Open letter to Man City: surely, you know that Arteta outclassed Guardiola.


No De Bruyne? I see you and raise with no Saka. No Rodri? Again, I see and raise with no Partey. No Stones until late on? Get bent. We went without Martinelli for that first half. The less said about Kovačić, the better. We can all agree that he should have been sent off for that foul on Ødegaard, and if not for that one, then surely for the second one on RIce. You know what, though? None of this matters because we put one past you lot. A little bit of a smash-and-grab, eh? As in Martinelli smashed the ball into Aké’s face and we grabbed all three points. As for managers, the pupil punished the master.

I’m sure by now that we’ve read our share of headlines—Arsenal’s first win in this fixture since December 2015 (12 tries, zero points), Man City hadn’t lost two consecutive Prem matches since December 2018, yada yada yada… but one headline that may not get as much attention is the one your correspondent led with. Guardiola decided to deploy Bernardo Silva as a sort of #6 behind RIco Lewis and Mateo Kovačić as more-advanced, #8-ish types (although the latter did his level best to reprise the Rodri role, conjuring unpleasant memories of Martin Taylor, Ryan Shawcross, and Dan Smith). For as much as was made in the build-up of the absenses of De Bruyne and Rodri, there was scant talk of the tactical and formational changes Arteta would have to anticipate. With Saka a late scratch, his selection dilemma only grew more acute.

Against that uncertainty, Arteta opted to play Jorginho almost opposite to Silva with Rice and Ødegaard playing roles similarly opposite to Lewis and Kovačić, with Rice flourishing in that more-advanced role (indeed, he’s a MOTM candidate in our post-match poll). Arteta’s instructions to Raya to play it short in the first half did lead to some nervy moments, with Julian Alvarez twice coming close to forcing Raya into a costly error. Those first-half tactics seemed to set the stage beautifully for Raya to start spraying long balls over the top of City’s press, and those long balls forced City to start reconsidering their press.

It’s perhaps no accident then that the substitutions of Partey, Tomiyasu, and Havertz led directly to Martinelii’s game-winner. Partey played a long ball from midfield to Tomiyasu. who knockedit down at the edge of the area (amid three defenders) to Havertz, who, considering his strugglese in front of goal, might have felt massive pressure to shoot. Instead, he shrugged off a clumsy clatter from Aké’ to collect the ball and calmly lay it off to the onrushing Martinelli, whose shot (taken from almost the same spot that Tomiyasu first collected Partey’s pass) might have beaten Ederson on its own but certainly did after deflecting off of Aké’s face.

There will be those who continue to insist that Arteta is little more than a cheque-book manager (as if Guardiola isn’t) or Pep’s coneman, but he outclassed that Megamind on this day. While we might lament the wastefulness of Trossard and Nketiah, and while Raya probably gave us a few frights, Arteta seemed to get everything just about right. I’m sure a few pundits were poised with poisoned pens at the ready to condemn us for failing to prance past a City side shorn of De Bruyne and Rodri (as if Guardiola didn’t have weeks to adjust to their absences). While it was a bit shaky in the early going, we grew into the game, weathered the early storms, and controlled the second half well enough to deserve the result.

The early tactics felt a bit tetchy, but they paid off in the long run despite those two or three hiccups. By the time Partey, Tomiyasu, and Havertz came on, we had been knocking on the door for quite some time, and Martinelli had frittered away a few other chances while causing Kyle Walker all sorts of problems.

Long story short: Arteta outdid Guardiola, at least on this day. We all know full-well that Man City are hardly a slain dragon on the basis of this one result. At best, they’re a wounded and enraged Smaug, ready to lay waste to Lake-town. I seem to recall Smaug getting the short end of the stick in the end.

All the same, it’s significant and perhaps even symbolic that we’ve finally scuppered our superiors. There’s still quite a lot of football to be played, and anything can happen between now and the end of the season. Still, it’s hard to overstate the potentially seismic imlplications of this one result. A result as famous as this one could very well fuel the kind of self-confidence, mettle, and steel that we lacked during the run-in last season.

We’re seeing everyone come of age after ripening on the vine a season ago. Whether it’s Martinelii or Saliba or Ødegaard, Magalhães or Saka or Arteta himself—this is a squad that is just now starting to get a sense of what it’s capable of. Going toe-to-toe with the best club that (legitimate) money can but and coming away with all three points? Priceless.

Those of you who are regular commenters, spread the word about this blog. The craic only gets better when our mates join in, after all.

Average rating 4.7 / 5. Vote count: 21

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

11 thoughts on “Open letter to Man City: surely, you know that Arteta outclassed Guardiola.

