Tag Archives: Man City

Rodri tries to join the “Abuse Arsenal Ankles Army”

Spain and Man City defensive midfielder Rodri did his level best on Saturday to join the likes of Ryan Shawcross, Dan Smith, and Martin Taylor during Spain’s match against Norway in Euro qualifiers, going in with a reckless, studs-first tackle on Norway and Arsenal midfielder Martin Ødegaard. It was, to be honest—and regular readers will know that I’m averse to hyperbole—disgusting. Ødegaard had planted his right foot and had taken the shot with his left. Rodri, late to close down, slid in from Ødegaard’s right (from his planted foot) and scythed the Norwegian down in a move that reverberated down through the years.

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The Holy Trinity of making Man City drop points…

I think I’ve hit upon a sacred secret that might just cause Man City’s domestic campaign to unravel or at least fray a bit at the edges just enough to help us win the Prem for the first time in almost twenty years. It’s a secret so decisive, so dastardly, so devastating that I almost feel bad divulging it. Then again, it’s completely out of my control and already deployed, so why not spill the beans? Simply put, the powers that be should make Man City play matches every three or four days. Their history shows that they just can’t handle it. Maybe they’re jaded. Maybe they’re bored. Maybe… I won’t give voice to the third suspicion for fear or jinxing it. Trust me when I say that there’s just enough in this to breathe new life and confidence into our campaign just ahead of the run-in.

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Clearly, Arteta is merely COPYING Guardiola….

Since the day that Arteta was named Arsenal manager, he’s had to endure taunts such as being dubbed Pep’s coneman, as if all he ever did was follow orders, arrange cones, and run errands. However, almost since that same day, he’s gone off on his own path, a path that hews much closer to Wenger’s than to Guardiola’s. Despite this, there are some unhappy Citizen fans who have grown quite smug, sated, and complacent in the roughly 15 years since the club came into existence. This tweet, for one, accuses Arteta of copying Guardiola. We’re getting a glimpse of what it’s like to live rent-free in someone else’s head. It’s almost as if those smug, sated, complacent fans suffer a degree of entitlement and are growing more and more nervous as the end of the season approaches…

Let’s look at the chargers. Our manager is unoriginal. Okay, so there’s an element of truth to that. He and Guardiola are both Spanish midfielders who played for Barcelona’s youth squads. They both breathe oxygen and walk bipedally. They both have hair. Wait [checks notes]. Okay, so, at one point, they both had hair. Beyond that, though, the actual differences emerge. This is Arteta’s first managerial position. Guardiola has been a top-flight manager since 2008 and started his career with a side that included Valdés, Piqué, Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta, Eto’o, Messi, and Touré to name just a few off the top of my head. He’s never had to build a squad from scratch and has always had world-class players at every position, including on the bench. On the rare occasions when class was lacking, he simply asked for and got the players he desired. Since becoming City’s manager in 2016, Guardiola has bought more than one billion pounds worth of players to “improve” a squad that was already among the most-expensive in the world. 
By contrast, Arteta inherited a mess of a squad with perhaps one world-class if declining talent in it (Aubameyang). It was a squad in desperate need of an overhaul and a club in desperate need of a cultural revival, but Arteta had to wait a season and a half before getting the players he wanted. Our most-expensive transfer under Arteta is Thomas Partey, the only proven, world-class player we’d have for some time. We splashed some £45m on him. City have bought ten players for higher fees. We have to admit to spending £145m on fees under Arteta, but that’s spread across two and a half years. City have spent more than that in six of eight years. There’s just no comparison. Who among our current squad clearly qualifies as world class? Saka, Partey, and Jesus are. Ødegaard, Magalhães, Saliba, Zinchenko, and Martinelli are on the verge. Copying Guardiola? Hardly. If anything, Arteta is exposing Guardiola as a manager whose success is only possible with massive, massive spending. We’re five points clear of his squad and have been for all but an hour or so this season.
I’ll go a step further while returning to an original point. Wenger is famous for having said, “we don’t sign superstars; we make them.” As alluded to above, we have a very young squad, largely purchased on the cheap, and it is full of players only now plumbing the depths of their vast potentials. Saka. Martinelli. Ødegaard. Saliba. Magalhães. White. Smith-Rowe. None of these were household names at the time of their signings (well, maybe Ødegaard was). Each of them to varying degrees is on his way to becoming a household name. Several of them already intimidate opponents into irrelevance before the first kick of the ball, and they’re all getting better with each passing week.
I’ll go another step further. Arteta isn’t merely “copying” Guardiola. Just 26 months into his first managerial stint, he’s surpassing Guardiola, and I’m not just referring to the Prem table. He’s showing that Guardiola’s tactics and style of play, previously thought of as only possible with world-class players at every position, can be achieved with the youngest squad in the Prem. Do any of our best players waltz into City’s XI? That’s a tough one made even tougher by our own biases. Should we do the improbable and actually win the Prem, there will be tougher questions posed of Pep. What does it mean for your mentor to surpass you? What does it imply for him to have done so on a shoestring budget, duct tape, and baling wire? Does this suggest that your entire career has been little more than tactical lipstick applied to a profligate pig? Do drunken sailors resent you for replacing them as an idiom? And so on.
At a risk of letting Guardiola live rent-free in my own head, I’ll have to admit that I’ve always resented his success, built as it is on the kind of spending that Wenger always resisted to his own detriment. The idea then that Arteta would be critcised at any level for somehow “copying” Guardiola does get under my skin. I’ve said it before and it might be worth saying again: if we could give Wenger and Guardiola, or Arteta and Guardiola, the exact same squads to play against each other, I suspect that the Wenger/Arteta squads would win nine times out of ten. What would Guardiola do with a Guendouzi, Lacazette, or Mkhitaryan? Hell, what would he do with a Sanogo, Jenkinson, or Mustafi? He’d pull his hair—oh. Right.
At this point, 99% of me wants us to win the Prem because it’s glorious to win the Prem. However, 1% of me—maybe more?—wants to win the Prem to put pompous Pem in his place. Whatever the maths work out to be, I hope we get it done.

