You are here
Home > Arsenal > Arsenal vs Manchester City: Tactical Review and In-depth Match Analysis

Arsenal vs Manchester City: Tactical Review and In-depth Match Analysis

Arsenal vs Manchester City, Arsenal vs Man City

Arsenal lost 2-1 to runaway leaders Man City at home. In the absence of Mikel Arteta, the Gunners put up a spirited display. A red card and a soft penalty cost Arsenal the game they looked well on course to win at half-time.

Arsenal vs Man City
Image Obtained via The Independent

Starting XI:

Arsenal named a strong 4-2-3-1 set up against Man City. Tomiyasu replaced Rob Holding, and Ben White was moved back to his central role. Pep Guardiola made 3 changes from the side that beat Brentford 1-0. Rodri, Sterling and Mahrez replaced Fernandinho, Foden and Grealish in the 4-3-3 set up.

Arsenal vs Man City
Image via:

First Half:

Manchester City looked to hold possession and carve out chances from early on. Arsenal countered this with a compact 4-4-2 mid-block. Lacazette and Odegaard were the first line of pressure, cutting off passes to the midfield.

Arsenal vs Man City

The Gunners rectified 2 major problems that have been an inherent part of their defensive structure all season:

  1. Not Pressing Too High: Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and Ederson are players very comfortable with the ball at their feet. Arteta’s men conserved themselves better by allowing City’s back-3 to hold the ball. Meanwhile, Odegaard marked Rodri out of the game, cutting off City’s best outlet in possession. Saka and Martinelli held good positions to prevent build-ups down the wings.
  2. A Proactive Midfield: The Gunners executed systematic side overloads, with Xhaka or Partey willing to step up and apply pressure. The midfield duo was dynamic and covered spaces quite efficiently behind one another. The Swiss midfielder 12 of his pressures in the final third, 3rd highest among all Arsenal players.
Proactive side overloads forcing the long ball

The visitors used goalkeeper Ederson as an auxiliary centre-back during the build-up. With Cancelo pressing higher up, this gave them a 4-man back shape. Arsenal identified Nathan Ake as a weak link in the build-up for Man City.

The Dutchman is primarily a centre-back and does not afford the same quality on the ball as Cancelo at left-back. So, Arsenal tweaked their formation to a 4-3-1-2 out of possession. Odegaard marked Rodri, while Saka was more aggressive in his press. Ake on the ball would trigger the press, with Tomiyasu and Partey also stepping up.

Manchester City seemed to have a lack of clarity during attacks. Cancelo played in an inverted role on the right, while Mahrez maintained width on the right flank. Bernardo Silva and De Bruyne looked to operate in the spaces between the lines.

Combined Touch Maps: De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva. High volume of touches in the spaces between lines. Image via:

However, they had problems converting possession into real danger. Thomas Partey’s excellent positioning allowed him to cover both De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus. Sterling looked to cut in to create chances and initially caused Tomiyasu some problems, but assistant manager Albert Stuivenberg nullified this threat with a smart tweak.

Ben White and Tomiyasu often switched positions off the ball, and the Englishman was very comfortable against Sterling. The City winger completed only 2 of his 6 attempted dribbles in the game, managing and creating just one shot apiece.

Isolating Raheem Sterling

In possession, Arsenal largely played on the break. Despite Joao Cancelo playing in-field, Martinelli held a wide position. This created space for Arsenal to directly hit Man City on the counter. The wings were Arsenal’s biggest strength in the first half. They attacked excellently down the flanks and used the sidelines to nullify the visitors.

Manchester City aimed to press higher up in a 4-4-2 shape. Arsenal adjusted to this by holding Tierney and Tomiyasu in relatively deeper positions. This provided the centre-backs with a direct outlet during build-ups.

Tierney(top) and Tomiyasu(bottom) touch maps. High volume of pass receipts in the defensive third to by pass City’s press. Image via:

Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka put in calm and controlled performances with the ball. Lacazette and Odegaard also dropped into the half-spaces well. This made the Gunners very dangerous in and around the penalty box. Martinelli had a shot saved, Odegaard had a penalty shout waved off. A VAR check was done, and the Norwegian later did say that he had been fouled by Ederson.

Arsenal did score, and it had traces of all these aspects. From a De Bruyne turn-over, a quick transition allowed Tierney to find Saka in the box, and the Englishman buried a low shot past Ederson from just inside the box. Man City did not respond with intent, and Arsenal came closest to scoring in the remainder of the first half. Martinelli had 2 efforts just wide of the post.

At half-time, the Gunners were putting in a solid cohesive display on Saturday. Guardiola’s men did very little to warrant even a draw from the game. The Premier League leaders had no shots on target in the first 45 minutes.

Second Half:

The second half began much like the first. Arteta’s men looked compact off the ball and comfortable on it. The CItizens failed to muster enough quality from a lot of possession. The course of the game changed in less than 3 minutes, however. Xhaka was adjudged to have fouled Bernardo Silva inside the box. The decision seemed harsh, to say the least, and the Swiss international received a yellow card.

Riyad Mahrez scored from the spot, City’s first shot since the 19th minute of the game. The Gunners went close to extending their lead. A defensive mix-up forced Nathan Ake into a desperate goal-line clearance. Martinelli scuffed the rebound onto the outside of the post.

Arsenal paid for the miss, as Gabriel received a questionable sending off. Playing over half an hour with a man less, against a team like Manchester City, is a huge ask, but the Gunners remained resilient. Xhaka played as a centre-back and the Gunners maintained a solid 4-4-1 shape. Rob Holding was introduced for Odegaard, Smith-Rowe for Lacazette and Elneny for Saka.

Defensive 4-4-1

The sending off killed the tempo of the game. Arsenal did not have the artillery to push for a late winner, while their defensive structure restricted Manchester City too. Even with Ruben Dias and Laporte playing in the final third, Guardiola’s men looked a man short in attack. Arsenal were content to allow Man City to hold the ball and use the wings. They guarded their penalty box with vigour and turned away all attempts to cross or pass the ball in.

Read More:

The resilience was broken, however, in the second minute of stoppage time. Rob Holding cleared De Bruyne’s cross into the path of Laporte. The Spaniard’s shot was blocked, but Rodri was at hand to tap the rebound in.

Questionable decisions and hard luck meant a brave performance across 90 minutes amounted to nothing for Arsenal. However, the Gunners displayed intent and desire and pushed Manchester City to limits that no other team have across the last two months. The Gunners have plenty of positives to carry forward, as they stake their claim for a hotly contested spot in the top 4.

Follow AD for the Latest Matchday Updates on Arsenal.

Adithya Ravi
Football enthusiast. Stat enthusiast

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.