Manchester City 1 – 1 Arsenal
1 – 0 Lescott (40)
1 – 1 Koscielny (82)
It speaks volumes for the performance when the final whistle leaves you at once elated and deflated. Before the kick-0ff, we were told that Arsenal’s improvement this season would be judged by yesterday afternoon’s result – not performance, result. On that basis alone, the strides taken by the squad were clearly seen. Chasing a one-goal deficit at the top six clubs was not something Arsenal were particularly good at last season. At Stamford Bridge, yes but in similar scenarios at Old Trafford, Eastlands and White Hart Lane, Arsenal were found wanting. A significant improvement.
No such shortfall yet this season. And a thoroughly well-deserved point it was. It was a performance which merited a result but too often in the past has failed to deliver. The disappointment comes in the manner of conceding City’s goal and in the absence of shooting boots, gilt-edged chances may lead to guilt-ridden consciences this morning: if only. A point not lost on the manager yesterday,
We had early chances and very late chances, especially Gervinho at the edge of the box where he missed the target
A touch harsh to just mention the Ivorian but understandable, more so with his spurned opportunity in the closing stages. This and City’s goal were the lessons which have to be learned going forward. Well, defending not going forward quite literally. It is, I suppose. Hell, you know what I meant.
Being an Arsenal supporter can be tough; even when things are going well, panic seems to be a moment away with each miscontrol – slight or heavy – or wayward pass treated as though it were the norm. That held true yesterday with the nerves of the opening stages not on the pitch but in those watching as a period of dominance brought no reward. Arsenal began brightly, taking the game to City rather than sitting deep and defending. A sign of confidence borne out by previous results.
That period contained chances, Gervinho and Podolski’s efforts were disappointing for differing reasons. Slipped through by Cazorla, Gervinho’s heavy touch let Joe Hart gather the ball comfortably rather than bending over to pick the ball out of the net. Ten minutes later, Podolski showed admirable concern for the England ‘keeper’s recurring backache by blazing over the bar following the hearty endeavours of Jenkinson. The sides traded possession, the final chances snuffed out by excellent defending by both sets of centre backs. Mertesacker was outstanding yesterday and the selection problem identified before the match, is one that the manager acknowledged. The speedier forwards are likely to see the German drop out of the side.
Inevitably, Arsenal’s control of the match faded and City took control. Having weathered the Arsenal storm, they took the lead from a set-piece. It was a disappointing goal on all levels. Mannone came for the ball and hesitated, losing any chance that he had of making contact. Such indecision is something which the Italian must eradicate from his game to make the move to the next level. He was rescued by his defenders at Anfield, this time he was punished.
To compound matters, Podolski was outjumped by Lescott, momentarily switching off; to try and beat the England international from a standing start was too much to ask. Criticism of the zonal marking system misses the point; players are not precluded from attacking the ball as it comes into their zone. Matters might have been worse but for the intervention of Mannone’s fingertips from Dzeko’s shot moments later. Arsenal were rocking but that did not last, ineffectual counter-punches landed before the interval. The second half began with City in the ascendancy as the visitors appeared to lose their way, energy levels dropping.
The change came with the introduction of Giroud and Walcott, reinvigorating the search for an equaliser. Mannone defied City at the other end, reinforcing his shot-stopping credentials whilst Cazorla forced Hart into action to preserve the hosts’ advantage. It proved to be short-term relief. From the corner, City were unable to clear and Koscielny controlled the ball, shifted it and thundered home. The goal was taken with the aplomb expected of a seasoned centre-forward.
Either side might have won the match in the final moments; Kompany’s overhead kick was dangerously parried to Aguero, who narrowly shot wide with Mannone stranded whilst Gervinho wasted a golden opportunity also. Overall, a point was probably a fair result but Arsenal will, you suspect, take more from the match than City. The effort the players put in was astonishing, Aaron Ramsey and Carl Jenkinson in particular, both offered positives which must surely alter their critics opinions, dominating the Arsenal right. Equally Gibbs linked well on the left, the opposite sides of the pitch in defence are working relatively well together given their youthful exuberance and inexperience. Gibbs might have scored himself and perhaps justified Giroud’s decision to shoot at Anfield, when yesterday the youngster opted to pass the ball across the area when the better choice was surely to shoot.
All in all, a very good point and one which quite rightly pleased the manager. It ought to please us as well.