Manchester City have assembled a truly incredible array of talent.
At one point during their game against Brighton in Saturday their was a goal mouth scramble.
Leroy Sane put the ball in, Sergio Aguero had a chance, Raheem Sterling followed it up before Bernardo Silva’s shot was cleared to the edge of the box, where David Silva was waiting to recycle the ball.
What this passage of play showed was how much attacking talent City have. And Kevin de Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez were not involved. That is £147m of talent there.
To take that into perspective, City not playing those 3 is the financial equivalent of Arsenal not starting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil.
Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi and Emile Smith Rowe don’t quite have the same ring to them as Aguero, Silva and Sane do they?
But this isn’t a blog about the difference in the financial strength of the sides. We know that already.
What was eye-opening was that City were able to have all 5 on the pitch in one go, and look incredibly balanced.
Meanwhile Unai Emery is trying to fit Aubameyang, Lacazette, Ozil and Aaron Ramsey into the same team and it looks anything but balanced.
City do have the advantage that there players have been together for a while now.
Aguero and David Silva joined in 2011 & 2010 respectively. Raheem Sterling is in his 4th year at the club, Sane his 3rd season. Bernardo Silva the new boy having joined in the ah summer of 2017.
They are also entering their 3rd season under Pep Guardiola.
It would be completely unreasonable to expect Arsenal to look as gelled and balanced as City with Unai Emery having only been at the club for 4 months. Players are still getting used to the system, how they are expect to play.
But to be competitive again, Arsenal need to look at City, aspire to be them.
The Manchester club ran away with the title last year, and are top of the league this year. Whilst we should not currently expect to compete with them, there is plenty we can learn.
Perhaps the most important thing Guardiola does to ensure balance is have round pegs in round holes.
Aguero is a striker. Sane a left winger. Sterling a right winger. Silva and Silva number 10s. He has players playing in their natural positions. This gets the best out of them and gives the side natural balance.
Compare this to Arsenal against Watford.
We have Aubameyang, a striker, playing left wing, then we have Mesut Ozil, a number 10, playing right wing.
It is square pegs in round holes, and no surprise we look unbalanced.
If we Emery is going to continue with 4231, we need to ensure that we are playing the right players in the right positions. Ultimately this will mean that we have to spend more on the right players.
The Spaniard has to stop trying to show horn Ozil and Ramsey into the same team.
City do it with the two Silva’s (with de Bruyne coming in when fit), playing just Fernandinho behind them. But they can afford to do this when they have 70-80% possession, like they did against Brighton.
Playing Ozil and Ramsey central, behind a striker is not an option at the moment. Emery knows this, hence playing one out wide. Unfortunately this means we do not get enough out of Ozil.
In the Premie League, Ozil averages a goal or assist every 157 minutes. He is one of the best creative players in the league, no matter what the fat lad down the pub says.
Emery clearly recognised that long term, his side can not have both Ozil and Ramsey in it. It is the primary reason why the contract for Ramsey has been taken off the table.
If he was willing to sign to £120k, as a squad play – understudy for Ozil who does miss a few famed – I am sure everyone would be happy.
But a 4 year deal on a reported £200k a week would not make sense. He would easily be our second highest player, but not a regular first teamer.
If £200,000 a week was on the table, this means Arsenal have £52m over 4 years in their budget to play with. If we do sell Ramsey for £20m in January, this increases io £72m.
This works out at £18m a season of salary and amortised transfer fees.
In basic terms, we could go out and buy a £46m winger. We could pay him £125k a year, and our yearly expenditure would stay the same as it would if Ramsey signed his new deal.
£47m and £125k a week. That is. It too far off the Lacazette figures.
If, like me, you back Sven Mislintat, and see what he has already done with the likes of Sokratis, Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi (combined cost £47m), you will be getting very excited.
A new winger will just give us more balance than the current set up. £47m gets you a Sterling or Sane. A young player already performing at a high level at a lower club, but has the talent to become one of the worlds best.
This solution, however, is at least 4 months away (January) and more realistically 9 months away (June). In the short term, we have to get the balance from within.
That means dropping Ramsey, moving Ozil into the middle, and playing with Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Alex Iwobi wide right. Both of these players we still wider a lot more than what Ozil currently does. They will also give Hector Bellerin a bit more protection.
The left side is a bit more complicated, as Arsenal do not currently have a natural left winger.
At the moment it is a straight choice, Aubameyang or Danny Welbeck. The Gabonese striker is clearly the superior player and is ahead in the pecking order.
He is a square peg in a round hole, but we do not currently have any round pegs. This does not leave Emery with many options but to play Aubameyang out wide. It is not suitable and adds to our imbalance as he looks to come inside.
At the moment we are wasting both the talent of Aubameyang and Ozil playing them as wingers.
With Iwobi and Mkhitaryan capable of doing a job wide right, the Ramsey money and the focus of Mislintat should be on securing a threat on the left.
Much of the list of options remains the same as the summer. The likes of Leon Bailey, Ousmane Dembélé, Christian Pulisic and Anthony Martial.
It is Martial that interests me the most.
At 22-years old, it is easy to forget how young he is. A year younger than Raheem Sterling, a month older than Leroy Sane. He is as good as both of the Manchester city players; and I think that we could secure him for that £40million mark. And as early as January if we push.
I think it is unrealistic to expect us to compete with City any time soon.
Look at Liverpool. This is Klopp’s 4th year with the Merseyside club. Whilst they have started the season off well, I expect City to pull away and win the league by double figures.
City have a settled side and a great manager. And when you see them linked with Kylian Mbappe, it highlights their financial clout. They spent £67m on Mahrez in the summer as a squad player.
Whilst I do not expect to compete with them, for this season at least, we should cast an eye over at what they are doing and how they get their team set up so balanced.