Arteta, making a return to the Etihad Stadium for the first time since he left his role as City’s No.2 to boss Pep Guardiola, saw his team deliver a limp display in the defeat in which the ineffective visitors didn’t even manager a single shot on target. Indeed, perhaps even more condemning of the awful performance was the stark fact that the Gunners had two just two shots all night. Dreadful.
In fairness, it didn’t help Arteta’s plans that midfield ace Granit Xhaka and central defender Pablo Mari were both taken off during the early skirmishes of the first half. It meant that the Spanish coach was forced to reshuffle his pack and re-arrange his tactical game plan; it also meant that he was forced to bring on David Luiz from the bench. And it was the often-cumbersome Brazilian defender Luiz who was at fault for the first goal. He failed to deal with a simple ball into the danger area and it fell kindly to Raheem Sterling who smashed the ball into the net for 1-0 to the hosts. The error and subsequent goal came just before the break and was a little cruel on the visitors who perhaps deserved to go in to the interval all square.
The second half, however, was vastly different and the home side were dominant from the first kick until the last. Luiz saw red after giving away a penalty — despatched with full force by the irrepressible Kevin De Bruyne for 2-0 before the home side made the score line more emphatic — and in keeping with their superiority it has to be said, with a late strike from Phil Foden.
Arsenal must lick their wounds and get over this damaging defeat ahead of their next Premier League outing which is at Brighton on Saturday. At least the pressure is off a little, though; for on this evidence they have no chance of making a surge up the league table to a top four spot and a push for Champions League qualification. For Arteta and Arsenal, it’s all about shaping and building for next season surely…