The Lon­don­ers showed a mas­ter class in play­ing defense.

Eng­land. Pre­mier League. 30th round

March 31, 18:30. Eti­had Sta­di­um (Man­ches­ter)

Man­ches­ter city



The match between MS and Arse­nal is the last in which the clubs par­tic­i­pat­ing in the cham­pi­onship race meet each oth­er. And con­sid­er­ing that Liv­er­pool had put the squeeze on Brighton (2:1) a cou­ple of hours ear­li­er, City found itself in a sit­u­a­tion where defeat would become, if not a dis­as­ter, then some­thing close to it — the sit­u­a­tion for Pep Guardiola’s team was com­pli­cat­ed would be to the lim­it, since she would be four points behind her rivals.

Man­ches­ter City and Arse­nal drew and fell behind Liv­er­pool. Online broad­cast of the match

Yes, of course, until the end of the sea­son, los­ing points is almost inevitable for all three con­tenders for the title: for exam­ple, every­one still has to play with Tot­ten­ham, Liv­er­pool and Arse­nal and then go to vis­it Man­ches­ter Unit­ed, City and Arse­nal. meet with Aston Vil­la and so on. Plus, all three clubs con­tin­ue to com­pete in Euro­pean cups, which also takes away ener­gy and atten­tion (and MS also has the FA Cup). But when you have minus four from your com­peti­tors, every­thing becomes much more dif­fi­cult and you need to hope for a small mir­a­cle. And from this point of view, it was a lit­tle eas­i­er for Arse­nal: defeat would have been an unpleas­ant blow, includ­ing a psy­cho­log­i­cal one, but in this case, Mikel Arteta’s team would have been three points behind Liv­er­pool, which can be won back.

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The com­po­si­tion and for­ma­tion of Arse­nal (4–3‑3) were quite famil­iar, the only inter­est­ing detail was Gabriel Jesus on the left flank (as he once did when play­ing for City), and Kai Havertz, who was extreme­ly use­ful in press­ing, was in place “ false nine.” With “MS” every­thing was a lit­tle more com­pli­cat­ed. For­mal­ly it looked like 4–2‑3–1, but only for­mal­ly. Because when defend­ing, Guardi­o­la’s team lined up in a com­pact 4–4‑2 when Kevin De Bruyne advanced to Erling Haa­land. As for the attack, in the ini­tial stage of pos­ses­sion, Manuel Akan­ji and Joshko Guardi­ol, who played on the defen­sive flanks, were posi­tioned as high and wide as pos­si­ble. Rodri and Mateo Kovacic dropped down to the goal­keep­er and cen­tral defend­ers, with Phil Foden and Bernar­do Sil­va tak­ing their places in the mid­dle. It’s not that this was anoth­er case of Guardi­o­la syn­drome, when Pep plays wise in impor­tant match­es — he seems to have recov­ered from it, because fur­ther on, in the Arse­nal penal­ty area, every­thing turned into a rather famil­iar and famil­iar 3–2‑5.

The prob­lem is that this did­n’t hap­pen very often because Arse­nal defend­ed in an absolute­ly out­stand­ing man­ner. No, it was not a “bus” and trench­es in our own penal­ty area. The Gun­ners, with their press­ing and excel­lent team move­ments, made it as dif­fi­cult as pos­si­ble for City to start and devel­op attacks. To get to a third of the Arse­nal field and set up there, the hosts wast­ed a lot of time and made a lot of unnec­es­sary pass­es. In the 20th minute, the broad­cast showed a cap­tion: pos­ses­sion 72 to 28 in favor of City, but this was the case when such sta­tis­tics are as mis­lead­ing as pos­si­ble. Because a big part of this pos­ses­sion: prepa­ra­tion pass­es to get past the vis­i­tors’ first line of defence.

In the entire first half, City had only one prop­er shot: Nathan Ake’s shot from a cor­ner kick. Yes, from out­side the goal­keep­er’s area, and Arse­nal were lucky that the ball hit David Raya. But that’s all. This is an anom­alous sit­u­a­tion for MS, and it was Arse­nal who made it this way, whose quick attacks were much more dan­ger­ous. And, by the way, the fact that there was no “bus” in the per­for­mance of the guests is evi­denced by the fact that in their most dan­ger­ous attack in the first half, which led to Jesus’ shot from the penal­ty line, both full-backs took an active part — Ben White and Jakub Kiv­ior.

Mikel Arte­ta and Pep Guardi­o­la.
Pho­to by Reuters

And one more impor­tant detail: Arse­nal showed some incred­i­ble lev­el of calm and self-con­fi­dence. And when it was nec­es­sary, he did not hes­i­tate to foul (care­ful­ly and tech­ni­cal­ly) and play for time, not allow­ing City to catch their tem­po and rhythm of the game.

There was only one ques­tion: to what extent the guests would be able to main­tain this con­cen­tra­tion and the high­est lev­el of coher­ence in team inter­ac­tions against the back­drop of accu­mu­lat­ing fatigue. And then, we should nev­er for­get: on the oth­er half of the field there are Man­ches­ter City, led by Pep Guardi­o­la. Which, for exam­ple, have drib­blers such as Jack Gre­al­ish and Jere­my Doku in reserve — both entered the field in the 61st minute (Arte­ta, by the way, imme­di­ate­ly respond­ed with his sub­sti­tu­tions).

With the arrival of Gre­al­ish and Doku, the pres­sure on Arse­nal’s defense has increased, as have City’s set-pieces. And the hosts had their best chance to score just after the cor­ner, but Haa­land missed the ball that Guardi­ol threw to him at the far post. And lit­er­al­ly in the next attack, the guests couldn’t fig­ure out how to play out a quick three-on-two — it all end­ed with a shot from Lean­dro Trossard from an acute angle, which Ste­fan Orte­ga calm­ly dealt with.

Klop­p’s great­ness at Liv­er­pool goes beyond titles. He gave a chance to a record num­ber of club stu­dents

Per­haps this was the bright­est flash in what turned out to be a rather closed match. Arse­nal made him this way, but con­demn­ing Arte­ta and his team for this is com­plete­ly stu­pid and point­less, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing all the tour­na­ment sce­nar­ios. The Gun­ners have tak­en four points from City this sea­son with­out con­ced­ing (1:0 and 0:0) — and this is extreme­ly impor­tant from a psy­cho­log­i­cal and self-con­fi­dence point of view. As well as the fact that the Lon­don­ers end­ed MS’s absolute­ly incred­i­ble streak of 57 home match­es (in all com­pe­ti­tions) in which they scored at least one goal.

Sure­ly the red part of Liv­er­pool is also hap­py — now Jur­gen Klop­p’s team has become the sole leader. How­ev­er, strate­gi­cal­ly, City also did not lose any­thing, since the team remained in the cham­pi­onship race — the gap from first place is only three points, and this is quite recov­er­able.

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City dropped to third after the draw with Arse­nal and des­per­ate­ly needs a win against Aston Vil­la. The vic­to­ry of Guardi­o­la’s team is quot­ed as 1.28, the prob­a­bil­i­ty of this out­come is approx­i­mate­ly 78%. Birm­ing­ham’s suc­cess is billed as 9.50 (6%), draw — for 6.10 (16%).