Arteta admits tactical decisions on Man City title clash amid criticism

The Gunners were dominated by Premier League title rivals Manchester City at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday evening

Mikel Arteta has admitted that Manchester City scoring an early goal forced him into several tactical decisions in Arsenal’s 4-1 defeat on Wednesday. After just seven minutes, Kevin de Bruyne gave City the lead with an inch-perfect strike from the edge of the box and the reigning Premier League champions remained in complete control for the rest of the contest.

In the days leading up to the game, Arteta had been urged to try something different both with his team selection and tactical decisions. However, no major change was on show at Etihad Stadium and the Spaniard has now explained exactly why he chose not to alter his plans.

“We’ve done it in the past in different ways and that doesn’t guarantee you anything. It’s time to look in the mirror [at] what we could have done better or differently.”

In the BT Sport post-match discussion, Arteta’s tactics were a hotly-debated topic, with Arsenal Invincible Martin Keown defending the Gunners head coach, while Rio Ferdinand questioned one particular trait not being evident within the Arsenal team.

“We said the manager had a dilemma before the game,” Keown began. “He wanted to go and press from set pieces particularly and de Bruyne saying they had a plan for that. [Kevin de Bruyne] He has got 100 plus assists in the Premier League and the other fella [Erling Haaland] is a scoring sensation – 49 goals.

“These are probably, as a combination, maybe the best we’ve ever seen in the Premier League. These long balls, we talk about first contact, you either win that ball or make a foul. De Bruyne there is running free and this was happening too often, they were second best in these situations. It’s the soft belly of this team.”

Ferdinand responded: “But Martin, where is the leadership in there? Someone to say ‘Partey, come and stand on his toes, don’t let that one ball beat us all going to his chest so he can dominate us.’”

“That’s against the philosophy of the manager”, Keown promptly replied. “He wants to press and Partey’s up the pitch. They’re not sitting deep to deal with those.”

When Partey did press, with Xhaka often high up the pitch as well, City played through the lines exquisitely which left Arsenal in a vulnerable position on several occasions. Even when City chose not to pass they were still able to dominate Arsenal with Haaland man-handling Holding with his back to goal.

How the two teams had set up was pretty clear from the off and City were therefore able to expose Arsenal’s weaknesses. Ferdinand then ended the tactical discussion by explaining what he thinks Arteta and the Arsenal players should have done to prevent that from happening.

He said: “Arsenal went man-to-man at the back in that area a lot of the time and couldn’t compete. I think sometimes in-game management in them situations – not just from the manager, from players. Sometimes you’ve got to be humble enough to go ‘listen, I need some bodies around me, give that to the touchline, speak to the manager.’

“Even at half-time, at the moment it’s not going our way, we need a few more bodies around us to build some confidence. Tweaks in game can happen, today it didn’t happen, but occasions like this can be a whirlwind and take it away from you and I think that happened today with this team.”

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