Arsenal 1-1 Man City: Player Ratings & MOTM Poll Results

Well, more than 800 voters weighed in after our latest setback and, while we were harsh on several individual players (Tomiyasu, Gabriel, and Nketiah in particular), the broader trends suggest we saw some silver linings or even outright reasons for something resembling shreds of optimism. Arteta’s tactics received a solid score, and Saliba, Saka, Trossard, and Jorginho seemed to acquit themselves well enough to escape our wrath our disappointment. Speaking of Jorginho, he nabs his first MOTM with 35.4% of the vote. Saka followed hot on his heels with 32.6%, relegating No One to a distant third at 19.5%. For as glorious as a win would have been, the loss is not as thoroughly damaging. Take two of City’s best players out and we’re talking about a different result altogether. Despite the loss, we’re level with City and have a game in hand. Rumours of our demise are somewhat exaggerated.

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Rivals' Roundup—rumours of Arsenal's demise are somewhat exaggerated…

How many of these clubs are actually title contenders?

Bit of a mixed bag, innit? On one hand, you have Liverpool losing (again) and Chelsea getting their arses handed to them by Brighton. On the other, you have Tottenham, Man City, and Man U narrowly escaping with all three points from clubs in the bottom half. The icing on the cake though would be Arsenal’s own trampling of Nottingham Forest, restoring if only briefly our position top of the table, which had been wrested away, if only briefly, by Man City. At our end, we somehow remain relevant, answering for at least a couple of days the eternal question “are Arsenal title contenders?” by finishing the week atop the Prem, where, last I checked, contenders occasionally are. Let’s get to it, then.

1. Arsenal (10W 1D 1L: 31 pts.).
Arsenal somehow managed to squeak past a side that had previously overcome last season’s putative quadruple winners, putting five past Forest in the kind of cakewalk one might expect from a club top of the table facing a club at the very bottom. Still, nagging questions persist: why doesn’t Jesus score goals at Haaland’s rate? Why does Saka insist on getting fouled two and three times each time he has the ball at his feet? Is Xhaka’s redemption arc real? Are Arsenal title contenders? It honestly gets hard to keep track of all of these rhetorical questions, some of which morph into hypophora (posing and then answering a rhetorical question, for those unwashed masses not in the know). The win makes it nine in a row at the Emirates, with this being the first clean sheet, begging the question if not the hypophora: can Arsenal build on this to lay some of those rhetorical questions to bed? One can only hope.

2. Man City (9W 2D 1L: 29 pts.).
Man City answered once and for all and throughout the entire time-space continuum the question “can they win without Haaland?” by calling on Kevin de Bruyne to stop making his teammates score and to score himself. In classic de Bruyneian (Bruynian? I don’t speak Belgish) fashion, he made the woodwork score for him, somehow, bravely leading his overmatched squad past those perennial Prem favorites, Leicester, a side that is clearly playing a long game of losing almost every match it plays before storming back to the top of the table despite selling anyone of qualify besides Jamie Vardy. To be honest, the only obstacle standing between Man City and the league title is existential ennui. Having gathered all of the infinity stones that there ever were, their only actual opponent is boredom. It will take all of Guardiola’s managerial nous to motivate a squad that has won just about everything over the last five years to care about winning yet more silverware. Regrowing actual hair might be a bigger challenge.

