Sunday’s defeat was a calamitous performance at Wembley in which the Gunners were the architects of their own downfall; a feeble defence exposed by the lack of coherent passing in front of them as, to a man, they wilted on the big stage.
At half time, those home fans who braved the cold to see their side attempt to retrieve some pride were clearly unimpressed. “You’re not fit to wear the shirt,” the chorused between more boos and whistles.
But that was not fair. Aaron Ramsey gamely tried to galvanise some forward momentum, Henrikh Mkhitaryan decided he would honour the occasion with a slightly less anonymous appearance than of late and Danny Welbeck showed a determination to get involved that seemed to have dissipated during his extended spells on the sidelines.
The garment, though, they were clearly not fit to wear was the Manchester City shirt – a point the away side seemed to hammer home whenever the mood took them.
A 5-1 win in the San Siro. The 7-0 thrashing of Everton. Putting four or five past bolshy Leeds whenever they came across them. Class.
Robert Pires used to dash off the Highbury touchline in the manner that Leroy Sane set sail in the 15th minute. The City winger, like the Frenchman before him, ghosted past four defenders with the ball glued to his foot and beat another two with a simple diagonal pass.
On the far corner of the penalty area, Bernarndo Silva casually flicked the ball back inside and unleashed a curling shot into the far corner that not even Petr Cech could reach. Remind anyone of Thierry Henry? Arsenal continued to huff and puff and when Hector Bellerin pulled the ball back for Ramsey, Ederson did well to cling onto the Welshman’s effort.
But City simply stepped it up once more. Sane turned the cumbersome Shkodran Mustafi as if he was not there then pulled the ball back to Sergio Aguero. Showing the awareness of a Dennis Bergkamp, he simply slipped it inside to David Silva and before you could say Freddie Ljungberg, it was 2-0.
Five minutes later and Arsenal were further behind thanks to a more collective effort. Now, who was it who brought the concept of a “team goal” to the Premier League? Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and the hard-running Kyle Walker were all involved, the latter bolting from right-back to slide the ball across for Sane to poke in a well-deserved goal of his own.
Like the snowflakes now falling freely onto the Emirates surface, every City attack was a thing of beauty, entirely individual and almost impossible to catch in the wind. Arsenal, meanwhile, were the ones doing the melting.
Too much Granit Xhaka and Laurent Koscielny. Not enough Patrick Vieira and Tony Adams.
Yet in the second half they were given a life-line towards salvaging some pride – Otamendi catching Mkhitaryan’s heels and referee Andre Marriner pointing to the spot.
But Ederson read Pierre-Emerick’s intention and dived low to save his penalty. Ian Wright never missed a single penalty for Arsenal. So Arsenal just continued to knock the ball around while City, to a large degree, allowed them to. Where Mesut Ozil was in this process is anybody’s guess – certainly not in the way of a player who was signed and paid so much money to try to be the modern day Bergkamp figure. Alexis Sanchez has already come and gone.
Jack Wilshere, the one player to have shown some heart during Arsenal’s dismal recent demise, was spared this latest ignominy due to an ankle injury and compared to City’s finely crafted unit, the rest of the rag-tag outfit, anybody could have thrown together.
Which brings us to Arsene Wenger. Sinking deeper and deeper into his club coat, all he could do was watch and burn inwardly. Perhaps he was remembering the good old days.
If they seem a long way away now, it is because they are. 13 stagnant years away. And counting.
ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Cech 6; Bellerin 6, Mustafi 5, Koscielny 5, Kolasinac 5; Ramsey 7, Xhaka 5; Mkhitaryan 6, Ozil 4, Welbeck 6; Aubameyang 4. Booked: Kolasinac. NEXT UP: Brighton (a) Sun, PL.
MAN CITY (4-3-3): Ederson 6; Walker 7, Otamendi 7, Kompany 7, Danilo 6; B Silva 7, Gudogan 7, De Bruyne 7; D Silva 8 (Jesus 87), Sane 9, Aguero 7 (Toure 82). Booked: Otamendi. Goals: B Silva 15, D Silva 28, Sane 33. NEXT UP: Chelsea (h) Sun, PL.
REFEREE: A Marriner (W Midlands).