Can we never play away against the ‘big six’ again, please?
Another trip on the road. Another defeat. Arsenal’s barren run of 29 matches continues without tasting the sweet nectar of three delicious points.
A season that won’t be defined on what results are garnered from Premier League matches away at Manchester City and Liverpool still doesn’t culminate in happy Arsenal faces. But when 38 matches are played and the final table is confirmed, the whole story can be judged.
Knowing full well that it would take more than just ten months to overturn a hideously unpleasant brand of football and rebuild a team whose confidence was nose diving, we must be positive.
From Saturday night’s 1-0 loss at the Etihad, there were a few. Pull back the curtain of fresh disappointment on the road and reason for optimism protrudes.
Playing out from the back Arsenal have never looked so good. In Gabriel Magalhaes there is a central defender impressing and improving with every minute, while alongside him an unfit Kieran Tierney and a David Luiz still haunted from his last appearance on this ground remain adept at this approach.
The intricacies of playing through a high press and finding the feet of either Dani Ceballos or Granit Xhaka must be praised when successful. Sure, under Unai Emery these players may have been found, but it would come at time when they’re in no space and grossly unaware of their surroundings. Under Mikel Arteta there is intelligence in the progression, with each pass made under the knowledge of predicting the next. It’s planned and executed superbly.
Now, when Bernd Leno has the ball, seeing him kick it long is worrying, not vice versa.
Furthermore, taking on a City side – albeit somewhat depleted – Arsenal were not overawed or desperately outplayed. There were two huge chances in that first half that would have turned the tide if taken. Fine margins.
Were Arsenal especially great? They weren’t. But the team are at a stage now where we can come away pondering ‘what if?’ as opposed to shying away from social media and human contact with friends or family for 48 hours.
Facets of this team are immeasurably improved. This is a side brilliantly coached, but lacking bite in attack. The latter issue has not been addressed, but at least we can see the steps being trodden.
Room for improvement, but improvement nevertheless.