It was a tough day in the office for Arsene Wenger as Manchester City beat Arsenal at its own game Sunday. City, the better team throughout, rightfully gave Arsenal the blues but what makes it tragic (or comic) is that they did so while playing by Wenger's rulebook. Pep Guardiola's side played exactly the kind of football Wenger has been asking of the Gunners for a decade now. It was the closest version of the French man's Arsenal dream.
What simply astonishes me about City is that Guardiola has led its transformation in just one year. Of course, the individual qualities on both sides were different and City has a better arsenal than the Gunners, but this does not change the fact that it was strategically and tactically superior to Arsenal in almost all areas.
The biggest difference between them was that Guardiola has shaped his team in such a way that City can easily create opportunities playing with decent speed and rhythm, whereas Arsenal is still struggling just to stay in possession while gearing up for an attack.
Even though both team essentially followed similar offensive strategies, in the form of domination, fast and accurate passing, the level of execution varied differently for both teams. Guardiola's City manages to catch its opponents off-guard while maintaining a balanced form, thanks to its settled passing routines.
Arsenal's game, on the other hand, is so slow and predictable that their opponents face no problem what so ever to break down their attacks. What's more, whenever it decided to break this predictability and sluggishness, the team lost sight of the fundamentals of their strategy, domination and patient circulation.
Meanwhile, the key players for both teams, Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva for City and Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez for Arsenal, live under completely different strategic environments.
While the former duo has enough time and space with the ball due to Guardiola's perfect build-up strategies and form, the latter wastes time trying to create opportunities that they ought to finish. In other words, Wenger's game demands that Sanchez and Özil must create and execute the opportunities, which is practically impossible against almost all serious opponents. Arsene Wenger's situation is one of tragicomic, and given the fact that Guardiola has successfully adopted a gameplay similar to his in just one year, the Arsenal's fan will only be more frustrated.
With all due respect, I do not think Wenger deserves any more credit or chance at Arsenal and the club management should start looking for his replacement. The game of football will be grateful to Wenger for his contributions and achievements but like all good things, his reign at Arsenal must come to an end.
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