Arsenal, City chess matches are the future of the Premier League with Pep, Klopp classics behind us

Jason Soutar
Erling Haaland shakes hands with Gabriel after a match.
Erling Haaland shakes hands with Gabriel after a match.

Not the title-deciding high-paced encounter we had hoped for, was it? We should not be too surprised. Manchester City 0 Arsenal 0 was another chess match between Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta. Get used to it, folks.

Love or hate Liverpool, they have given us countless classics against Manchester City. Jurgen Klopp’s heavy-metal style does not allow anything different. With Klopp leaving Anfield, we might be entering a new era in the Premier League, an era defined by Arteta and Pep, who are cut from the same cloth.

While both are top managers, Klopp and Arteta are very different. The former thrives off organised chaos, while the latter favours organisation.

Arsenal under Arteta are outstanding out of possession and Sunday’s 0-0 draw against City was huge proof of that. The William Saliba – Gabriel Magalhaes partnership again kept Erling Haaland quiet and if you were not already convinced that the French defender’s absence in the run-in last term was fatal in the Gunners’ eventual title capitulation, there is no doubt about it now.

Against Arsenal in last season’s crucial 4-1 win in April, Guardiola successfully exposed Rob Holding’s presence in defence next to Gabriel and hit Haaland with long balls to full effect. They tried that a couple of times on Sunday but to no avail. Saliba is in a different stratosphere to Holding and he showed that by giving the Norwegian no joy whatsoever.

To become the first away team to keep a clean sheet at the Etihad in 57 games is a testament to Saliba, Gabriel, Arteta and Arsenal as a whole.

Before the match, the general opinion seemed to be that Arsenal could not afford not to win, especially with City’s injury problems. It was a bizarre narrative and Arteta had a must-not-lose attitude that was clear from the first kick.

They defended deep and only had 29 per cent possession across the entire game. Despite their deep defensive line, they did try to press City high and were willing to leave Jorginho isolated in midfield, which was something the Cityzens could not take advantage of, with the aforementioned long balls to Haaland unable to punish the Gunners as they did last April.

Indeed, it was pretty boring to watch and neutral fans are probably correct to say it is the worst match they have watched all season, but this is something we will have to get used to. This young Arsenal side is not going anywhere and unfortunately for the rest of the Premier League, neither is Guardiola, unlike his old rival Klopp. Even if we are desperate to believe Pep is leaving.

We are not only unfortunate because of how dominant City have been under Pep, but it is also disappointing for the neutral fan hoping for two incredible title-deciding fixtures between the two best teams in the league, year in, year out.

Liverpool and Manchester City’s encounters over the years have been unmissable and while Arsenal’s recent clashes against the European champions have been fascinating, we as football fans want to see high-octane, end-to-end action, not City’s closest rivals being more reminiscent of Atletico Madrid than Real.

Playing another way would not have got Arsenal a point on Sunday, mind, and the history of this fixture and the rivalry between Guardiola and Arteta has been extremely one-sided. For the first time in this fixture with City at home, Arsenal did not go into the second half trailing on Sunday.

We have so many more chess matches to look forward to (or not) after being given two in the Premier League already this season; it is not something Liverpool and City’s games could ever have been referred to as. It is not as if tactics were thrown out of the window when Klopp and Pep are in opposite dugouts, but the contrasting styles gave us classics that we might believe we took for granted when Arsenal and City decide to draw 0-0 or have a 1-0 either way for the next decade.

If this has come across as slanderous to Arsenal in any way, that is absolutely not the intention. This is a fantastic team with world-class players and Arteta has completely transformed the club, both on and off the pitch. Being street-wise and physically dominant are two things old Arsenal teams have not been and the Spaniard has changed things so drastically that these are now things we associate with this group.

We have already dismissed that Arsenal had to win this game in the context of the title race but at the same time, it feels like a draw has made Liverpool the favourites, given the fact they are now two points clear and arguably have the most favourable fixture list.

It is worth mentioning that the Reds are also not being dismissed for the title next year amidst all the Arsenal and City rivalry talk. However, they are not going to be the same machine as they are under Klopp when he leaves. That is not up for debate as arguably the second-best manager in the world behind Guardiola.

Hopefully this one big conclusion gets you nice and warm for 16 of the big ones a little later on.

READ MORE: Man City – Arsenal combined XI: No Saliba, Silva, Odegaard as we dodge Saka, Foden debate