Man City manager Pep Guardiola’s biggest strength is Mikel Arteta’s biggest problem at Arsenal
Manchester City will face Arsenal on the weekend as master meets apprentice; Pep Guardiola will have to overcome his former assistant in Mikel Arteta, who left Manchester to take over at the Emirates in December.
Arteta has improved the Gunners since making the move, but one major problem still persists and it tends to drift under the radar. Arsenal are commonly recognised as a team who like to attack but can’t defend, but the truth – in essence – is very different.
City will have to carefully manage the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, but the threat that Arsenal pose on the attacking side of the game actually tends to be very small.
Teams that are good offensively have a tendency to take plenty of shots. Given that goals are simply shots that find the net, the product of an effective attack – more often than not – is a strong shot count.
Last season, for example, Guardiola’s outfit placed top of Europe’s top five leagues for shots per 90, averaging 19.2 attempts per match. Bayern Munich, Juventus, PSG, Liverpool and Real Madrid all ranked inside the top 15 teams.
Arsenal – incredibly – placed as low as 83rd from a possible 98 sides.
The Gunners simply don’t generate enough shots, with their average of 10.5 efforts per match being worse than the numbers posted by Norwich City, Mallorca, Watford and Brescia last year.
Each of those teams suffered relegation from their respective leagues but Arsenal managed to finish eighth largely as a consequence of quality finishing and not conceding as many goals as those sides on the defensive side of the game.
This season, the Gunners have continued in the same vein. They have attempted to score only 29 times in total so far, which places them 18th in the Premier League ahead of only Manchester United – who have played one game less – and West Bromwich Albion on 27.
For perspective, Liverpool have taken the most shots so far with 72, and City – who have played one game less – have still managed to produce 23 more shots than Arteta’s men.
Guardiola’s former right-hand man may be focusing on improving other aspects of Arsenal’s game, but their ability to outshoot their opponents is seriously lacking.
When City last faced the Emirates side in league competition, they won 3-0 having dominated the shot count by 20 attempts to three and in the FA Cup semi-final weeks later, they lost but again managed to take 16 shots against Arsenal’s four.
Ultimately, City are almost certain to post roughly treble the number of shots that Arsenal do on Saturday evening, and if the Blues can ensure their finishing ability is sharp at the Etihad, three points are likely to follow.