Arsenal endured a frustrating return to Premier League action as they suffered a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City.
England duo Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden both found the net while Kevin de Bruyne scored from the spot with David Luiz seeing red.
Mikel Arteta admitted everything “went wrong” on his return to the Etihad Stadium, where he coached under Pep Guardiola for three-and-a-half years.
Unai Emery promised to introduce a pressing style when he arrived in the summer of 2018, but that never really came to fruition. However, in just six months Arteta seems to have made progress.
Manchester City are not the easiest team to press as their players are so comfortable taking possession and playing intricate passes under pressure in tight spaces but there were promising signs in the first half that Arsenal would be effective at pressing going forward.
There were occasions when possession was stolen high up the pitch but the players weren’t clinical enough to take advantage and that is something that will have to be worked on.
Nketiah shows his worth
Eddie Nketiah was a surprise selection against Manchester City, although he did start the last three Premier League games before the season paused, and showed exactly what he can offer.
An inability to run the channels, hold up play and do some of the hard graft was cited as the reason for his lack of playing time while on loan at Leeds United but the England U21 international showed that wasn’t the case.
He came deep to collect the ball, brought others into play, made promising runs and made his presence known. He seems to have the trust of Arteta to keep Alexandre Lacazette out of the team and could be the homegrown striker the Arsenal faithful have been craving for years.
Tierney looks the real deal
Kieran Tierney was one of the positives to come out of the game. The left back hadn’t played since December but the lockdown allowed him extra time to regain his fitness.
Bukayo Saka had deputised well in his absence but the Scotland international put in an accomplished performance in difficult circumstances. He was always happy to receive the ball and his close control helped as the Gunners looked more assured with passing out from the back.
He got up the flank well but as City gained more control, his attacking influence drained. He played the final 50 minutes as a CB and didn’t look out of place. We probably won’t see him at his best until next season but there were plenty of promising signs.
Leno is one of the Premier League’s best
When talking about the best shot-stoppers in the league, it’s always a pick between Ederson or Alisson with David de Gea also getting a mention. Bernd Leno never seems to enter the conversation, but he showed again why he should be.
According to the Premier League website, the German has made an incredible 113 saves this season, second to only Newcastle United’s Martin Dubravka (117), which shows the lack of protection he has had this season.
Had it not been for the 28-year-old the score could have been ugly with Sterling, David Silva and Riyad Mahrez all denied by super saves. At the end of the season, it will be a straight battle between him and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Player of the Season.
Mesut Özil is a problem that won’t go away
Özil is arguably the most divisive figure at Arsenal right now, even after Luiz’s performance last night, and his omission from the squad for “tactical reasons” put him in the spotlight again for the wrong reason.
Arteta is the third manager of the season to drop the German, which suggests there is an underlying problem. Whether it is the club trying to force the player out and free up £350,000 a week or the midfielder not showing the correct attitude and application, something has to give.
His talent is undeniable when he is on his day but perhaps those days won’t come around anymore and we will be talking about him in every aspect other than his performances.