Although mathematically possible, the race for the title is well and truly over and it was Brighton who delivered the final blow to Arsenals hopes. Here are 3 things we learnt from the soul-crushing defeat…
ONE: Missing Zinchenko
The importance of Zinchenko cannot be underestimated. His influence on games across the season has single handedly been the difference maker when building up possession from the back.
He has the rare ability of maintaining a defensive structure whilst also adding depth in midfield, allowing players like Xhaka to progress into the attacking half of the pitch to open up spaces for wide players like Martinelli and Jesus who both have goals in double digits this season.
We noticed how much more work Xhaka and Jorginho were having to do against Brighton and especially in possession where we failed to build up play from the back. Whilst Zinchenko isn’t the most efficient defensive fullback, his intensity on the ball, agile movement and number of touches during build-up is the key to progressing play into the final third.
TWO: City playing first
It feels like a bit of a cop out to use this as an excuse for Arsenals tepid performance but since a large part of the game is influenced by mentality and confidence, I think it’s worth mentioning City’s casual 3-0 victory over Everton and its implications on the players.
Questions were asked on Manchester City’s capabilities of playing Everton in between two tough champions league semi final ties against Real Madrid. It seemed that if City were to slip up, then it would come at the hands of relegation fighters Everton who stunned Brighton in their previous fixture with a 5-1 win. But the fact Pep’s men were able to brush aside Everton with such ease and composure confirmed what most had feared; they are in a league of their own.
The physiological damage of witnessing City’s ruthless victory in addition to the 4 point gap clearly had a visible impact on the players. Not to mention the flat environment at The Emirates which for the most part has been made into a fortress. Especially after the brilliant performance against Newcastle United, the task perhaps became too big to replicate against Brighton.
THREE: End of the line for Tierney
Whilst acknowledging the importance of Zinchenko we also learnt how far behind Kieran Tierney is from challenging Zinchenko for the left back position. A few seasons ago he was considered one of the most important outfield players. However, since then the role of our full backs have evolved and he has failed to reinvent himself.
Looking at the numbers, Zinchenko averages around 80 touches and 55 completed passes per game whilst Tierney only managed to have 38 touches and completed 19 of his 26 passes against Brighton. Clearly, the lack of involvement during build-up play saw him struggle to assert himself which in turn made it difficult for us to maintain possession.
However, the question still remains on whether or not he has a place at the club. Despite not having the technical and passing abilities, as a full-back he still has the ability to change the tempo of a game. He can come on and add explosive energy down the flank which can be beneficial when we’re faced against stubborn oppositions.
Written by: Farhan Ahmed (@GunnerSince96)