  1. Rob Fielding

    If you believe this result will derail the CITY juggernaut think again!
    Another lucky deflection off the same player as The Community Shield and again in the dying embers!

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      I think I was quite measured in my assessment on what if anything this all means for the title-chase. It’s still Man City’s to lose whatever the table may say at the moment – but you have to admit that Arsenal did just take a massive symbolic step forward.

  2. Welsh Corgi

    Great Post, thanks. Still feeling a bit dizzy and epicly pleased. Not sure what went on and if anybody really wanted to win. Like a game of chess and remi. Also not sure of it was a good game, fun to watch as almost nothing happened bar a lot of play in the middle of the pitch.

    But we won, epic and Saliba, Gabriel and Rice were awsome. Good stuff and now tedious interval (but so much sweeter😊).

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      Aye, when we got to the 80th minute, I started steeling myself for a tough ten minutes to keep the draw. I damn-near hit my head on the ceiling when I jumped for joy at Martinelli’s goal. There’s a lot of football left to be played here, and it’s a shame that the international break comes when that surge in confidence might have been useful against a Chelsea side that might be starting to figure things out.

  3. jw1

    Have had this impression, even back at the start of the season, that we’d moved ahead of City– purely in terms of ability. With the subtractions of Gundogan and Mahrez, it felt as if their squad would suffer both a lack of clutch play and killer instinct. The players who benefitted most by playing with those two, Foden and Grealish, while good in their own right– are not the cold assassins the former were. So while they’ve stepped in to fill those roles– their previous roles are being plugged with players like Doku, Nunes, Kovacic and Lewis. None of whom are near the level of the former, nor ready to replicate the levels of the latter from last season.

    So twice now, Arteta has gotten his tactics versus City just right– yesterday and in the Community Shield (yeah, Pep wanted that silverware). The team persevered both times late, in tight, edgy contests (Ake must have nightmares now). Arsenal are proving to be opportunists of the highest order. Though, most importantly, being in position to take them.

    Making yesterday’s efforts recur with consistency, against any team, with any combination of players– that’s the style and level Arteta seeks.

    Yesterday was the bases, the model. Mass production being the goal.

    1. Jon Shay Post author

      well-said. On paper, I think we do at least match Man City at most position and outstrip them at several. The difference from last season to Sunday was on the pitch – the experience, the cunning, the calm. Foden, Ake, Grealish, Haaland, and Kovacic among others are indeed fine players, but we’re yet to see them show that they have the savvy and the grit to grind out a result against a resolute opponent. In some ways, City remind me of that 1991 UNLV side – so accustomed to having their way with opponents that they start to get flustered when their would-be victims can give as good as they get.

      This was the first time this season that we really looked poised and confident. Even with the international break to pump the brakes on momentum, this is the kind of result that can serve as a springboard to greater things. There are of course 30 matches still to be played, not to mention the fixture congestion from the other competitions, but we’ve laid down a marker & a statement of intent. “We beat the quadruple winners” has a nice ring to it, and it it surely be buzzing between the lads’ ears for quite some time.

      1. jw1

        Nice to be going into this break on a high like this too.

        ‘City remind me of that 1991 UNLV side… ‘
        Yikes! The spirit of Tarkanian called forth! 😬

  4. A Simple Truth

    Jon, such thirsty takes for a 1-0 result…thankfully Marts brought a real sense of urgency into a rather underwhelming affair and as such maybe he deserved a lucky bounce along the way…this was undoubtedly the weakest City lineup we’ve faced since MA’s arrival, so it was pertinent that we secured all 3 points, especially at home…hopefully this will help to stem the obvious psychological tide that has been firmly embedded in our organizational brain since Pep’s arrival, but to suggest that MA somehow outmanaged his former boss means that either you don’t know what that term means or you can’t help but lean into such a nonsensical narrative for fear that the opportunity might never arise again…that said, I’m elated that we won the day, but until we actually outplay this team when it both matters and when their engine room duo is on the pitch, we’re still more pretenders than contenders…hopefully the Havertz recruitment miscue hasn’t severely hampered our chances, by functionally replacing one albatross with another(at least Xhaka had a definable role within MA’s tactical constructs, whereas Kai is little more than a headless chicken)…in the end, this wil be little more than a nice feather in the cap moment, unless we can find a way to parlay this into an extended run of good form…fingers-crossed

  5. Pingback: Arsenal just took a MASSIVE step towards winning the Prem. MASSIVE. | Woolwich 1886, an Arsenal site

Leave a Reply