Arsenal (0) 0 Manchester City (3) 3
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 15th December 2019. Kick-off time: 4.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Calum Chambers, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Sead Kolašinac; Mattéo Guendouzi, Lucas Torreira; Nicolas Pépé, Mesut Özil, Gabriel Martinelli; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Alexandre Lacazette, David Luiz, Reiss Nelson, Emiliano Martínez, Joe Willock, Emile Smith-Rowe, Bukayo Saka.
Yellow Cards: Sokratis Papastathopoulos
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 42%
Referee: Paul Tierney
Attendance: circa 45,000
Following our superb win over West Ham United last Monday, it remained critical for us to keep the momentum and aura of victory alive, despite our injury issues. Would we be able to continue in the same vein? The answer became fairly obvious as it took just ninety seconds from the start of the match for the visitors to state their intent in North London today. As usual, we were caught on the break and Gabriel Jesus crossed from the left for Kevin De Bruyne to whack the ball into the roof of our net, and as usual our defenders looked below par and completely off the pace so early in the game. We looked all at sea immediately after this setback, so much so that by a quarter an hour later, a second goal was conceded when we were hemmed in, in and around our own penalty area. Phil Foden played a clever ball to Kevin de Bruyne, who quickly passed it to Raheem Sterling, who made no mistake in doubling his side’s lead.
The stadium became subdued as our wonderful, long-suffering supporters yet again faced the ignomony of a visiting side dominating the play constantly and consistently as the match wore on. We created poor movement both on and off the ball, and we were punished badly for our intransigence. To make matters even worse, Manchester City midfielder Rodri scythed full-back Sead Kolašinac, which not only led to his booking, but our man hobbling from the pitch to be replaced by Bukayo Saka, who of course, is not a defender in any way, shape or form. And still the merciless Mancunians came at us, relentless as ever. With five minutes left on the clock before the break, Kevin de Bruyne made it 0-3 to the visitors with a clean and classy shot from some distance. He almost collected his hat-trick just before the half-time whistle blew, when a blistering shot from about twenty yards was turned onto the post by Bernd Leno, who made an acrobatic, world-class save to halt the visitors’ first half scoring jamboree. When Paul Tierney called a halt to the proceedings a minute or two later, the howls of derision from the Arsenal supporters, which have sadly become almost de rigueur these days at the Emirates, echoed around the stadium.
To be fair, we started the second half with certainly more purpose than we did the first, as we attempted to create some good play in and around the midfield; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came close with a header supplied from an Ainsley Maitland-Niles cross, and despite a sneaky tackle by Nicolas Otamendi on Gabriel Martinelli, the loose ball came to Lucas Torreira, who blasted the ball over the Manchester City bar. The visitors dominated the game again, and in an attempt to help redress the balance, the ineffective Mesut Özil was replaced by young Emile Smith-Rowe, and despite some interesting passing movements, we were simply playing for pride now.
Manchester City simply consolidated their dominance with tedious possession play, and with ten minutes of the match remaining, Joe Willock replaced Lucas Torreira as the crowd started their sad and disappointed exodus from the stadium. The visitors merely toyed with us for the rest of the match, whilst we played catch-up with the Premiership champions. When the final whistle went after three minutes’ injury time, a strange sense of relief fell over the stadium.
What a mess. It’s hard to remember when we saw anything quite as awful as this appalling run of performances; no heart, no guts, no clue, no ideas. Poor Freddie Ljungberg. Talk about a fall guy in the middle. He has been totally stranded and left to get on with things, by the owners and the players too; how do we square this circle? The answer is, we can’t. The players are demoralised and most of them are not good enough to play for Arsenal, and the ones that are, have probably already instructed their agents to get them new clubs for next season. As a club we are in freefall, and it’s starting to be hard to know where our next points will come from; the stats do not lie, with just one shot on target on the visitors’ goal, we know that we are now in serious trouble. Just who is going to want to manage us now? The owners are not interested in anything else but revenue, and as long as they are at the helm, we will just coast and eventually become a mid-table club, or God, forbid, something far, far worse could await. What price history? Remember everyone, keep the faith, stick with the winners.
Our next match: Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday, 21st December at 12.30pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.