Arsenal and Man City: Treading Water

The tallest blade of grass is the surest to be cut.‘*

Have you ever tried to tread water?

It f***ing hurts.

So much effort just to stay, essentially, in the same position. With a lot less energy.

Perspective is everything.

Above water? Serenity. Below the surface? Chaos.

There’s a finite element to it that always bothers me. It’s like doing a long, arduous sprint on a treadmill.

Eventually, you will fall. Eventually, you will sink.**

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Don’t believe me? Ask Ars√©ne Wenger and Pep Guardiola.

¬†At one point, both achieved accomplishments akin to¬†Michael Phelps’s in the pool. However, unlike the¬†American icon, both have struggled to retain dominance in the latter stages of their respective careers, leading to vociferous (and often embarrassing) arguments over whether they have overstayed their welcome.***

 Tuesday night was a perfect example of this anti-climatic paradox. Both Arsenal and Manchester City recorded much-needed wins to boost (and secure) their Champions League qualification objectives.

¬†In Manchester, City made light work of a West Brom side that had one eye on the beach by putting three past them in relatively quick fashion. Gabriel Jesus scored a tap-in from Kevin De Bruyne on 27 minutes, before they reversed roles just a couple of minutes later. Yaya Tour√© joined in with proceedings, scoring on the 57th minute from ¬†Sergio Ag√ľero’s fantastic pass to put the game beyond doubt. Hal-Robson Kanu grabbed a consolation goal for Tony Pulis’s side on the 87th minute.

Meh.****

¬†At the Emirates, Arsenal kept the pressure on Liverpool by dispatching an already relegated Sunderland, Alexis S√°nchez scoring two cleverly crafted goals to take his tally to 23 for the season. The home side had 62.5% possession, 36 shots (12 on target) and 17 corners to Sunderland’s three. Arsenal now need to beat Everton and hope Liverpool lose at home to Middlesborough to qualify for the Champions League.

¬†Fun little fact for you – Mesut √Ėzil created 12 chances, the most in a single match since Opta began keeping records.

Meh.

 Despite the (relatively) comfortable victories, they were played out to atmospheres of apathy and abjection. Thousands of empty seats; minimal noise; palpable frustration.

¬†We’re talking about top international players here… S√°nchez, Jesus, √Ėzil, De Bruyne – the list goes on. Fans¬†had the chance to watch them… and a considerable amount¬†chose not to.

 This is why this instalment of #TGIMD is pretty light on the match analysis. The results were important in a sense, but also completely irrelevant in the same breath.  Arsenal and Man City could have thrashed their legs about and scored six each, but the league table, and feeling of frustration would have been the same. It simply cannot be ignored.

 Earlier in the week, one manager acknowledged that he would probably have been sacked had he achieved a similar failure under his previous clubs, whilst the other contradicted his own now infamous claim that reaching a certain league position is something to be proud of.

 Regardless of your stance on both comments, it is clear that both Wénger and Guardiola were acknowledging that their fanbases had lost interest in watching their teams stay afloat.

¬†Now I don’t know about you, but once I¬†have admitted that I am¬†struggling to stay above water, I am either propelling myself forward, or getting out of the damn pool.*****

Let’s see what choice they make.

ūü§Ē

J

#TGIMD

*One of the 10¬†principles of underachievement from¬†Ray Bennett’s¬†The Underachiever’s Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great.¬†

**Unless you turn down the treadmill’s speed. Or jump off. Or go underwater. You get my drift.

***Phelps won multiple golds in 5 of the 6 Olympics he competed in, before retiring on top and joining the latest Baywatch crew. Pep is rapidly losing what’s left of his hair, and as for Ars√©ne… you live by the meme; you die by the meme.

****Fans of lower league teams will probably call me a spoilt brat… but remember, perspective is everything.

*****OK, I think I’ve run (swum) with this analogy¬†as far as my legs (arms) can take me.

[Image provided courtesy of wikiHow.]

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Arsenal vs Man United: Pick Your Poison

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I ‚ÄĒ
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.’*

 It may be late on in the season, but Arséne Wenger and José Mourinho still have much to contemplate before Sunday’s seismic Premier League clash at the Emirates, with multiple storylines waiting to be written as one team on the ascension meets another on the decline.

 What more can be said about Arsenal?

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 Familiarity may have bred contempt for the Gunners, but, ironically, this might be exactly what they need as the season reaches its apex.

 Their latest defeat in a year of mentally damaging ones came at the hands of arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur, no less, with the away side losing 2-0 in the last North London derby at White Hart Lane.

 At a time when consistency, physicality and mental fortitude is key, Wenger will have yet more surgery to perform as he attempts to patch up his squad for another pivotal match which could make a tumultuous situation even worse.

 Top of the agenda will be the question of whether the Gunners persist with a vogue 3-4-2-1 formation that served them so well against Manchester City and Middlesbrough, or revert to type to match Manchester United’s favoured 4-2-3-1.

¬†Smaller conundrums include the central defensive partner for Laurent Koscielny, who leads the front line ahead of Alexis S√°nchez and Mesut √Ėzil, and who takes Granit Xhaka‚Äôs place, the combative midfielder having been ruled out with an ankle injury.

 Whatever remedy Wenger attempts to revive his team with must work this time, or Arsenal’s league campaign will flatline.**

¬†Mourinho, also has multiple¬†objectives to prioritise from ‚Äď his ambitions in the Europa League, his expectations for the Premier League and his love for beating Wenger.

 After a slow start and seemingly perpetual stint in sixth place, the Red Devils now have multiple routes through which they can potentially march towards Champion League qualification.

 United have leapfrogged their opponents by accumulating an impressive, if unspectacular, unbeaten Premier League record that dates back to their 4-0 defeat at the hands of current leaders Chelsea in late October.

¬†This turn of form and fortune has been carried into their Europa League campaign. Despite losing twice in a tedious group phase, United have won six of their last eight in the competition, the latest happening away at Celta Vigo in the Semi-Final First Leg, courtesy of Marcus Rashford’s fine free-kick.

¬†The Portuguese manager will have to choose which fixture list suits his team best, balancing a jaded team without the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovińá, with a chance to extend his unbeaten Premier League record against Wenger.

 Despite all of the questions, one thing is or sure Рhow the two managers approach Sunday’s game will have huge ramifications on their club’s futures, as the result will ultimately serve as an antidote for one, and poison for the other.***

ūüė∑

J

#TGIMD

 

*The final three lines of Robert Frost’s 1916 poem, The Road Not Taken.

**COME ON YOU GUNNERS.

***PERSONAL DISCLAIMER: If Arsenal lose and any of my United supporting mates wonder why I have dropped off of the face of the Earth, it’s because I have been poisoned by said defeat and need approximately a week to recover. I’ll be alright by the next game.

[Image provided courtesy of Sky Sports.]