3. Tottenham (8W 2D 3L: 26 pts.).
Conte’s tactics shifted a little bit here, allowing Bournemouth, scorers of ten goals in their previous twelve matches to score twice, thereby forcing his side to actually, like, play something resembling football rather than parking the bus, crossing fingers, and hoping for the best. In the end, it worked out, which proves one of two things—one, Bournemouth are kind of bad, footballistically; or, two, Tottenham are full of attacking potential that Conte is inhibiting. In either case, this was a vital win for a club that had narrowly avoided losing three in a row across all competitions, and nagging questions about Conte’s tenure continue to, um, nag all the more as Juventus limp along under Allegri. Strange though it may seem to bring up the prospects of an Italian side whilst discussing the Prem, I blame Conte for openly flirting with a move ahead of the World Cup and January transfer window. Wait—scratch that. I credit Levy for failing to adequately back Conte (despite spending a club record £152.91m in the summer transfer window). Well, maybe they can still win the League Cup or something before one or more of Conte, Kane, or Son forces his way out.

4. Newcastle (6W 6D 1L: 24 pts.).
An admittedly impressive Newcastle side about which I can’t say anything satirical for fear of reprisal or dismemberment continued its unbeaten streak, extending it to eight matches by beating Aston “what new manager bounce?” Villa 4-0. Unai Emery may have been left wondering whether it might have been better to have accepted Newcastle’s offer at around this time a year ago, when he announced that he was “100% committed” to Villareal and accused Newcastle of a “lack of a clear vision”. For what it’s worth, that lack of clear vision has allowed Newcastle to take 16 points from 18 available, best in the Prem during that time. They’re alone among the top six in not having any continental commitments, and this, along with the likelihood that they’ treat the January window like Veruca Salt treats golden tickets, does not augur well for their rivals. As I opened, so will I close: I for one welcome our new overlords. I’d like to remind them that, as a trusted internet personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground oil caves. Who wants ginger snaps?

5. Man U (7W 2D 3L: 23 pts.).
Oh, now we’re into the dregs. Erik Ten Hag briefly quelled any disputes he may or may not be having with any Portuguese prima donnas by starting Ronaldo against West Ham, although the plaudits do have to go to Marcus Rashford, who nodded in his 100th Man U goal, extending Man U’s unbeaten streak in the Prem to five. This does include draws against Chelsea and Newcastle as well as a win over Tottenham, so it’s not as if they’re feasting on relegation fodder. Before we lavish too much praise on the squad as a whole, though, it’s worth noting that David de Gea almost single-handedly—literally (ooh, double-adverb followed by this parenthetical—fancy!) won this match for Man U by coming up with numerous saves to keep the clean sheet. I don’t want to say that Man U have become a one-man club, with that one man being the Spanish goalkeeper, but…I kind of painted myself into a corner here. I, uh, don’t know how else I could finish that sentence. As de Gea goes, so goes Man U.

6. Chelsea (6W 3D 3L: 21 pts.).
LOL. Look. I respect Graham Potter. He’d been a good manager for Brighton, bringing them up to a level of respectability, if not relevance, and he did so by playing positive, attractive football despite a lack of financial support. It was just weeks ago that he traded that for the financial largesse (and, it must be noted, managerial instability) on offer at Chelsea. The early signs were good: a five-match unbeaten streak, highlighted (maybe? I don’t know) by a 1-1 home draw with Man U. Potter had to know that his return to the Amex Stadium would be fraught with emotion, but his side came out will of the intensity and determination of an overcooked noodle. Thiago Silva did his best imitation of a goalkeeper, making two goal-line clearances inside of five minutes; and Silva’s team-mates did their best imitation of Brighton players, scoring two own-goals in the first half, as the Seagulls embarrassed their former manager and offeried a reminder that it takes more than simply buying a bunch of players and hiring an under-the-radar manager to achieve anything in this world. Eddie Howe approves this message.

So, that about covers it for this week. It feels like a spiteful afterthought to add that Liverpool are now closer to the bottom of the table—not the relegation zone, the literal bottom—than they are to fourth place. It’s worth pointing out at this point that “spiteful” is not the same as “wrong”. One last parting thought regarding narratives—is it me, or is there more talk of Newcastle threatening to win the Prem than there is about Arsenal? Maybe it is just me. At any rate, I’ll leave off for now. I hope you enjoyed the ride…