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
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.
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
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