Three things learned: Arsenal v. Man City
LONDON -- Manchester City swept Arsenal aside on Sunday in the Premier League to win 3-0 as festive cheer was in short supply amongst the home fans at the Emirates Stadium.
[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]
Kevin de Bruyne’s masterclass saw him score twice and grab an assist as Man City ran riot in the first half and Arsenal’s injury-hit defense never recovered.
Here’s what we learned as interim Arsenal boss Freddie Ljungberg saw his side dominated by Pep Guardiola’s Man City.
DE BRUYNE ON ANOTHER LEVEL
KEVINNNNN! Kevin de Bruyne was on another level on Sunday as he ripped Arsenal apart in the first half. He scored twice, cracking finishes with either foot, forced a superb save from Bernd Leno who tipped his shot onto the post, and he set up Raheem Sterling as City destroyed Arsenal. KDB has been fit for most of this season and he is the main reason why you think City could still surge towards an unlikely title push in the second half of the campaign, or more likely have a serious chance of winning the UEFA Champions League.
A fit and fired up De Bruyne is exactly what Man City need right now.
We’ve all seen the clips of him getting angry in the past (“Let me talk! Let me talk!”) and when the Belgian wizard is fired up he’s a joy to watch. In the second half Arsenal’s fans let out gasps as he nutmegged Guendouzi on the left flank to find Raheem Sterling who was 30 yards to his left and behind him. His vision is incredible and his driving runs scythed through the heart of the Gunners time and time again. Whatever Man City win, or don’t win, this season the main positive is that Kevin de Bruyne is fully fit and back to his best. Everyone’s a winner (except their opponents) when KDB is firing on all cylinders like this.
LJUNGBERG FAILING HIS ARSENAL AUDITION
Arsenal’s fans aren’t angry at their team anymore. They are just disappointed. Any teenager who’s had a similar run in with their parents can tell you exactly how horrible that feels.
Freddie Ljungberg has drawn against Norwich and Standard Liege, beat West Ham and now lost to Brighton and Man City in his first five games in charge. It’s hardly promising stuff from the Arsenal interim manager. His two week audition has seen Arsenal reignite their attacking prowess, one of his core philosophies as a coach, but defensively they remain woeful. Yes, injuries at the back, which now include Sead Kolasinac, have hampered the team but they are too naive, too idealistic. Ljungberg wants them to attack but this is no different than Arsene Wenger and the same as Unai Emery. Nothing has changed. Instead of setting his team up to be tough to beat and battling for every ball, they are too easy to pass through. There is no ‘going back to basics’ but instead the status quo remains intact.
Whispers around the press room before the game suggested that Ljungberg will be given until the end of the season to lead the Gunners while the hierarchy wait to appoint the perfect candidate. With a top four place still, quite remarkably, on the line, Arsenal’s dilly-dallying will surely cost them any chance they have to reach the top four. Tottenham’s rapid response to fire Mauricio Pochettino and hire Jose Mourinho has worked, with Spurs just three points behind fourth-place Chelsea and building momentum. Arsenal are just seven points off the top four but stuck in neutral and will be until Ljungberg is either given the rest of the season or a new man arrives. The team, fans and the entire club is stuck in limbo.
The fans seem to have checked out already. On Sunday it was so quite that at times you could heard the Arsenal players, mostly Calum Chambers, calmly giving out instructions to other defenders. There was an acceptance that Man City were so far and above Arsenal that the home fans might as well stick around to watch City play. They ignored the chants/taunts from the away end telling them they should have “gone Christmas shopping!” and watched on in despair as Arsenal’s injury-hit defense crumbled and their managerless side limp on. The damage was done in the first half and although it was 0-0 for the second half, that was more about Man City coasting than Arsenal improving.
CITY CAN STILL SALVAGE THEIR SEASON
Man City are still 14 points behind leaders Liverpool but they’re now able to eat away at that gap a little with Liverpool on Club World Cup duty next week. They face Leicester City next and can move to within one point of the second-place Foxes with a win at the King Power Stadium. Pep Guardiola’s men will never stop believing they can win every single game between now and the end of the season, and they could quite easily do that.
Defensively they weren’t that troubled on Sunday, but they still have up gilt-edged chances as Gabriel Martinelli was denied early on and Nicolas Pepe and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had chances in the second half. The back four of Kyle Walker, Fernandinho, Nicolas Otamandi and Benjamin Mendy just did okay, and that was enough thanks to the brilliance of Kevin de Bruyne. But Mendy in particular was suspect defensively and City still have a soft underbelly. Their squad strength will come to the fore in the next few weeks over the festive season and in early January, just like last season, we will get a better idea as to whether or not they can salvage their season by becoming genuine contenders in the Premier League and Champions League.