Arsene Wenger made five changes from the team which lost 2-0 away to Napoli on Wednesday night as he tried to rotate his team to battle the fatigue from their gruelling schedule. Bacary Sagna, Nacho Monreal, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott came in for Carl Jenkinson, Kieran Gibbs, Mikael Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla. It was good to see Sagna return from injury and I can only assume Gibbs was injured or unwell as he didn't even make the bench.
It was also very good to see Walcott get a start after spending over two months out injured and making a few brief appearances from the bench. I thought he might be the player to make the difference for Arsenal with his pace possibly creating problems for City's defence. City had only conceded two goals in their seven home games, but I thought they could have conceded a lot more as they give teams plenty of chances.
I could go through each of the goals and where they came from but it would take half an hour or more just to read never mind how long it would take my one fingered keyboard skills to write it. Suffice it to say Arsenal handed City five of their six goals on a plate with a defensive performance which was reminiscent of the bad old days. As a team Arsenal have defended really well for roughly a year now, but all of that went out the window yesterday.
I thought both Mathieu Flamini and Mikael Arteta should have played as a screen to protect the defence but only Flamini played and City had far too many chances to run at the Arsenal defence. When Flamini was taken off with just under 20 minutes to go the team fell to pieces in midfield. The last three City goals were a direct result of Arsenal handing the ball to them as they tried to play it in midfield.
I'm struggling to understand why the boss took Flamini off and I can only assume it was to get more attacking players on to try to get back in to the game with City 4-2 up. The last time I can remember him doing something similar was when Arsenal were 3-1 down away to United a few seasons ago and ended up losing 8-2. The team were creating chances with Flamini in it and I don't see the sense in over committing players forward at the expense of the defence.
Arsenal scored three goals and had plenty of other chances too but Olivier Giroud in particular had an off day in front of goal. He has been an important part of how the team are playing this season, but he is not a top class finisher and Arsenal need a centre forward of the very highest calibre. He was unlucky to be given offside when he eventually put the ball in the net, but City had stopped playing and the header he missed a little earlier just wasn't good enough.
Wojciech Szczesny barely put a foot wrong all day and he still found himself picking the ball out of the net six times. His cause wasn't helped when Laurent Koscielny was taken off with an injury a few minutes before half time and hopefully it's nothing serious. His partnership with Per Mertesacker has been the rock the Arsenal defence has been built and the thought of him being out for a long spell is a worrying one.
I have no doubt fatigue played a part in the Arsenal performance and some of the players looked almost out on their feet towards the end. That tiredness leads to mistakes both mentally and physically and they were all too evident after the break in particular. At least their next game is over a week away and their is plenty of time for the rest the players so badly need.
When Arsenal went 3-1 down they controlled the game and missed plenty of chances before Walcott's second goal reduced the deficit to one goal. The removal of Flamini and the fourth City goal killed the game and at that stage Arsenal could have conceded an awful lot more. Arsenal kept trying to push forward and at 5-3 they weren't really on the end of a hiding. The sixth goal is probably the one which makes the scoreline so unpalatable and it was yet another case of Arsenal pressing the self destruct button.
I choose to believe that it was a bad day at the office for Arsenal and the game itself couldn't have come at a worse time for the team. Three really tough games from Sunday to Saturday were a big ask for the team and they hadn't enough left to go to their toughest away game of the season for the last of those three games. Maybe the boss got it tactically wrong on the day but Arsenal just gave the ball away too much and you cannot do that against a team with the attacking firepower of City.
It's Chelsea at home next and after yesterday's games they're only two points behind Arsenal and would overtake them with a win. A draw would see Arsenal on top of the league at Christmas and would be a pretty good outcome in my opinion. The players will have over a week to prepare for that game and hopefully get the chance to put right the mistakes of yesterday.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.