How Arsenal are remourcelessly following the Man City model





Arsenal and Manchester City compared 

By Sir Hardly Anyone

Next season Liverpool FC might make it into the Champions League, or they might not.   They are in fifth place at the moment, one point behind Manchester United and with a much better goal difference, but have played a game more.   Their two games left involve one against Southampton which shouldn’t cause any problems, but the match against Villa (who are fighting the battle with Tottenham to get into the Europa Conference) might be tougher.

And why do I mention this?   Because we are just about at the moment where we start pondering what Arsenal might achieve next season.   And Liverpool are relevant because not only have they been a top four club for the past six years, but last season they not only won the domestic cup double, they also came second in the league with 92 points and a goal difference of +68.

But this season….   Well, this season the very best that they can achieve would be 71 points and a goal difference of around +34.

Which raises the question, how could a team that came runners-up one season drop over 20 points, the next season and halve their goal difference?   And indeed could it happen to Arsenal?

In fact, the change over between last season and this could be even more dramatic because it is quite likely that only one of the four Champions Leagues clubs from last season (Manchester City obviously) will be representing the Premier League in the Champions League next season.  The remaining clubs from last time, (Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur) could all miss out.

Which in turn again raises the question of the model. Manchester City have it because they can spend anything they want and bring in virtually any players they want, with impunity (at least for a while), and they have a manager relentlessly pursuing the same approach year after year.  And now although Arsenal don’t have access to the oil money, they are adopting the same approach, year after year.  

So let’s look at exactly how Arsenal have been improving – and I can assure you this is something you won’t read anywhere else (unless they copy this article, the pesky blighters).

In what follows, these figures (derived from WhoScored) are all “per game”.  And what they show is that in every attacking part of the game (shots, possession, pass accuracy) except one, Manchester City are top, and in that one area they are second.   Arsenal are not there yet being third and fourth in these attributes, but they are getting there.

In defensive issues Manchester City have a style of play which means they make fewer tackles, don’t bother with winning aerial contests, don’t commit fouls, and don’t trap the opposition into offsides … and they do all of this far less than other teams (hence they are in 20th position in the table below).

Arsenal are copying this and have got themselves down to 19th position for these activities except that they are still relying a little more on winning aerials and making interceptions.  Heere are the figures…


Event Arsenal Position Manchester City Position
Shots 15.8 3 15.9 2
Possession 59.4% 4 65.3% 1
Pass accuracy 85.1% 4 89.1% 1
Aerials won 12.6% 15 11.8% 20
Shots against 9.2 19 7.1 20
Tackles 15.1 19 12.5 20
Interceptions 6.4 17 6.0 20
Fouls 9.8 19 9.0 20
Offside 1.5 19 1.4 20


This copying of the style of play step by step (such as cutting out tackles, increasing the number of shots etc), is a continuation of the change we noted initially with Arteta, and here we might compare Arsenal’s change from 2019/20 to this season.


Tackles Fouls Cards
Arsenal 2019/20 584 (14th) 422 (8th) 86 (1st)
Manchester City 2019/20 514 (19th) 361 (20th) 60 (15th)
Arsenal 2022/23 543 (19th) 372(17th) 50 (16th)
Manchester City 2022/23 437 (20th) 342 (20th) 43 (20th)


This simple table shows how Arteta has brought Arsenal ever closer to the Manchester City style of play, and how Manchester City are eternally continuing to develop their model and squeeze more and more out of the approach.

Thus fouls, tackles and yellow cards of both clubs have come right down across the four seasons.  It is a clever and persistent approach, and it is being followed by both clubs.

But our table above also shows how much further Arsenal have to go and how Manchester City are continuing to squeeze the model.  Arsenal have still not got their tackles and fouls down to the Manchester City level of 2019/20, but they are coming down.

And the big success is with yellow cards.  We have noted on this site many, many times how basically referees were wrecking Arsenal’s playing style by handing out yellow cards to Arsenal for any offence in 2019/20 – not because Arsenal were a dirty side tackling all game long, but because Arsenal were perceived as such by the referees. 

The reduction of yellow cards across Arteta’s tenure from 1st to 15th has been a major achievement, and this shows the value of holding onto a manager.   If either club changed manager it is possible that the key emphases that we see now (cut tackles, fouls, yellows, interceptions, fighting for aerials, etc) would change, and we’d lose this great development.

More than anything we need to keep this model running.  



2 Replies to “How Arsenal are remourcelessly following the Man City model”

  1. I think we can accept that a richer club has more success than us. We, after all, were called the Bank of England club in the 1930s. We only hope that there are some rules and that the richer teams abide by them.

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