Nothing will change at Arsenal until the manager leaves.

A simple summary but an apt one after a pathetic Carabao Cup performance in which Arsenal were utterly powerless against a Manchester City side that ground them into the dust.

City pressed high and hard, as so many have done this season, and Arsenal time and again wilted, giving the ball away in silly positions, passing into touch, conceding free-kicks and allowing such pressure to be built up that, ultimately, it was only ever a matter of time.

All the while, a man who cost the club in excess of £50million was so isolated and ineffectual at the attacking end of the pitch that he may as well not have been in the stadium.

Does any of this come as a surprise? Of course not. In truth, it was only City’s carelessness in the first half that prevented them from wrapping matters up earlier and allowed Arsenal to stay in a game they had no right to be in.

The Gunners were never really in the contest, that’s the painful reality of it. For all the talk of Wembley, of the occasion, of the players wanting some silverware, of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s return to the side, it was all rendered useless by City’s iron-clad system of play that proved too good for them.

So in tune was every player in blue that it was like watching a training session between the senior side and the youth team. No prizes for guessing which team assumed which role.

City pressed relentlessly, in numbers, and with purpose. From the moment the ball crossed the 18-yard line there was an interested party in blue, there was a presence that meant the ball could not find its way into midfield.

More often than not, the ball was rushed back to David Ospina and then thrashed aimlessly towards Aubameyang, who was easily crowded out.

And that was about as successful an outcome as Arsenal managed. If the ball wasn’t hopelessly kicked to no-one in particular, it was surrendered to City, who quickly got numbers to the ball and created space and time enough to make an opportunity.

It happened so regularly, with such precision, and such predictability, that it become a game of survival for Arsene Wenger’s side, with the boss seemingly content to look on from the sidelines as the pressure mounted and mounted on what was is, at best, an average defence.

The first time I remember Arsenal stringing together five passes was sometime around the 70-minute mark, when they were 3-0 down and City had dropped 10-15 yards for a breather.

Even then, when allowed at last to move the ball out of defence, the best they could muster were shots from distance which, unsurprisingly, sailed harmlessly high and wide of the target.

It would have been unjust if Arsenal had managed to get a goal back, even with Claudio Brave between the posts. They didn’t deserve it.

It is correct to say that Manchester City boast the most expensively-assembled side of all time. Money has been no object for Pep Guardiola in putting together his squad. You would expect, therefore, for them to be among the best sides in the world – and they are.

Arsenal, by contrast, are nowhere close to being among the best sides in the world. At the moment, they are struggling to be among the best sides in England.

Naturally, therefore, one would expect Manchester City to have the advantage over a side like Arsenal. I accept that argument and agree that it has some validity.

What I don’t accept is for a team to be so thoroughly outclassed and humiliated that they fail to create any chance of significance for an entire game. And not just any game, a cup final.

It is not good enough and it is not worthy. Everyone who follows the club deserved better than what was served up.

I understand that sometimes teams are just better than you on the day. But no team should ever be so outplayed in a cup final, one of those rare occasions in a sporting career that come around so fleetingly for many.

That’s not to say that the team that took to the pitch didn’t try, because as far as I am concerned, all of them appeared to give it a go but the tactics were so awry, so toxic and counterproductive that any amount of effort was rendered useless.

How many times have we said that this season?

There are no prizes for guessing whose job it is to get the tactics, the setup, and the motivation right. Arsene has been firefighting in that department for the last five years now, struggling to find anything like a long-term solution to a problem that just won’t go away.

Increasingly in the last two or three years, the Frenchman has been unable to even force a shift in focus in the latter stages of the season when, traditionally, the Gunners pick up a timely piece of momentum. This final was the perfect case in point.

The tactics were just wrong. They were completely ineffectual, to the extent that it was simply piteous to watch.

And piteous is about as fitting a description as can be given to the manager, who is stumbling and staggering from one match to the next, confused and without direction, unsure what to do next and with hope and confidence draining like blood from a wound.

When Guardiola’s side emerged from their half-time team-talk, they were like a team renewed, back to something like their best. Arsenal, as they so often do, just carried on as they had before the break, seemingly deaf to whatever they had been told by the manager.

Nothing will change at Arsenal until the manager leaves.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s