Kevin Kilbane: Man City and Arsenal have had weaknesses exposed but how significant will they be?

Off The Ball co-presenter looks ahead to a mouth-watering match on Sunday

BY Kevin Kilbane 17:21 Friday 16 December 2016, 17:21 16 Dec 2016

Arsenal players stand dejected after Everton's Ashley Williams scores his side's second goal of the game. Picture by Mike Egerton EMPICS Sport

When Arsenal lost to Everton on Tuesday at Goodison Park, they actually dominated the first half. 

For half an hour to 40 minutes in the game, they were so dominant that Everton couldn't get out of their own half at times - although Arsenal didn't really create a host chances - but they just dominated.

You could even sense listening to the commentary and listening to the crowd, it was really flat at that time in the game. The crowd were getting on the backs of one or two Everton players and you felt as though Everton were there for the taking.

It's amazing how things can change from one goal. Goodison is great under the lights. Night games at Everton are special and the second half became a special Goodison Park.

And I think it was largely down to Seamus Coleman and what he did. His goal and celebration transformed it.

We didn't see Arsenal come out in the second half, we didn't see them play the way they were playing in the first half.

We didn't see Mesut Ozil like he's been recently, we didn't see Alexis Sanchez like he has been recently. And I think it was the crowd that got right behind Everton and got them right up for it.

Arsenal have been so good away from home of late against the likes of West Ham and FC Basel. 

In those games, the opposition were very passive against them and there was no real pressure on them. That wasn't the case at Goodison in the second half.

It was one of James McCarthy's best performances in an Everton shirt. That was largely just about getting round people, tracking runners and putting his foot in a little bit.

I think he unsettled the flow of the Arsenal attacks. All sides will watch that. You won't expect that from Manchester City, when they host Arsenal this weekend, but you'll certainly expect it in the coming weeks when Arsene Wenger's side take on Crystal Palace and West Brom before the end of the month.

Certainly the way those two sides play, it will be right in their face, stopping them. This will be a different game this weekend for them because of the way City play, but ongoing, finding a way of overcoming the way Everton set up against them in the second half could be a problem for Arsenal.

Olivier Giroud could be an option in those type of games even though Wenger has thus far stuck with Alexis Sanchez away from home up front. It doesn't look to me like he's going to change that formula at the moment. But you see Giroud come on to games and having an impact off the bench this season.

He's certainly a presence and gives them a different option. The one thing that is noticeable when he does play is they actually cross the ball. They have a reluctance to cross the ball at times.

But I don't think Wenger will change from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil and Theo Walcott as the three in support of Sanchez. It's down to the interchanging and positional sense that they've all got. So I can't see them changing that.

And the way that City play, they leave themselves exposed which we saw against Leicester last weekend. If you're not going to have a lot of possession, Arsenal probably won't dominate the ball as much as they have done in recent games so there is a real chance for those pacey players to really hurt City the way that Leicester did last week.

Regarding City defender John Stones, who I've seen develop at Everton, he was a player you could tell would go and become someone very good.

But there has to come a time in any player's career when you're making mistakes constantly, you have to eradicate them and put them out of your game.

He's so good on the ball and at stepping in but he's making a lot of basic errors and making these regularly. You can't go passing the ball back to goalkeepers as he did for Jamie Vardy's goal at Leicester, particularly with the pace of the players in the Premier League now. Players make up so much ground so quickly - indeed Sanchez has scored goals from similar situations.    

Most other managers in that position when Stones has made mistakes would perhaps say to him, 'Maybe you might have to go long, you might have to change it, you might have to just get through 10 games without making an error'. But he's encouraged to do that and you can see that clearly.

It's just the effect it's going to have on him long-term if he's continuing to make these mistakes. Ultimately, no matter who you're playing for, if you're making mistakes even if you're encouraged to play, you're going to be left out of the side.

He's getting to the age now and he's well on his way to 120 Premier League games. It's not as if he's played 10 or 15 games as a youngster that's very inexperienced. He's played in major competitions now, he's played for his country and in so many Premier League games. There has to come a time where you've got to learn from those mistakes.

But in relation to the back four or back three, Aleksander Kolarov isn't pacey and he's spent most of his career at full-back rather than centre-back.

If he can play in that centre-back position, which he can actually play, he needs a full-back tucked in alongside him. He can't be exposed because he's got no pace and we saw that last week again.

John Stones

That's the dilemma that you've got. Pep Guardiola's maybe got to stick with what he's got because he's got no other players to interchange in positions.

Is he going to stick with three at the back? Is he going to go back to the four? You don't know what he's going to do and that's maybe a bit of uncertainty for the opposition. But it's also uncertainty for your own defensive unit.

He'd work on it in training but with the defence constantly changing in games, it creates uncertainty

You can't defend like that and leave yourself so exposed and now they find themselves seven points behind the top. They are fourth in the Premier League and they've got a real task now in the title chase.

You can only see Man City conceding goals, so they're going to have to score two and three goals every game to win matches.   

Kevin De Bruyne has no goals in the last 10 Premier League games. Contrast that with Alexis Sanchez and the form he's in with 41 goals in his last 81 Premier League games.

Look at Ozil and the good way that he's been playing and the two teams are contrasting at the moment going into Sunday.

City don't look as elegant or as creative as they have done. I still don't see Pablo Zabaleta as a midfielder. I can't understand why he's been playing in the position he's been playing. It just doesn't look right to me.

And then Ilkay Gundogan is going to be out for months with the injury he's got as well so there's some serious issues.

But the one thing about this game between City and Arsenal, the last six games between the two have produced 24 goals. So this game is normally an exciting match, guaranteeing goals. For different reasons, whether it be defensive errors or excellent play, it looks as though you'll get goals in this match and that's the way I see it going this weekend.   

Kevin Kilbane and Nathan Murphy will bring you live Newstalk commentary of Manchester City vs Arsenal on Sunday.


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