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March 2021

Man City v Arsenal: a change of tactics is predicted, and the psychological game

By Tony Attwood

As predicted after the Everton game, the aaa are back.  uMaxit – a website I’d not come across before although I am sure it has been there for a long time, has a huge audience and the fault in not seeing it is entirely mine – having told us after the Stoke game all about “Rampant Arsenal” is now telling us how awful Arsenal are.

This isn’t their persistent style – for example even in the depths of Man U’s struggles earlier this season they gave us “Manchester United Are Actually Being Properly Rebuilt – Even If Results Don’t Prove It”.  But it is something reserved for Arsenal.  So what we now get is…

“Football is supposed to be the thing that breaks us away from the monotony of whatever it is we usually do. The end of the season feels so strange because it is both the time when we return to monotony and the time when football itself is shown to be slightly monotonous.

“But, for Arsenal fans, it is hard to imagine that football does in fact allow any escape from monotony. The experience of Arsenal and Arsene Wenger is so predictable and so glumly boring that this season’s hopes can be reduced to the pitiful phrase “Chuba Akpom looked good in pre-season.”

The approach is obviously one that comes directly from either a Daily Mirror writer (and yes it turns out that is what the author is or was) and Last Game Syndrome, in which you take the last match a club has played and then generalise out from that and ignore everything else.

We those of us closer to reality know of course is that no matter how long or short a run is, all runs end, and so all hearts are broken.   But that isn’t really the issue.  The issue is building on the run, overcoming the upset of the run ending, and then starting again.

It did strike me that that particular site however, being linked as it is to a gambling operation, the writers might be deliberately using the “only as good as your last game” attitude in order to give misleading advice to those who indulge in gambling.  But no, I am sure they could not be doing that – it was just a fleeting fancy.  To give misleading information to gamblers – that just wouldn’t be fair.

Of course most players are individually and collectively affected by the last result of the game they played in, and part of the manager’s job is to pick the players up after that result if it was a defeat or a depressing draw, or keep the confidence under control after a solid win.

But there is still the bigger picture.  Take Manchester Airport’s last 10 games for example.

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Game Date Opponents Venue Result Pos
7 02.10.2016 Tottenham Hotspur away L0-2 1
8 15.10.2016 Everton home D1-1 1
9 23.10.2016 Southampton home D1-1 1
10 29.10.2016 West Bromwich Albion away W4-0 1
11 05.11.2016 Middlesbrough home D1-1 2
12 19.11.2016 Crystal Palace away W2-1 2
13 26.11.2016 Burnley away W2-1 3
14 03.12.2016 Chelsea home L1-3 4
15 10.12.2016 Leicester City away L2-4 4
16 14.12.2016 Watford home W2-0 4
17 18.12.2016 Arsenal home

The “Baggage Handlers” as they are now affectionately known after their sponsor (ok they aren’t but with my lunatic sense of humour it just struck me as droll as I wrote it, although perhaps in retrospect it isn’t very funny), have only one thing to cling onto – beating Watford in the last game.  But as the colour blue above shows you, there have only been four of those wins in the last ten as they’ve sunk into the play-off position in the Champions League.

Arsenal’s last 10 games tell a different tale…

Game Date Opponents Venue Result Pos
7 02.10.2016 Burnley away W1-0 3
8 15.10.2016 Swansea City home W3-2 2
9 22.10.2016 Middlesbrough home D0-0 1
10 29.10.2016 Sunderland away W4-1 2
11 06.11.2016 Tottenham Hotspur home D1-1 4
12 19.11.2016 Manchester United away D1-1 4
13 27.11.2016 Bournemouth home W3-1 4
14 03.12.2016 West Ham United away W5-1 2
15 10.12.2016 Stoke City home W3-1 1
16 13.12.2016 Everton away L1-2 2
17 18.12.2016 Manchester City away

Our position is much more variable – seven wins but not in a block.  Positions wandering from 1st to 4th.  And yes I know Arsenal are now third – for consistency the “pos” column reflects exactly where the club was after the games on that day.  The table comes from the excellent site.

So the question is, can you really judge everything by the last game?   If you look at Chelsea’s record at the moment the answer is yes, but all runs end – be they good or bad runs.

