Arsenal were dismantled 3-0 by Manchester City on Wednesday night. Mikel Arteta will have learned almost nothing from the match bar one disastrous outcome.
Nothing has changed. After three months on the sidelines, football returned on Wednesday night. Sadly, Arsenal did what they do best and utterly floundered under the pressure. Travelling to Manchester City was never going to be easy. Losing in the manner that they did, however, is a skill unique to the Gunners.
What made it worse, however, was that Mikel Arteta could take almost nothing from the match. As he himself told Sky Sports after the match, from minute one, everything went wrong:
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“Everything went wrong from the first minute when Granit [Xhaka] got injured and we had to change the plan a little bit. Every possible accident that could have happened did today and [hopefully will] not [again] in the rest of the 10 games we have left.”
He was later asked if there are positives to take from the match. This was his response:
“Just the spirit that the boys showed not to stop when everything goes against you. Very little more. We had our moments in the first half, two good chances, and we had three or four really good breaks where we could have hurt them. We stayed in the game and then we conceded before half time that we have them basically.”
Once David Luiz was sent off shortly after half-time, the game was over. 2-0 down, a man down, everyone knew what the result would be, and the energy and intensity of the match cratered as a result. It makes drawing meaningful conclusions from the performance very difficult. How can you analyse a match that was so contorted and impacted by individual moments?
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In the end, there was just one overarching lesson for Arteta to learn: City are in a different stratosphere to his team and he has a lot of ground to make up. Bar a semi-encouraging opening half-hour in which Arsenal looked vaguely dangerous and took advantage of a slow City start, once Kevin de Bruyne began to dictate play in central midfield, the difference in quality between the two teams was stark.
City, of course, is what Arsenal are aiming to one day become. Not only are they and Liverpool the teams to beat in the Premier League; Arteta developed as a coach in the City system under Pep Guardiola. He will bring many of the philosophies and tactical tenets that Guardiola uses in Manchester with him to north London. City is the ultimate aim of the Arteta project, and that aim is a long way from what the team currently looks like.
Sadly, this is where Arteta finds his team. They have a lot of ground to make up.