August 28, 2021
By Peter Hall
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – We have been here before with Arsenal.
Ten years to the day since Arsene Wenger’s Gunners suffered a humiliating 8-2 defeat by Manchester United at Old Trafford, a dispirited and error-strewn Arsenal side were again thrashed in Manchester, this time by Premier League champions City.
The manner of the display in the 5-0 reverse at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday was nothing new either, as Mikel Arteta’s side lacked fight and were easily brushed aside. The problem is that these types of displays are still happening.
A double from Ferran Torres inspired City to their second successive 5-0 home victory in the league and their ninth straight win over Arsenal but, in truth, they did not have to do much against the hapless 10 men.
“We scored goals when we were not deserving of them,” City coach Pep Guardiola said. “It is not that we played badly, but we were scared to play early in the match. Sometimes you play good and create chances and score, today it was the opposite.”
However, City did not need to play their usual slick, high tempo football given that Arsenal gifted them two early goals before going down to 10 men after 35 minutes following Granit Xhaka’s needless two-footed lunge.
The opening two goals inside 12 minutes were both easily avoidable.
Gabriel Jesus should never have been able to get to a long, hopeful crossfield ball before crossing for Ilkay Gundogan to score City’s opener, the Germany international heading home after Calum Chambers had misjudged the flight of the ball.
For the second goal, another cross, this time from Bernardo Silva, passed through several Arsenal defenders before finding Torres, who could not believe his luck as he controlled the ball and put City in the driving seat.
Desperate to avoid becoming the first Arsenal team to lose their opening three league fixtures since 1954-55, there was a worrying lack of response and no real attempt to even force City onto the back foot at any point in the match from the visitors.
Arsenal mustered one shot against City, their lowest tally in a Premier League match since 2003-04.
“It’s time to reflect and to look ourselves in the mirror each of us and try to change the dynamic straight away, because we need to pick up results,” Arteta said.
“I don’t think today is the day to talk about any process. Today we have to talk about what happened on the pitch.”
The statistics do not make for positive reading.
The Gunners are only the second team in Premier League history to lose their first three matches in a season and have a goal difference of minus nine, after Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2003-04 who went on to finish bottom of the table.
While it is unlikely Arsenal will be involved in a relegation battle, the likelihood of the north London side bettering their disappointing eighth-place finishes in the previous two campaigns seems forlorn.
Arteta may try to avoid talking about the process behind Arsenal’s decline but further defeats after the international break will intensify the pressure. On the evidence of Saturday’s meek display, the required improvement is not on the horizon.
(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Ken Ferris)