Arsenal: Points to Ponder from Draw vs. Manchester City

Dan Talintyre@@dantalintyreSenior Analyst IISeptember 24, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23:  Per Mertesacker of Arsenal applauds the fans at the final whistle during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on September 23, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Arsenal's 1-1 draw away to Manchester City in Week 5 of the English Premier League was a big result for the Gunners—both in terms of their position in the table and the season ahead, but also in terms of their personal confidence and self-belief.

Apart from a 6-1 drubbing of lowly Southampton, Arsenal have struggled somewhat in attack and have lacked the clinical finishing that they possessed last season.

Their defense has been solid, but the question still remained as to whether it would stand up against the best attacks of the English Premier League. And after holding the Citizens to just one point and one goal at home, you'd have to suggest that the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

There was plenty to like about the Gunners in their fixture at the Etihad, but also plenty of talking-points and questions for the season ahead. Let's explore some of them now in our points to ponder from the draw against Manchester City.


Arsenal's center backs are very strong


Captain Thomas Vermaelen has been arguably the best defender for the club so far this season, but was a late withdrawal against City, with French international Laurent Koscielny taking his place in the starting lineup.  And despite the injury to their captain and starting defender, the Gunners didn't miss a beat in either attack or defense because of the quality that they had in the squad. 

Vermaelen, Koscielny and German international Per Metresacker are all world-class defenders and are likely to compete with each other for starting berths right throughout the season.

The good news for the Gunners is that regardless of what combination they use or are forced to use due to injury, the trio are more than capable of solidifying the defensive unit and contributing towards the attack when necessary.

Arsenal's center backs are very strong this year and will continue to prove so throughout the season ahead.


Can Vito Mannone become the No. 1 goalkeeper?


Wojciech Szczesny was, last year, one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League. He was young, he was agile, his reflexes were good and he was the obvious No. 1 goalkeeper at the Emirates.

And whilst the first three sentiments are true again this year, serious doubt is starting to creep in as to whether the Polish international is the top shot-stopper at the North London club this year, or whether Vito Mannone has replaced him as the go-to man.

Mannone has been superb throughout the season so far, and conceded his first Premier League goal against Manchester City's star-studded attack. He is yet to lose a match for the Gunners in the top flight, and is proving to be a more than handy replacement due to the injury that Szczesny suffered earlier in the season.

I'm not sure that he has earned the top spot yet—after all, the season is only a couple weeks old—but if he continues to perform and impress Arsene Wenger as he has done so far this year, don't be surprised to see the Italian goalkeeper feature prominently for the Gunners throughout the year.

Manchester United will likely rotate their goalkeepers David De Gea and Anders Lindegaard throughout the year; I'd expect to see a similar thing from Arsenal if the two shot-stoppers continue to shine as they have done so far.


Is zonal marking on corners the best policy?


I know that a lot of the commentary on Sunday discussed the concept of zonal marking on a corner and whether or not it is the most effective practice, and it's a question that the Gunners must ask themselves after conceding a seemingly soft goal just before half-time from a corner.

Joleon Lescott was essentially unmarked by Arsenal's taller defenders and were it not for Laurent Koscielny's second-half finish, would have earned all three points for the reigning Premier League champions—all because the Gunners were in their zonal system and not following the more regular man-to-man marking.

The goal was not the fault of Mannone, but rather the lack of communication and responsibility by the Gunners defenders. 

The North London club has the best defense in the league so far this year, but they showed on Sunday that from set pieces such as corners, they can be made to look very poor. That's something that Arsene Wenger will be sure to address during the week.


What should Arsenal do with Gervinho?


The master of the preseason and not much else, Gervinho is once again starting to splutter in the regular season despite all the good signs he showed earlier in the year.

It might seem a little harsh to slam the midfielder after his two-goal haul off the bench against Southampton only a week ago, but there is definitely a case to be made that had Gervinho been better, the Gunners could have picked up all three points on Sunday.

His poor first-touch blew the best goal scoring opportunity of the match, and once shifted out on to the left wing, failed to get the ball into the middle—despite the attacking presence of Olivier Giroud in the box.

Gervinho turned the ball over far too easily and showed little going forward that would have instilled confidence in Arsenal fans and management. 

Theo Walcott's future at the Emirates is one of the most-talked about topics in world football every week it seems, and after watching the game against City, I wouldn't be surprised to see Gervinho's name start to get mentioned as a potential January transfer.


Santi Cazorla continues to show his world-class talent

One final thought, and it's simply more praise for the Gunners summer transfer Santi Cazorla, who is continuing to show just how talented he truly is.

Few fans knew just how good the Spanish international would be when he reached the North London club, but after the few games he has played for Arsenal so far, they are quickly learning that the 27-year-old has a bright future at the club and in world football.

Cazorla leads all Premier League players according to WhoScored's average match rating—creating an average of four goal scoring chances for his teammates per game. 

His ability to dictate the midfield and create the attack, as well as get back and help in defense, has been the biggest positive from Arsenal so far this year and as long as he stays healthy, will continue to have an impact on the Premier League that few could have imagined.


What did you make of the draw vs. Manchester City?

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