Arsenal's performance against Manchester City last night revealed why they continue to underperform against teams from the Big Six. While Mikel Arteta's men started off the game by pressuring Manchester United high up the pitch, they eventually sat back into a deeper block and were knocked out of the game by Emile Smith Rowe. They responded by pressing high once more and scoring an equalizer, before Cristiano Ronaldo's penalty secured all three points for the Old Trafford side.
Arsenal would have moved up to fourth place with a win over West Ham last night, but they were defeated by Manchester United, who came from behind to defeat them by three goals to two. Arsenal have now lost their last three games against top-tier opposition.
Arsenal's inconsistency in pressing has been a major source of frustration for Arteta this season, and it has lost them valuable points, particularly in crucial games.
Arsenal's inability to maintain a press for the full 90 minutes has been a recurring problem throughout the season. The disparity between their aggressive pressing at the outset of games and how it progressively fades away into a deeper block has caused them to lose the initiative in a number of games so far this season.
However, while many may claim that they lack the quality of players to compete with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool, the fact remains that their repetitive tactic of dropping back limits their potential as a club in certain matchups.
This explains why they have failed to deliver in every single challenging test they have faced this season, from Chelsea to Man City, Brighton, Palace, Liverpool, and finally Manchester United, to name a few.
A dysfunctional Tottenham club under Nuno Espirito Santo and a Leicester team that has yet to maintain a clean sheet to save their life were the sites of Arsenal's two most important victories this season.
They're getting the job done against teams that, on paper, they should be able to beat, but they can't seem to rise to the occasion against more difficult opponents.
For a squad that does not have any weekly European commitments, Arsenal's players should be significantly more rested and healthier than their opponents for the majority of the season.
One cannot blame their inconsistency in pressing on the players' fitness levels since that is simply not an acceptable explanation for their actions. Despite the fact that they only had a few injuries at the beginning of the season, this is simply not an excuse.
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