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Arsenal’s Big Six Record Is (Still) Woeful – But Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka
Arsenal lost away to a big six team…..again | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nor was it built in 70 months, apparently.

That is the length of time Arsenal have gone without tasting victory in the Premier League away at one of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea or Tottenham.

During that period, even West Brom have accrued more points on the road against these sides. Questions must be asked, but they’re the same ones that have been posed each and every time in the 29 matches since.

This record against these particular five opponents is even more woeful when you consider Arsenal are actually part of this troupe themselves. A 29-game run such as this speaks for itself.

So, how can the issue of Arsenal‘s travel sickness be re-framed? Well, it can’t. All that can be done is throw in another caveat that this is a process the club are undertaking, and the steps towards reaching their eventual target appear, however hard it is to envisage, closer than before.

Of course, the club’s target isn’t to just ‘get close’. Mikel Arteta has inherited a colossal rebuilding job that needed surgery from the bottom up, yet even he won’t hide his disappointment at another failing away from home.

Manchester City v Arsenal - Premier LeagueManchester City v Arsenal - Premier League
29 and counting | Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

What can be highlighted is the side’s competitiveness. Even just four months ago when Arsenal were in Etihad action following their first game back since Project Restart, the difference in result, but crucially performance, is cause for optimism.

The approach on Saturday could best be described as overcautious. Which is somewhat peculiar considering it was the most clear example yet of Arsenal fluctuating to a more familiar back four, in comparison to the five defenders that Arteta has utilised to add steel to his fragile backline.

Plan A was evident throughout, but after tempered build up and pragmatic play from deep in their own half failed to yield any results, there was little suggestion of an alternative ploy. When the full-backs joined in the attacks and had Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker needing to mark two men apiece there were signs of danger, but there appeared to be an unwillingness to over commit.

In the end their concerns over leaving themselves too exposed proved their downfall, as on the occasions where overloads occurred, Arsenal had joy. Take your pick from any of the 29 games since they secured a 2-0 win on this very ground in January 2015 and matches that were lost on fine margins are few and far between.

The performance at the Etihad was not great, but the away encounters of previous seasons rarely could be classed under the ‘tight’ bracket. Hammerings left right and centre, being overrun in midfield and calamitous individual displays usually tainted such defeats.

But when Arsenal can leave pondering over ‘what if’ as opposed to ‘at least it wasn’t six’, then that must be blanketed as moderate success. Something that, sure, could been deemed folly since they did, once again, lose the match.

However, had Bukayo Saka not been denied by Ederson’s shoulder or had Hector Bellerin shown Phil Foden down the line, then the story could have played out differently. Getting too hung up on fine margins is not a healthy way to dissect football matches, but in the case of Arsenal, the reality is that such takeaways are progress at this stage.

Under the new manager, wins away against the ‘big six’ will come. Each facet of this Arsenal side is being tinkered with and polished to achieve a greater end result. Certain departments are lacking but the structure is sturdier. For once.

Mikel ArtetaMikel Arteta
Arteta still has work to do | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

There is the fear of sounding like a broken record, one that has spun repeatedly for the best part of five years now. Yet there will be fewer downtrodden supporters off the back of Saturday night than have been in previous defeats.

In among all the endless hammerings and social media scorn, however, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

For more from Ross Kennerley, follow him on Twitter!

Source: 90mins

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