With the Arsenal vs. City game looming over the horizon, both had quite a bit to say regarding last season’s exciting games.
Arsene Wenger was bombarded by questions about whether he was satisfied with the time slot handed to him. The City game will kick off at 12:45 BST, a lunchtime kickoff, and last season’s lunchtime kickoffs were not kind to Arsenal. Their games against the top three teams in City, Liverpool and Chelsea ended 6-3, 5-1 and 6-0 respectively.
This is what Wenger had to say.
We were not aggressive enough in those games. We were not mobile enough and lost too many challenges. As a unit, we were beaten all over the place. The history of some of the games went against us as well. We were 2-0 down after 10 minutes (against both Chelsea and Liverpool). You are always in the position that you have to take a huge gamble to come back and you open yourself up.
It wouldn’t matter if we played at 9pm or 12.45pm, they were better than us. Let’s not make a psychological problem of it. The most important thing in my job is always to find the right reasons.
Clearly a rather sweeping and damning condemnation of tactics and players employed. But has Wenger learned from his mistakes? Will we see a tactical masterclass at the Emirates today?
It is a good opportunity to show that we have improved on that front. We have got the opportunity to show that we have grown as a team, that we are more mature and ready for the fight. Let’s do it.
While admittedly the attack this year is much more mobile and capable of devastating counters, the defence, especially down the middle, is hardly overwhelming. The lack of a top quality holding midfielder may come back to haunt Arsene Wenger this game. However, he seems to be placing all his hopes on a fast, attacking game, as evidenced by his plans for Wilshere.
I personally prefer Jack Wilshere in a more advanced position than in a deep-lying role as a midfielder. If it works, it works and I am very happy for him but I think he is a guy capable of creating danger in the final third. He is provocative in his dribbling and I would like to use this quality.
Wenger was also complementary about the opposition, making it clear that the Community Shield triumph did not necessarily mean a repeat this time around.
They have done a remarkable job. They are intelligent people. They have made intelligent decisions, and do not look to work off the cuff. They look to have plans. From the outside they look like people who always try to anticipate what will happen next.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, City manager Manuel Pellegrini made it clear that is team was fully focussed for this game.
Of course, against big rivals it’s always a match of six points but more for the home team. For our team when you play against big teams it’s a very motivated game for all the players so it’s always a game of six points because, if we can beat Arsenal at their ground, for our team that is very good.
He also praised Arsenal’s resilience at the Emirates and their stronger squad.
We drew 1-1 against Arsenal at Emirates after that game we won at home, so it’s a different game and we’re not thinking about what happened last year. We have to play a very good game if we want to win the three points.
It is a very strong team. Every year it is a strong competition to all the other teams that are fighting for the title and this will be the same. It is a strong team with Alexis Sánchez, a very important player, now also with [Danny] Welbeck. They always have a very good team but this year they have more players.
So both the managers making it absolutely clear that they are treating this match with utmost seriousness. Who will lineup the better squad or play a tactical masterclass? Only time will tell, stay tuned for the squad updates.