And there is the fact that Arsenal under Mr Wenger have been able to beat Mr Guardiola and the big money teams.

In the 2-1 win over Barcelona in the Champions league in 2011 Arsenal won 2-1 by holding back at home and working on the counter attack: Arshavin at his best.  Arsenal with 47% possession.

Building on this Arsenal then took the possession rate down further for the 0-2 away win at the Airport in the 2014/15 season.  This time possession sank to around 35% – quite unusual for Arsenal.  In fact very unusual for Arsenal.

And there was the 2-0 win over Bayern last season.

That victory was interesting for Mr Wenger must have liked what he saw as he then really turned it on and actually under 30% possession for the Bayern game at Arsenal Stadium (as it is called on Euro nights).

The game involved Mesut Ozil playing in a different role – and he is easily a good enough player to do that with effect.

And Mr Wenger has does this elsewhere.  In March 2015 Arsenal had a quarter final FA Cup tie away to Manchester United, that looked rather tricky.   Arsenal had won none of the last seven games against Man U either home or away.  But this time Arsenal pulled back and had only 42% of the possession but let Man U get more and more frustrated.  As the home side got worried and the fouls count rose inexorably Arsenal simply took the game on the counter attack.

Now what makes me so fascinated by the counter attack is that it was the prime tactic of Herbert Chapman who bought players specifically to play in this style.   Obviously we don’t have film of the Chapman matches to observe it in detail, and newspaper reports of the day didn’t really do too much in the way of tactical analysis for fear that their readers wouldn’t quite be able to grasp the nuances (a bit like today).

But we do get a clue from the results he got – for both with Huddersfield and with Arsenal, Chapman achieved similar numbers of wins home and away in his championship winning seasons.  He played the system home and away.

I can’t see Mr Wenger going for counter attacking both at home and away as Chapman did, but we have seen that he can use it when he wants.  This might be the occasion.

On the other hand, as I write this, the fog around my house is so dense I can’t see my hand behind my back.  Let’s hope it lifts.

Tales from Untold 

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

Man City v Arsenal: a change of tactics is predicted, and the psychological game

Özil asks Arsenal to sign Draxler as part of contract deal and other tales

Ref Review: West Ham – Arsenal: an even bias score, miracles do happen

Football journalism has become a walled wonderland inherently incompatible with reality

All the Arsenal transfers you might have missed and some that may yet happen

The video ref in action: a practical example of video refereeing in the Club World Cup

It’s not the defeat that counts, it’s what happens next



16 comments to Man City v Arsenal: a change of tactics is predicted, and the psychological game

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    I can’t force a team selection on Le Prof when it comes to his match day team selection, can I? Afterall he has been a coach of up to 30 years at the top level in the game. Whereas am just a armchair coach.

    In the quest of my being a armchair coach and in particular for Arsenal FC. Le Prof has said in his today’s presser that the Gunners should not be timid when they have the ball. Let me add my own to this as: The Gunners should not be timid on the ball at the Etihad on Sunday whenever they are in possession of the ball. Rather, they should be confident on the ball as they hold on to possession, not give it away cheaply but be bold with on the ball in their possessions and do bolder things with the ball against the Citizens at the Etihad. Right?

    Le Prof knows all his players well than me who only know them by watching them playing on my TV and by what I read about them on the internet browsing.

    Nevertheless, I’ve noticed our team in the Stoke match at the Ems is the same team Le Prof has used to start our lose Everton game. The Gunners cannot continue to use the excuse of not having Shokodran Mustafi in their defense-line for losing at Everton. And this same excuse can’t be allowed to repeat in our Man City game.

    Therefore, for us not to fail at the Etihad on Sunday, Le Prof has got to make some Gunners and positional changes to his stale team that lost to Everton last Tuesday.

    To confuse and force Pep Guardiola and his Citizens side into submission, I suggest Le Prof take Paulista to RB and start the lackluster at Everton Bellerin from the bench. And start Chamberlain at RW and Perez at LW in place of the underwelming performer at Everton – Walcott. While the timid in front of goal at Everton – Iwobi who can’t shot powerful in front of goal at Everton resulting in his goal scoring attempt cleared on the line.

