Arsenal and Manchester City: the key Champions League lessons

Forget all the nonsense being written across the tabloids…. This by Michael Cox is what clubs and their fans should be concentrating on.



Playing a more ‘English’ style can cause problems

 … Bayern are a more powerful side than Barcelona, but they had no answer to Arsenal’s extremely forceful start at the Emirates, seemingly unable to deal with the tempo. Only Mesut Özil’s penalty failure prevented Arsenal from leading.

Barcelona, meanwhile, still struggle aerially. They were comfortable defending against a half-fit Sergio Agüero running in behind, but encountered more problems when facing the taller Edin Dzeko, who allowed City to cross the ball dangerously, and forced Víctor Valdés into a great save with a header.

Individual mistakes are costly when dealing with through-balls

…They (Bayern and Barca) concede space in behind, but when forced to turn and chase opposition strikers, their challenges are usually controlled.

In stark contrast, the English clubs committed first-leg fouls which denied a clear goalscoring opportunity: resulting in a penalty, a red card and a suspension. Martín Demichelis brought down Lionel Messi, Wojciech Szczesny did the same to Arjen Robben a day later.

You must strike when on top

For Arsenal, this was at the start of the first leg and the end of the second leg, supporting the idea that Pep Guardiola’s sides take a while to get started, and can become complacent. City, meanwhile, had some decent opportunities midway through the second leg at a nervous Camp Nou.

The key, of course, is scoring during these periods – and when the pressure is on.

You need 100% fit players to press

Both sides (Bayern and Barca) are excellent at holding on to the ball, particularly in deep positions, and the fact they were happy to cool the tempo of the second legs, preserving their advantage in the tie, meant the English sides had to press high up the pitch to force the issue, and open up the game.

This was difficult carrying a half-fit player (Ozil and Aguero), and both managers were forced to waste a substitution at half-time, giving them less opportunity to inject energy in the second period.

Weaknesses in squad are exposed at this level

 …City’s lack of a commanding centre-back to play alongside Vincent Kompany proved decisive in both legs, while Arsenal’s absence of a trusted alternative to Olivier Giroud meant the extremely raw Yaya Sanogo started the first game. Two goals City conceded were directly because of centre-back errors, while Arsenal gave themselves an extremely tough task in Munich, having failed to take full advantage of their early dominance at the Emirates.

Source: Guardian 

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