Man City 1-1 Arsenal: Perseverance pays
A late strike by Laurent Koscielny maintained an unbeaten start and underlined, with a dominant first half display, that the Gunners have the quality, balance and maturity to fight for this title. On the road for the second match running Arsenal came from behind to take a positive result. With better finishing from Gervinho it would have been all three.
Laurent Koscielny came in for Thomas Vermaelen whom was ruled out late with a stomach bug. It was the first change to the back four for the season but there neither any disruption to the shape of the unit nor any ring rust from Koscielny’s performance. That was the remarkable aspect. Koscielny played his first match of the season away at the champions and was at his sharpest from the off, and even found the equaliser that that will further deepen the belief and resolve within the squad.
Aaron Ramsey was the surprise inclusion on the right hand side – I noted pre-match that we may see Aaron drift centrally and that’s exactly how it panned out. Man City play a narrow game and Ramsey made the extra man as the Gunners dominated the middle of the park, indeed it forced Mancini into to reacting at half time with Jack Rodwell brought in to even the battle. Ramsey bought the drive and energy we normally see from Abou Diaby, bursting forward time and again. The turn of pace was the surprise for me and again it was a case of a first start and huge performance. Played a piercing pass to play Gervinho through on goal and it deserved better.
Theo Walcott again missed out and has done so to an array of players now. Gervinho got the nod through the middle and worked hard but would Walcott have done better from Ramsey’s through ball? The contract situation is working against him you’d probably say but that’s not a detrimental comment just a fact that on a subconscious level it’s bound to have an effect. His numbers were good last season but Van Persie isn’t there in the middle which may be another factor in Wenger’s thinking, moreover Arsenal is now a left sided team once more.
Theo Walcott & Oliver Giroud (71) – Entered the game a little too late for my liking and without either really making a telling impact of note the team perked up in the last 20 minutes. Podolski, who tired in second half, and Diaby, who struggled to find his Anfield form, were for me the right choices to make way. Francis Coquelin (89) – Too little time to impact
On Man City’s goal
Three mistakes led to the goal, Kieran Gibbs nodded behind when he may have left a ball had he got sufficient communication from teammates. Mikel Arteta left his post and Vito Mannone made perhaps his only mistake when he flapped and got nowhere close to the ball.
Player Focus 1: Carl Jenkinson
The most ignorant thing supporters do, and we all do it, is to compare squad lists from one season to the next. It’s not a bad place to start but if there is ever a case for player development changing the view of our squad strength then this is it. He’s simply a different player the one hung out to dry at Old Trafford this time last season, he didn’t let shake his confidence which it could easily have done and now he’s part of a back four that looks like a unit – one with good habits and shear determination. Fans are even now suggesting Bacary Sagna has a fight on his hands, perhaps early to be talking that way but the boy has come so far from a handful of League One football outings to highly regarded prospect with an immediate role to play. Created a great chance on 23’ when his pace and strength blew Joleon Lescott away, picked out a good ball against Lukas Podolski. Forum readers will know I liked him from the start – had the pace – height – energy – composure on the ball and now has added defensive know how.
Player Focus 2: Vito Mannone
Had a few shots to save and got good hands to everything you would expect of a top-flight stopper. Okay flapped somewhat for the goal but there were others at fault on that scenario as well, probably his only major error on the day. Pulled off a finger tip save to deny Man City a second from a dipping hit from Dzeko and I think it’s fair to say on what we’ve seen he looks good value for his place over Szczesny right now. Is Vito a long-term candidate for the role? Instinct says no but he’s made a step forward and pressure on the Pole is no bad thing.
Man of the match: Per Mertesacker
Whether Per is suited to opposition type A or B is now a finished argument. His height would indicate he would be more comfortable against more physical opponents but his telescopic legs make him adept on the deck. His positional play and reading of the game have been excellent thus far and his adaption to Premier League football continues. I lost count of the number of instances where he picked up a stray pass or stretched a leg to gather a ball that would otherwise led to an attacker bearing down on goal. Immense performance, by any measure.
Moan of the match: Gervinho
There is work to be done still - it looked like we had found something extra in our ‘second season Gervinho’ but the clinical edge that saw the Ivorian score three in two matches faded into distant memory and first season Gervinho’s shooting returned. His finishing was just so erratic it would be comical had it not cost Arsenal all three points, I think it is a fair conclusion that it was a decisive reason. The reaction by Per Mertesacker on the last chance on 91’ that found the back row was simply priceless. He’s the polar opposite of Walcott – shows good technique until the finish. Walcott shows no technique until in finishing scenarios. I cannot go without mentioning his work rate though – he was everywhere.
Gibbs caused Man City no end of problems in the first half. Jenkinson impressed once more flanking Mertesacker and Koscielny who for my money together with Vermaelen are the finest set of three centre backs in the league. The midfield ran the show, particularly in the first half with Arteta – Diaby – Ramsey and Cazorla popping it about as if they were champions playing with the authority to suit. Wenger – good call to start Ramsey. Team – Well played in acknowledging the travelling support.
The Final Word:
Two seasons ago this result could have been possible, somewhere along the line a mistake or two would have undone a positive opening 20 minutes of possession and the heads would have dropped as a game transpired towards the inevitably of the result. But there were no counting price tags on Sunday afternoon as Arsenal went about showing their level and imposing themselves on a match they clearly felt they could win. Despite going behind on the stroke of half time the team kept it tight with excellent defensive work throughout before regaining the ascendancy late on. Koscielny’s late strike maintains the good vibe and shows that there is no ground where the club cannot get a result. The question remains though against top opposition can we find an efficiency in front of goal -Its Chelsea next at the Emirates and I think we’ll find out.