    My starts once again:

    Paulista Holding Koscielny Gibbs
    LeCoq Xhaka
    Oxchambo Ozil Perez

    My bench:
    Ospina Bellerin Monreal Elneny Walcott Iwobi Giroud.

  • Tai

    Great article Tony.

    One of my biggest challenges as a man is picking myself up after an Arsenal loss and write coherently. I admire your efforts.

    I’ve never truly seen titles as win-or-die affair but truly there’s much at stake this season than ever before. I personally want Wenger to win the title again for Arsenal before drawing the curtains. I even want him to give the UCL all the shots next season.

    I’m genuinely afraid Le Prof may call it quits by end of season if it ends badly. And only the title will be good enough this season.

    For that I wouldn’t truly want us to be nine points or even eight behind Chelsea at any point this season. Whatever it takes Arsenal just have to beat City on Sunday.

    The team is good. They just had a bad day at Godison Park. On their day any team will fall. Let one of those days be on Sunday.

  • para

    Is Perez not injured?

    Ramsey not back, Danny to start training so pick of last games players says AW.

    We should win this one though, don’t think the players are up for another loss.

    ManC is in injury/suspension hell, (without Kompany and Aguero,Fernandinho)but we should show them no mercy, no one does to us(yes, eye for an eye) and win the game.

    Apparently our only injuries are
    Ramsey and Welbeck?

    Still not to be taken lightly, they may have a suprise or two we must be aware of.

  • Walton

    Just read elsewhere that Arsene in 32 years of football management has only secured 3 top titles and none whatsoever in Europe. This could be looked into on this site which has such good resources for going the extra statistical mile. Certainly would be more interesting than reams on referee reports which are pathological in their undertaking. If City are baggage handlers you have to wonder who will be the baggage come the summer holidays.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Walton first of all you are wrong. LOL did you read it on Le Groan???

    Wenger won 4 titles. 3 PL and one in France. But as you also refer to Europeaan trophies we also should bring in other trophies like cups.
    And if we then count them we see this:
    4 titles
    FA cups(Coupe de France) : 7
    Not trophies but still mentioned on each and every club site: Community shields: 6

    And the biggest trophy is maybe never mentioned: keeping a club in the top 4 while building and paying for a brand new stadium.

  • Walton

    Like I said – 3 discernible titles and nadir in Europe. Not a great record compared to the real big guns. I personally feel Arsene is amazed at his standing in the game. Unique.

  • Tai

    Where is this Walton coming from?

  • Luscious Lisa

    Hindsight will be a wonderful thing. Go for it and lose, and you are will be the team with only a Plan A. Play counter-attack and lose, and you will the team that gifted possession and a win to a weakened opponent.
    It’s an anomaly this season that by common agreement the team is stronger at the back, but has less clean sheets. I’d like to see the team set up with a clean sheet as the priority. Achieve that objective, and one goal wins it. Many fans I expect would have (reluctantly) settled for two points from the Everton and City games. Three points from those two games still very achievable.

  • WalterBroeckx

    He is having trouble with counting to 4….

  • Gord

    Jim-Bob Walton? He’s from Schuyler, Virginia.

  • Walton

    Latest is Sanchez is off to China and methinks Arsene will join him for the last great pay out. Wonder where you are from too Tai …. Even if we concur with 4 that is a poor haul for 32 years. Gord – have you ever been to a PL match or do you just stream while salmon fishing in an Alaska of the mind ….

  • omgarsenal

    Don’t feed the troll……Walton or whatever!

  • omgarsenal

    The only pathological person here is Walton with his cowardly criticism of Usama and Walter’s incredible efforts to show how poor EPL officiating is and how the media, clowns like Walton and the EPL ignore it. I doubt he has anything to contribute to the discussion but I wouldn’t try and attack Gord….he has teeth unlike Walton’s toothless and insipid posts.

  • Menace

    Good nite Walton. Get back to la la land……

  • Walton

    Just remember where you read about Weng Ho and San Cho first. Happy streaming second hand supporters.

  • finsbury

    The troll’s timing was impeccable as Mr.Moss gives a performance that telegraphs the PGMOBs “game management” guidelines for this season.

    Therefore, consequently we can appreciate why it’s not surprising that the troll had to resort to xenophobia in order to try and prop it’s crumbling posture. Sad, but true!