“Can anybody stop them?” Arsene Wenger asked on Sunday, after watching his side fall under the wheels of a rhapsodic Manchester City. Arsenal didn’t have a sniff at Eastlands, held at arm’s length as they were battered 3-1.
Wenger wasn’t in the mood to be magnanimous, criticising the standard of refereeing throughout the match. Everything was fair game – except, it seems, for the performance of his players and his own lacklustre preparation.
In a result become all-too familiar for Gunners fans, here are four things we learned.
1 Raheem Sterling is a useful scapegoat
There was a lot to admire in City’s performance. The growing harmony between Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones, for example, or Ederson continuing his excellent run of form by stopping a goal-bound Aaron Ramsey strike. Arsene Wenger’s post-match press conference was not, however, among the highlights.
“We know he dives well,” the Frenchman blustered to the media after the game, noting how Sterling seemed to collapse under Nacho Monreal’s shoulder for a penalty. Despite replays showing that the Spaniard caught Sterling’s heels, Wenger was adamant. An FA Charge now awaits.
2 Arsenal can't win big
Since 2014, Arsenal have won just once in 18 away games against the ‘Big Six’. The statistics only confirm what Gunners fans already know – they can’t compete in the important fixtures.
Questions need to be asked about how Wenger prepares his side for these encounters as something clearly isn’t up to scratch. Fans are happy to accept defeat if they know their players have given their all. Too often, however, Arsenal supporters are left short-changed.
3 We are witnessing the birth of a dynasty
The aura surrounding Pep Guardiola can sometimes be overwhelming. The more recent hero worship is ironic, given he was persona non grata just a year ago. Even the most hardened observer can’t deny, however, that we are witnessing something very special at Eastlands.
Sunday’s victory was City’s ninth in a row in the Premier League. The home side toyed with a struggling Arsenal defence, pawing disinterestedly like a dog at a half-chewed bone. By the time they trudged off the pitch at full-time, most of the players looked like they’d barely broken sweat. Who knows how many trophies they’ll be collecting come the end of the year?
4 Lacazette needs to start every game
Alexandre Lacazette has scored twice as many goals as any Arsenal player in the Premier League this season, yet has completed a full 90 minutes on only one occasion. Why?
£54 million is a considerable outlay for any player, but it seems particularly obscene given Wenger’s continuing reluctance to use his countryman. In a season that looks certain to see the losses of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sánchez, he can ill afford to alienate the one player guaranteed to give him goals. Shocking management.
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