LONDON — Arsenal and Manchester City played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday but a point helped neither team in their quest to seal a top four finish.
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Here’s what we learned from north London.
TOP FOUR HANGS IN BALANCE
Both teams knew they needed a win to boost their top four hopes but neither truly took the game by the scruff of the neck.
With defensive mistakes, plenty of giveaways in midfield and missed chances for both, Wenger and Guardiola would have been frustrated with the outcome.
This game perhaps personified why these two hugely talented teams are closer to fourth place than challenging for the title.
The point keeps Arsenal in sixth place on 51 points, while Man City move to 58 points and stay in fourth place. In that respect, City will be happier with the point but this performance, which included another shaky defensive display, proved how far away they are from Chelsea and Tottenham as things stand.
With City heading to Chelsea on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men can still create havoc in the title race if they beat the leaders. This draw all but end their own title aspirations, while they’re just five points ahead of neighbors Manchester United who have a game in hand. City just can’t solidify their spot in the top four and Guardiola will point towards a lack of clinical finishing once again for not getting the three points.
Arsenal’s top four hopes hang in the balance as they’re seven points behind City with a game in hand. With just one win in their last six games, Wenger’s men needed the win but had to settle for a fair point.
DEEP DE BRUYNE
Kevin De Bruyne has been deployed in a deeper midfield role by Pep Guardiola in recent weeks and it’s working rather well. Well, at least for the first 45 minutes it did.
On his recent trip to NBC Sports’ HQ in Stamford, City’s usual deep-lying playmaker Ilkay Gundogan (out for the season with a knee injury) explained that Guardiola likes De Bruyne to play deeper so City can control midfield.
KDB’s assist for Sane’s opening goal was sublime, a rasping 40-yard side-volley which scythed opened Arsenal’s defense in an instance. He also hit the post with a long-range effort and he continued to be a pest with his deep runs as he surged into the box twice just before Sergio Aguero put City back in front. His first charge resulted in an effort hitting the post and his second led to Aguero’s goal.
In the second half KDB was pushed back out wide with Raheem Sterling coming off and Yaya Toure coming on to try and regain some defensive solidity in central midfield.
Often known for his crossing ability, pace from out wide and ability to create and score in the final third, some would say De Bruyne is wasted in a deeper role further from the opponent’s goal. De Bruyne struggled when he shifted back out wide in the second half but more often than not he looks more comfortable in his usual role.
Yet, Guardiola has seen something different, as he often does, and he may transform De Bruyne into a two-way central midfielder.
SANCHEZ, OZIL INDIFFERENT
For the first time in six weeks Mesut Ozil started for Arsenal and the German playmaker was met with a mixed vibe from Gunners fans throughout.
Before kick off the Arsenal mascot for the day was asked by the stadium announcer who his favorite players to meet were: Ozil and Sanchez were the inevitable answers he gave.
How much longer both stay around for Arsenal’s fans to admire remains to be seen but there’s no denying the star quality they provide.
Ozil’s inviting corner was flicked home by Skhodran Mustafi to make it 2-2, while Sanchez danced in from the left flank to set up Walcott for a chance late in the first half and put in a typically committed display even though he couldn’t get the better of Jesus Navas who was surprisingly selected at right back.
The duo linked up well in the box in the first half with Ozil’s clever flick finding Sanchez but Fernandinho‘s perfectly-timed tackle denied the Chilean forward at the crucial moment. They’ll always create chances and look dangerous. Always.
Yet, they both made bad defensive mistakes when trying to overplay in he wrong areas. Ozil gave the ball away cheaply in the build up to Aguero’s goal, while Sanchez got away with playing a lapse flick in his own box which saw Navas cross for Aguero but his header was saved. Moments like that show that sometimes the duo can be too flamboyant and consequently Arsenal lack balance on the defensive side of the ball when they’re both on the pitch.
Whatever happens with the future of Ozil and Sanchez, Arsenal’s rebuild will be much easier with them on board. When Arsenal needed them most on Sunday, they didn’t quite deliver the goods.