Manchester City 1, Arsenal 0: The Gunners Fall Further Behind the Leading Pack
Consistency is a key attribute that has resulted in league wins and cup victories in seasons past. There are other factors which include luck, injury-free players and refereeing decisions among others.
Arsenal has been on a consistent run of form since the loss suffered in the hands of their archrivals Tottenham and Arsene Wenger’s men had been unbeaten for eight games amassing 22 points from a possible 24.
There was an uphill yet possible task for the Wenger boys to get past the league leaders Manchester City that had been recently rattled following their Champions League exit as well as their first loss in the league courtesy of Arsenal’s rivals from West London.
A draw would have been a good result in all standards while a win against the moneybags would have sent a clear message to the rest of the chasing pack in the Premier League.
As expected, Wenger started with the same 11 that he fielded against Everton like he had a choice; the full backs were still nursing injuries while the midfield triumvirate as well as the forward line has been very impressive in recent weeks.
Some gooners wanted their manager to hand a start to Emmanuel Frimpong after his impressive outing against Manchester City in the Carling Cup quarterfinal and he would have probably gotten the nod ahead of Aaron Ramsey but the manager put his faith on the Welsh captain that went on to put a shaky yet solid performance.
Wojciech Szczesny’s nerves were put to the test when he received a back pass and was charged down by Mario Balotelli but the big Pole responded well by evading the striker in a very stylish fashion before sending the ball upfield. The home side drew first blood when Sergio Kun Aguero ran at the entire defense line before flashing his effort over the bar.
Diego Maradona’s son-in-law combined well with the Italian maverick to split Arsenal’s defense open but Alex Song was aware to the danger. On the other end of the pitch, Song showed his creative awareness to tee up Gervinho but the Ivorian’s effort was saved by Joe Hart in his near post.
Arsenal almost took the lead when Robin van Persie fired a shot that ricocheted off a defender only to fall kindly for Ramsey but his first touch let him down with Laurent Koscielny waiting to pounce. What was more disappointing about that attack was that it was kick started by Koscielny that waltzed forward after winning the ball in his defense.
Arsenal’s defending was very resolute but a scary moment arrived when a cross into the box wasn’t dealt by Per Mertesacker and Johan Djourou only for Balotelli to steal it from them superbly but Szczesny was on hand to make a great save. Aguero made a similar run like his first chance but Szczesny was also equal to that challenge.
Djourou struggled at the tail end of the first half with what seemed like a groin injury so he was replaced early in the second half by Ignasi Miquel. The Spaniard’s introduction brought about tactical switches in the defense line. Thomas Vermaelen moved to his favored center back position while Koscielny deputized at the right back position.
Manchester City scored what proved to be the match winner when Samir Nasri found Balotelli on the right hand side of Arsenal’s defense from a counter attack.
The forward skipped past Song before drilling his shot goalwards but Szczesny made a good save. Aguero put his head in for the follow up and Vermaelen nicked it past him but the ball fell on a platter for an unmarked David Silva that slid home past the onrushing Belgian.
Miquel’s awareness for that goal was really poor and it was really shameful to see Arsenal concede such a goal early into the second half. Theo Walcott stung Hart’s hands with a well-taken shot and was clearly onside when Ramsey was with the ball on the edge of the area but the Welshman chose to pass the ball to van Persie that strayed offside.
Van Persie had the chance to level the contest but he failed to connect well with Gervinho’s carefully weighted pass that was cut infield. Pablo Zabaleta made a rare surge forward and smashed Szczesny’s post.
With the game getting into a frantic pace, Arsene Wenger committed the tactical blunder of the day by bringing on the frustrating Andrey Arshavin for Walcott that was getting into the game well. Walcott was clearly disappointed with being subbed and it became evident when he failed to exchange handshakes with his teammates on the bench.
It took Arshavin seconds to activate the gooner’s rage mode when he killed an Arsenal attack from the left with a poorly struck cross that went straight to Joe Hart.
There were claims for a penalty when Vermaelen’s flick made contact with Micah Richards arm. Phil Dowd was at the scene of the crime but Arsenal’s appeals fell on deaf ears. Aguero was a constant thorn in the flesh of Arsenal’s defense and he drilled another effort that was saved by Szczesny.
Arsene Wenger went for broke so he brought in the confidence bereft Marouane Chamakh for Mertesacker and within seconds, van Persie laid on a superb pass for Arshavin but the Russian’s effort sailed effortlessly wide. In my opinion, Hart’s net would have rattled if Theo Walcott was on the end of that pass.
With Arsenal staring at defeat, Mikel Arteta intelligently sent a pass to Vermaelen when everyone expected a cross but the Belgian’s curler was saved by the impressive Joe Hart. Just like how he kept Liverpool’s Andy Carroll out late on, the Englishman proved that he can be the difference between three points and one.
At the sound of Dowd’s whistle, Manchester City leapfrogged their neighbors to top spot while Arsenal’s impressive unbeaten run in the Premier League came to an abrupt end.
Szczesny (7.5) responded well when he was called and was unfortunate to concede a goal after saving the initial goal-bound shot.
Vermaelen (7.5) had a good shift in left back before dominating the centre when he was deployed back to his favored position.
Koscielny (8.0) was immense in defense and made a few surging runs upfield. He also sent in some nice crosses when he switched to right back.
Mertesacker (7.5) made some quality tackles and used his height to great effect by anticipating many aerial balls.
Djourou (7.0) did okay before getting injured.
Song (7.0) steadied the ship in the middle of the park.
Ramsey (6.5) was far too cheeky in a game of this magnitude.
Arteta (7.0) worked hard in midfield.
Gervinho (7.5) ran at the defense with positive intent and would’ve had an assist if van Persie had his shooting boots on.
Walcott (7.0) put up a good shift.
Van Persie (7.0) linked up play well.
Miquel (6.5) was suspect for the goal conceded but he recovered well.
Arshavin (-.-) ….please rate him yourself.
Chamakh didn’t play long enough to get a rating.
The Gunners put up a good outing overall but it wasn’t good enough. In a weekend where Manchester United and Tottenham gained points while Chelsea dropped, it was paramount for the Gunners to be at par with their fellow title hopefuls but Manchester City had enough in the gas to take all the points.
The Gunners fall further the leading pack.
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