Manchester City vs Arsenal: Evidence all against Arsene Wenger's gung-ho Gunners

Arsenal are not going to turn into Atletico Madrid overnight

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The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger’s plan for tomorrow was not especially surprising. “Let’s focus on going there and giving ourselves a chance to win,” he said yesterday morning, “by putting a great performance in.”

That is how his Arsenal team approach games like the visit to Manchester City. If they play as well as they can, set the tempo and impose themselves on their hosts, they believe they give themselves the best chance. The evidence, though, suggests otherwise.

 

City have lost one Premier League game at home so far this season, to Stoke City. They lost one last season, to Chelsea. Both times the visitors to the Etihad Stadium executed a reactive, counter-attacking game plan perfectly, sitting deep and beating City on the break. That is some way from Arsenal’s approach. Wenger spoke about “a good balance between attacking and defending” but it is too late now to teach the precise mechanics of that sort of performance. Arsenal are not going to turn into Atletico Madrid overnight.

The Gunners produced their best performance of the season last Sunday, with a midfield three of Francis Coquelin, Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla. They passed and moved, just as Wenger wants them to, imposing their game plan on Stoke. But will they be able to dictate terms in the same way to the Premier League champions, on their own patch? Recent evidence suggests not.

The problem is that if Arsenal come out swinging and miss their punches, they will be left desperately open themselves. That midfield does not offer much protection and, while Wenger could bring in Mathieu Flamini, nothing he has done since returning to Arsenal suggests he can still compete at the highest level.

Wenger does have Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Mesut Özil  to call on, though. Short of alternatives, he looks set to go for it.

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