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Arsenal endured an all too familiar defeat away to a top-six rival, suffering a 3-1 loss at the hands of Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Since the club’s last Premier League triumph in the 2003/04 campaign, the Gunners have been unable to win on the road against the elite of the division.
It’s one of the primary reasons for their decline under Arsene Wenger, and in his first season in the dugout, Unai Emery has displayed no signs of being able to resolve the issue. Arsenal barely had a kick in the second half of their defeat to City, surrendering to Pep Guardiola’s men, with Sergio Aguero scoring a third goal to complete his hat-trick and kill off the contest.
As a result of their form against their contemporaries, the Gunners face a huge challenge to finish in the Champions League spots. However, a place in the top six seems all but confirmed in the sports betting odds at 1/100, found on the Mr Green Android app, given their lead on Wolverhampton Wanderers in seventh unless they suffer a dramatic collapse between now and the end of the term.
The frustration at the Etihad from the Arsenal players was palpable. Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were starved of service throughout the contest, but especially in the second half when the Gunners failed to launch an attempt on target. The two forwards have a great deal of talent and are more than capable of capitalising on one chance that could well have made the difference. However, Emery’s men were put on the back foot and were unable to lay a glove on City to turn the game back in their favour. Perhaps the worst aspect of the performance was the fact the reigning Premier League champions were not operating at the peak of their powers.
Guardiola’s side played well, but life was made easy for them by simple mistakes from the Arsenal defence. Stephan Lichtsteiner was exposed down the right flank by Raheem Sterling, and all three City goals came from crosses from that side of the pitch as Aguero capitalised in the middle with three simple finishes. It has been a hallmark of Arsenal’s play against the elite teams, conceding cheap goals that take them out of the game.
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It occurred in their 5-1 hammering at the hands of Liverpool at Anfield along with the loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. There has been a vulnerability about the Gunners that they’ve been unable to shift, even with different systems, personnel, and managers. The same accusations could have been fired at Liverpool before the arrival of Jurgen Klopp and their willingness to spend in the transfer market, making them a tougher team to play.
The Gunners have had flair players aplenty in their midfield and defenders with good reputations from elsewhere in Europe to slot into the spine of their team. However, they’ve not enjoyed the same level of success that Liverpool, City, and even Tottenham have managed in grinding out results. Emery may be the man to resolve the issue, and it’s difficult to judge him on this season given the task at hand. However, it will be interesting to see his decisions in the summer to remove the soft identity that has plagued the team for too long.