How Arsene Wenger demeanour reflects his Arsenal team and why a decision on his future needs to be made now

Jeremy Wilson
Arsene Wenger urges his team on - REUTERS

Wenger's touchline demeanour is reflecting his team

There has never been a period like this in Arsene Wenger’s entire 21 years at Arsenal and it does now also seem to be impacting on his touchline demeanour.

Wenger has never been as animated with his instructions in the technical area as Pep Guardiola but he is still generally a big pitchside presence for much of the game. He has talked previously of needing that close physical attachment to his team and, for all the superiority of the view from the directors’ box, he hated being forced to serve a three-game touchline ban.

Credit: REX FEATURES

Yet there has been a definite change in the last few weeks. At West Brom he barely left the bench and, aside from the two Arsenal goals here, he again barely moved. Away from the games, Wenger has actually seemed surprisingly relaxed during this past month but his match-day disposition is reflective of the uncertainty coursing through the club.

Kevin de Bruyne has a midfield future

We can all see that his preferred position is in behind a main striker and his weaknesses in a more withdrawn midfield role were easy here to identify.

He was understandably hesitant in terms of his positioning while attempting to screen the defence and his desire to get forward did occasionally leave space that might have been exploited.

Arsenal 0 - 1 Man City (Leroy Sané, 5 min)

It is still probable, however, that Guardiola will prefer to focus on the positives with which he can work. De Bruyne’s range of passing is of the highest quality and his long ball forward created City’s first.

He was also a huge threat when he did time his runs forward. De Bruyne moved wide in the second half but was less effective and, at the age of only 25, he can certainly develop into a central option.

Mohamed Elneny deserves his midfield chance

Of all the curiosities during Arsenal’s recent horror sequence of results, the faith that Wenger has shown in Francis Coquelin, Granit Xhaka and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been among the most difficult to explain.

First-half bookings here for Xhaka and Coquelin left both players hugely susceptible to leaving Arsenal down to 10 men. Their wider contributions were again far from convincing. Oxlade-Chamberlain has also struggled during an extending run of opportunity.

Arsenal 1 - 1 Man City (Theo Walcott, 40 min)

And yet, sat on the bench since the end of January has been a player in Mohamed Elneny who has never really let Arsenal down. Yes, Elneny is technically more limited than Xhaka and less a specialist in the holding role than Coquelin but, with the midfield lacking any rhythm since Santi Cazorla got injured, he deserves his chance.

Man of the match

Leroy Sane

His most eye-catching contribution was the brilliantly-finished fifth-minute strike but he was generally also dominant against Hector Bellerin. That might equally stand as a statement on Bellerin’s recent form but, as Guardiola still struggles to find his preferred formation, Sane looks like one of the players to build around.

Arsenal 1 - 2 Man City (Sergio Agüero, 42 min)

What Arsenal must do next

They should get on with deciding Wenger’s future. The debate surrounding the manager’s future has clearly impacted on the team in recent weeks and, while Wenger staying might currently be harder to sell than an announcement that this is his last season, the club would be better now simply getting on with it if that is what they think is best.

Arsenal 2 - 2 Man City (Shkodran Mustafi, 53 min)

What Man City must do next

It is a short turnaround now until they face a challenge against Chelsea that will be as much physical as technical. Yet it is also perhaps the last opportunity for someone to reopen the Premier League title race. Tottenham would be the biggest beneficiaries if they were to cause an upset and, while still odds against, there was enough here to underline how they do have the attacking flair for an upset. They must approach facing Chelsea with the same adventure.

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