Mikel Arteta’s team selection for the Manchester City vs Arsenal game was positively baffling. I’ve no axe to grind with the Spaniard, but honestly, he doesn’t help himself at times with his erratic selection process. Sead Kolasinac, Calum Chambers and Rob Holding in the defence had disaster written all over it and it wasn’t long into the crucial game at the Etihad when the ‘so-called battle plan’ fell apart.
Worse still, Lokonga, who had provided some joy to the Arsenal midfield, wasn’t even included, while Pepe wasn’t even in the stadium or on the bench. Quite how Arteta thought this team would be able to cope with a free-flowing opposition is a mystery, plus it’s not like he doesn’t have the insight into the club, having previously been in the City dugout.
Yes, the team has been beset by issues that the Arsenal boss couldn’t control, but he has also tried to reintroduce the driftwood which will, if he persists, cost him his job. Chambers, Kolasinac and Holding are positionally poor and lack the intelligence to be in the Arsenal backline in such a crucial game. There’s no pace or anticipation in all three and Chambers, in particular, was unable to cope in the air as the ball sailed over his and Holding’s head.
Arsenal’s patchwork defence was tragically unable to prevent the ball from ploughing through a static line for a series of chances on goal. City were being gifted goals, they didn’t deserve but with 80 % possession and 25 attempts, they deserved more than Arsenal.
Forget the Xhaka sending off at 2-0 down, that just meant more misery, but fundamentally, Arteta’s choice of personal was incredibly poor from the whistle and from the moment the team sheet came out for the City vs Arsenal game, defeat was inevitable.
The 6-0 drubbing of West Brom was merely a smokescreen. A fantastic interlude from reality, after which it’s clear Arteta has a lot of work to do at the Emirates. This side could have beaten the recently relegated Baggies, perhaps not by six goals but I’ve no doubt it would have overwhelmed a group of enthusiastic kids, but as soon as the class of the opposition went up a notch, Arsenal folded badly and we are not out of the woods yet.
Arteta needs instant improvements because a loss against Norwich could be one too many. The ultimate insult to injury is that they are 9 points behind Spurs, who are at the top of the Premier League and that’s something that doesn’t sit well with the Arsenal fans.
Arteta is also coming under fire for his exclusion and dismissal of Saliba who was said by many to be an exceptionally gifted player, yet he can’t get past a flatfooted Holding or bewildered Mari. Is it arrogance or ignorance that is preventing the young Frenchman’s integration into the squad? Not the player’s, the manager.
“I’m supposed to believe that Kolasinac – someone that they’re trying to get rid of – is better than William Saliba? Saliba, who is out on loan and apparently not at the standard [required for this level]. So if he’s not at the standard to play in this team – and Kolasinac can play – why have we bought him?! Because if Kolasinac can play in front of him, what’s going on?! Why have we bought him?”
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The addition of Ben White has just added one class player to an otherwise damaged central defence and without a reliable partner, the £50m former Brighton man may struggle this term. We could find points hard to come by as the weeks roll by, but Arteta’s inability to play his best players or make sound decisions raises questions about his ability to lead this club long term.
The lineup for the City vs Arsenal game makes me less convinced that he is the right choice. Dropping players, loaning players out who could make a difference, his reluctance to play certain players and his stubbornness in continuing with others is the blueprint for dismissal.
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