By: Charlie Ryan, Staff Writer
- Pep’s Defensive Dilemma Continues
Having managed the likes of Philipp Lahm, Gerard Piqué, Jerome Boateng, and Dani Alves in his tenures at FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is accustomed to working with intelligent and technical defenders who can effectively maintain possession and contribute to build-up play. The situation in Manchester could not be more different. Pep has struggled to mold John Stones into a confident, ball-playing center back, and Nicolás Otamendi has been woefully inconsistent. On mid-day Sunday at the Emirates, Pep deployed the aforementioned centerback pairing with Gael Clichy and right-winger Jesús Navas as fullbacks. It did not go over well. By keeping Theo Walcott onside, Clichy was at immediate fault for Arsenal’s first goal. Shkodran Mustafi equalized from a corner kick early in the first half after out-muscling Otamendi to win the header. Throughout the game, Clichy and Navas did not pose a threat going forward, and the centerback pairing failed to have a hand in the build-up play. In all fairness, Navas had a solid game, but at age 31 he is not the answer to Pep’s defensive woes.
- Arsenal Show Resilience
After losing four of their last five matches, Arsenal knew a loss at home to Manchester City would be a death sentence for their top four hopes. Centered around sheer determination, tossing tactics, and their characteristic “beautiful football,” the Gunners clawed back from two deficits to end the game in a draw. Their passing was sloppy, their defensive structure was weak, and they lacked an element of general cohesiveness and collective tactical understanding. However, Arsenal fans can find solace in their club’s sheer desire to stay in the game and split the points and that such determination may spur their team to victory in the forthcoming fixtures.
- Leroy Sané is the Real Deal
Years from now when we examine the Guardiola Era of Manchester City, Leroy Sané will be remembered as its defining addition. Pep has taken his sweet time integrating the young German stud into the team, and Pep’s patience is paying massive dividends. Sané has been City’s best player since the turn of the calendar year, and if his superb performances in the home and away leg versus Monaco did not convince you, his electric display at the Emirates must have. Sané possesses all the attributes to become a world-beater: blistering speed, a sturdy six-foot build, unmatched physicality, impeccable dribbling and first touch, mature composure, a cannon of a shot, and an afro. Sané torched Hector Bellerín, the Premier League’s fastest defender, for the first goal of the afternoon after a beautifully-weighted ball from De Bruyne. He continued to torment the Arsenal defense with his pace and intelligent movement on and off the ball in the wide and half space. Under the instruction of one of the world’s best tacticians, Pep Guardiola, and playing alongside midfield dynamos Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, Leroy Sané’s potential is limitless. Did I mention he has an afro?