Date published: Saturday 17 th October 2020 8: 28

Pep Guardiola refuted the apparent master versus apprentice story in the accumulation to Manchester City’s clash with Arsenal. The edgy 1-0 win over his former assistant verified that Guardiola wasn’t just blowing smoke up Mikel Arteta’s behind— however Pep demonstrated that he can still teach his previous partner a thing or more.

A potential classic at the Etihad was drowned in the respect these previous associates still hold for one another. The wariness of both sides, understandable it should be stated, turned what might have been a slugfest into a cagey affair settled by one moment of decisiveness on City’s part and a small lapse in concentration on Toolbox’s.

That will do just fine for Guardiola. City have gone balls out in their last 2 matches and have actually suffered shame in both. Leicester chose them off with shocking ease 3 weeks earlier, while Guardiola’s mentor, Marcelo Bielsa, went toe-to-toe with the Spaniard during City’s last Premier League trip prior to the global break when Leeds were unfortunate not to take all 3 points in a thriller at Elland Road.

With the functions reversed and Guardiola being pegged as the master to Arteta the apprentice, having actually doubtless stewed on it for the last fortnight, the City manager selected a more disciplined method to avoid being appeared by his previous right-hand guy.

Guardiola’s intent was to prevent a repeat of what occurred at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final. City never got to grips with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang coming off the left flank however Pep hatched a plan to prevent history repeating itself. And it worked.

Read: 16 conclusions on a Merseyside derby classic

It wasn’t totally apparent in the early stages what that plan was, with all sorts of numbers being tossed around in all way of sequences to describe what shape City were taking, however the concept of Guardiola’s choice was to close the channel between his right-back and right-sided centre-back, the space where Aubameyang loves to trigger havoc.

On this celebration, Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker squeezed out Aubameyang and the Toolbox captain failed to sign up a shot of any kind on Ederson’s goal. Walker was specifically impressive along with Ruben Dias making just his second City look.

That is not to say the City goalkeeper wasn’t worked. Ederson had to be sharp off his line twice in the very first half with one conserve to reject Bukayo Saka, after Aubameyang teed up the youngster– evidence that the keeper had put his costly error at Leeds behind him.

” He understands our gamers however I do not understand his gamers”

Pep Guardiola reacting to Sol Campbell’s discuss the game being almost ‘chess like’ considering his close relationship with Arteta

— Football Daily (@footballdaily) October 17, 2020

That opportunity, and a charge shout prior to the break when Walker’s boot wandered off dangerously near to Gabriel’s face, ought to have encouraged Toolbox. The Gunners seemed too preoccupied with the potential ramifications of being drawn out. City withstood the temptation to be too daring however that is somewhat understandable offered their current fortunes.

The fact City had won their last 7 league conferences with Arsenal, combined with the Gunners not having have not yet beaten a top-six side given that 2015, maybe contributed to the visitors’ wariness but with City creaking in the opening weeks of the season and Arsenal in rather better kind, perhaps this was a chance missed on Arteta’s part. This was a brand-new Toolbox side haunted by the failings of old ones.

Arsenal needed to adapt their plan instantly prior to kick-off when Rob Holding left after sustaining an injury in the warm-up. David Luiz was available in, however thankfully for Arteta, this was the Luiz which shackled City’s attack in the FA Cup semi-final, rather than the one who shambled his way through Toolbox’s trip to the Etihad.

But Arteta steadfastly declined to wander off from that plan.

Toolbox’s lack of experience was gratefully observed by City, who collected their first tidy sheet of the Premier League season with an unfamiliar back four. But that rearguard was assembled with one thing in mind– to stop Aubameyang– and Guardiola will take terrific delight in a task well done.

Ian Watson

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