Arsenal have been left to rue a woeful defensive performance as Manchester City lead 3-0 at half-time with Mikel Arteta looking to turn the Gunners’ fortunes around with an inspired second half comeback.
An instrumental piece of Arsenal’s puzzle that defeated West Bromwich Albion to send the Gunners into the third round of the Carabao cup, Nicolas Pepe’s late illness exclusion hindered the side’s attacking threat having yet to registered a shot on target.
Arteta revealed pre-match that the Ivorian absence was not Covid related and would be left out of the squad, opening avenue of opportunities for Emile Smith Rowe, who was brought into to fill Pepe’s shoes.
He said: “We lost Nico [Pepe] today because he’s ill, not Covid-19. He’s here but he’s not in the squad. Let’s see in relation to what they can do, we can alter the formation so let’s see what happens.”
Pepe, who was one of Arsenal’s most potent figures in front of goal last season, left a void in terms of Arteta’s attacking output due to his blistering pace on the counter attack.
The winger poses a great threat to Pep Guardiola’s side who have seemingly boxed the Gunners into their own defensive third, however City’s high and vigorous press leaves them susceptible to being hit on the counter attack.
However, it is unlikely Pepe would have made too much difference from the defensive display on show at the Etihad, as Man City raced into a comfortable 3-0 lead – while Arsenal also had Granit Xhaka sent off.
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Arteta said in the build-up the the clash that his side must remain concentrated throughout – something they didn’t do as they trailed 2-0 after just 12 minutes.
“First of all, individually you have to have a great game,” Arteta told BT Sport before the game. “You have to have that competitiveness and that mental desire to beat them, it has to be there all the time.
“When you have the chances, you have to be clinical and defend your box when you need to.”