Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta may have been the man with the inside track on Manchester City after those years of success standing behind Pep Guardiola in the technical area – but some of his former club’s deficiencies are obvious to everyone.
First things first. This was a personal and tactical triumph for Arteta, who left his role as Guardiola’s assistant in December to take charge of an Arsenal team in crisis as successor to Unai Emery.
Arteta’s impact was obvious as every Arsenal player excavated their mental and physical resources to subdue City before striking with the deadly Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as their spearhead, the Gabon striker scoring in each half.
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As Arteta embraced his close friend Guardiola at the conclusion of this 2-0 win and looked forward to an FA Cup final against Chelsea or Manchester United, his old mentor faced some serious decisions about City’s future.
Guardiola has built a superb Manchester City side, a purists’ delight, as Arteta will know only too well after sharing two Premier League title triumphs, including a historic 100-point haul two years ago, and more history when they claimed a domestic treble by adding the League Cup and FA Cup last season.
And City can still make it their most glorious campaign by finally claiming the Champions League – but on the evidence of this season you would not trust them to pull it off.
In fact, you would not back them with total confidence against any team with a high-quality attack in their current defensive condition.
Indeed, if City play like this new La Liga champions, the revitalised Real Madrid, will still fancy their chances of overturning a 2-1 deficit when they meet in the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie at Etihad Stadium on 7 August.
This had been a good week for Manchester City, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturning their two-year ban from European competitions after announcing the club was cleared of “disguising equity funds as sponsorship competitions”.
It has also been a week that has magnified the frailties Guardiola simply must address if they are to flourish in those competitions in the future.
Arteta will have known those weakness but in reality they have been exposed all season as Manchester City lost nine Premier League games, leaving Liverpool to romp to their first title in 30 years with ease.
Here again at Wembley the truth was out there – for all Manchester City’s aesthetic beauty and Guardiola’s glorious principles, they have a soft centre and can be weak under pressure with a propensity to give away easy goals.
And Guardiola must take his share of the blame for failing to replace the ability and influence of former captain and iconic figure Vincent Kompany when he left last summer, leaving a rearguard that is quite frankly sub-standard for a club of their ambitions.
It is on nights like this that those chickens come home to roost.
Arsenal exposed them ruthlessly and brill