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Posted: 18/12/2011
By Adam Pembrey

Manchester City 1-0 Arsenal:

Team: Szczesny, Djourou, (Miquel) Koscielny, Mertesacker (Chamakh), Vermaelen , Song, Arteta, Ramsey, Walcott (Arshavin), van Persie, Gervinho

The Short Report

Arsenal's fantastic run comes to end in a pulsating clash at The Ethiad. A close range goal by David Silva in the second half was all that separated the sides.

The AL Report

The last time Arsenal travelled to Manchester the squad was in disarray. Decimated by injuries suspensions and departures it was no wonder that we got a pasting. All I wanted for today was for us to aquit ourselves well and take the game to the hosts. We certainly did that and can probably count ourselves a little unfortunate to be on the losing end.  

It must be said that in the opening 15 minutes or so we were very much under the cosh as City came flying out of the blocks as expected. However a mixture of profligate finishing, last ditch defending and a few good saves from Szcesney, most notably from Balotelli at point blank range.

After that though Arsenal started to find their stride a little bit and came right back into the game, the best chance probably falling to Aaron Ramsey who was denied by an outstanding last ditch tackle by ex-Gunner Kolo Toure.

The second half ended on a worrying note as emergency right back Johan Djourou was seen noticeably limping, with the defensive resources already stretched to the limit we could ill afford another casualty.

Djourou did actually come out for the second half but sure enough after just a few minutes he was replaced by young Spaniard Ignasi Miquel. This meant a huge defensive reshuffle with Miquel coming on at left back, Vermaelen moving in to the centre and Koscielny going to right back.

The dangers of this were realised almost immediately as around 5 minutes later Balotelli was left unmarked on the left, was allowed to cut inside and shoot prompting a great save from Szczesny, however the ball popped up for Aguero who headed across goal for Silva to finish from close range.

Arsenal almost replied immediately however Theo Walcott’s effort was well tipped over by Hart. The young Englishman was not at his electric best it must be said and he was replaced by Arshavin with around 25 minutes remaining.

For the remainder of the game both sides continued to make chances although Arsenal were on top. A few good saves from Hart, some infuriating wastefulness from Arshavin, a denied penalty when the ball struck Richards arm and some great defending by City kept the Gunners at bay however.

Arsenal came within a whisker of a dramatic leveller deep into injury time when Vermaelen made one of his trademark forward runs, he then hit a sweet van Persie esq curler with his right foot towards the top corner of the net, Joe Hart was beaten but unfortunately it whistled just past the post, with every Gooner’s and I imagine every City fans heart in their mouths.

That was the last chance though and meant Arsenal’s unbeaten run came to an end and Manchester City returned to the top of the table.

Man of the Match

A close call but I’m going to give it to Wojciech Szczesny who kept us in the game at times with a string of fine saves. It says a lot about the young man that no situation ever phases him and it feels like he has been a reliable number 1 for a decade rather than 11 months.

Player Focus

Alex Song we needed a big performance today up against the formidable City midfield and attack and I think the pressure might have got to him a bit as he made several rash challenges, before and after being booked that on another day could easily have led to an early bath.

On the other hand though he did do a lot of good things and prevented the hosts from controlling the game through the middle, breaking up play well, winning the ball and basically being Alex Song.

Moan of the Match

Aaron Ramsey was a bit of a disappointment today trying to many tricks and flicks when they just weren’t necessary and gave possession to Manchester City far too easily. It’s important to remember this is his first season of regular football with us so he’s still learning but he needs to use his head and make sure he’s using his skills effectively and efficiently.

The Final Word

I said before the game that I wanted to see how far we have come since the traumatic days of August and I think it’s clear to see we are a different side. Manchester City are a very good side and were on form yet we matched them all day long and only narrowly missed out.

However what is also clear to see is that we are still a bit light squad wise, particularly up front. Did anyone really get excited to see Arshavin and Chamakh come on? The simple fact is we have one genuine goal threat, one. 

Others chip in here and there and of course it’s often a result of good team play that he gets on the end of things but the fact is after van Persie our next highest scorer has 4 goals, that is appalling.

With the transfer window looming we need to bring in at the very least a lethal striker, no matter what it costs and ideally a wide player too, in order to lessen the burden on Walcott and Gervinho.

Next up: Another away day, this time in the midlands to meet Alex McLeish’s Aston Villa on Wednesday evening. Important that we get straight back to winning ways.

Follow me on Twitter: @AdamPembrey

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