Arsenal 0 Man City 2: Spirited Second Half Display Not Enough
Apologies for the blogging inactivity in recent days. I was out on official duty in Warri and it came up a such short notice, that I couldn’t tell my right-hand man, dKingpin, to hold the fort while I was gone.
Manchester United (thanks to van Persie again) had thrown down the gauntlet for the “noisy neighbors” with a victory over rivals, Liverpool, taking a commanding 10 point lead at the summit of Mount Premier ship. This ultimately meant that Manchester City had to come to the Emirates with the sole aim of getting three points, a ground that they hadn’t recorded a victory since the days Merlin was the Chief Wizard of Camelot.
Starting the game without two influential players in the forms of Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero wasn’t certainly going to help their cause but the Gunners did some chopping up in their end as well, with Thomas Vermaelen returning to the team in Per Mertesacker’s stead while Abou Diaby made his long-awaited return replacing an “unfit” Mikel Arteta.
The visitors began the game on a brighter note with David Silva firing a shot that was blocked superbly by the skipper, Vermaelen. The major controversial moment of the game arrived as early as the sixth minute, when Laurent Koscielny was adjudged to have bundled down Edin Dzeko in the box.The man with the whistle, Mike Dean, pointed to the spot and gave Koscielny his marching orders.
From there henceforth, I’d believed that Arsenal was going to struggle against a team that is renowned for their possession football but there was still the issue of the penalty to be dealt with.
Up stepped Dzeko to take the spot kick but Wojciech Szczesny fixed his eyes firmly on the ball and guessed the right way to make a good save with his legs. The ball crept slowly and hit the post before coming back to Szczesny’s path but the goalie stretched to smother the ball to safety, sending the Emirates into raptures.
Wit the need for a replacement center back a necessity, Arsenal had to sacrifice Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Mertesacker.
Jack Wilshere swung in a corner kick that was headed to safety by the Manchester City defense but it came straight to Walcott’s path and with the kind of form the Englishman is in, you would have expected Joe Hart to be tested to say the least. The forward swiped at the ball and it went wide off the mark.
As the game progressed, Manchester City’s numerical advantage began to capitalize as they ran Arsenal ragged with their passing play. It wasn’t surprising when they took the lead from a ferocious goal from James Milner. The midfielder slammed in a piledriver after receiving a pass from Carlos Tevez with Arsenal’s defense going to sleep. A pretty familiar feeling.
Abou Diaby’s rustiness was showing as the game continued and he handed the opposition a chance to counter with one of his vast array of sloppy passes. David Silva wasted no time in teeing up Tevez but his drive merely stung Szczesny’s palms and the goalie had the shot under control.
Lukas Podolski had a surge on the left hand and executed a neat one-two with Diaby before getting clattered by a wall of Man City bodies. With the likes of Vermaelen and Mertesacker running 90 yards upfield to attack the free kick, Walcott came up with one of his atrocious set pieces and that half chance went with the wind.
Yes, I know that Walcott is an important player and we all want him to sign da fucking ting. But the idea of the forward playing free kicks continuously is a worrying trend for me, bearing in mind that we have better dead ball specialists in the team.
While Arsenal messed up with the half chance they got, Man City went two up courtesy of some good combination play on the right with Kieran Gibbs’ defensive frailties exposed yet again. Pablo Zabaleta and Milner work in tandem before the Englishman drilled his cross into the heart of Arsenal’s defense. As expected, Tevez reacted quicker than Mertesacker with a toe poke that was parried by Szczesny to Dzeko’s path, who slotted the ball into an unguarded net.
Late on, Podolski fired a shot that was saved by Hart.
Arsenal didn’t let themselves down in the start of the second half and continued to push on for that vital goal that would have offered them a glimmer of hope. They continued to push on with the 4-4-1 line up but the introduction of Olivier Giroud was needed but Wenger removed Podolski for the French striker.
In as much as I wanted Giroud on the pitch, taking out Podolski, one of Arsenal’s bright sparks all game long, was a poor piece of judgment by the boss. With Diaby struggling, he would have been the ideal player to take out, which would have allowed the fatigued Santi Cazorla to drift into the middle alongside Wilshere, with Walcott sent to the right.
Shortly afterwards, the manager brought on Aaron Ramsey for the Frenchman and Arsenal adopted an adventurous 4-3-2 approach with Wenger going for broke. Amazingly, the Gunners were on the ascendancy with Gibbs and Sagna playing as wing backs, offering width to the Gunners attack.
Arsenal almost scored when Cazorla curled Sagna’s cutback over the bar. With Arsenal’s gung ho approach, there were always going to be some loopholes in the back and Man City almost went three up when Tevez was one on one with Szczesny. Many had expected the Argentine Dracula to place the ball past the keeper but he wanted to take the ball round the goalie, forcing the big Pole to make a superb stop.
Arsenal won a free kick on the edge of the area which was taken by Cazorla. From point blank range, an unmarked Giroud nodded the ball over. Replays showed that the ball hit the striker’s shoulder. Shame.
Another moment of controversy arrived when Wilshere was making one of his slalom runs in midfield before he was impeded by Vincent Kompany. Even though the Belgian powerhouse won the ball, his feet were off the ground and the way Wilshere tumbled was quite scary to say the least, leaving Mike Dean no choice but to brandish a red card.
Right at the death, Walcott fired a shot past Hart but the ball was blocked off the line by Kompany’s replacement, Joleon Lescott.
In Wenger’s post-match interview, he spoke about Koscielny’s red card, the performance and he also disclosed the extent of Arteta’s injury.
As it stands, the Gunners are falling further behind the leading pack and are currently six points behind Tottenham that dropped points away to QPR as well. Wednesday’s FA Cup Third Round replay against Swansea is undoubtedly one of the games of the season.
I hoped that we won’t be Michu-fied again.
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