Monday, 24 September 2012

Arsenal Draw 1-1 Away To Manchester City

After Saturday's results Arsenal went into their game with Manchester City in sixth place in the Premier League. A win would have brought them back to third, but City had a very good home record. They had won 18 of their 19 home games last season and started this season with two more home wins too.

Arsene Wenger wasn't expected to make too many changes from the team which won 2-1 away to Montpellier in the Champions League on Tuesday night. One change was enforced upon him though as Thomas Vermaelen had to withdraw through illness and Laurent Koscielny replaced him. Koscielny was Arsenal's best defender last season and I wasn't too worried about his ability to cope with whatever City had to offer him.

The only other change to the team was the inclusion of Aaron Ramsey on the right hand side of Arsenal's attacking trio. The player to miss out was Olivier Giroud as Gervinho took up the central striking duties.

From the start Arsenal assumed control of possession and played some very good football. There were a couple of very good chances for Arsenal in the first half but unfortunately they failed to take them.

The first one fell to Gervinho when he was played in on Joe Hart, but his touch was too heavy and Hart collected the ball. Kirean Gibbs then got behind the City defence on the other side but his cut back couldn't find an Arsenal player. I thought he could have taken the ball down and shot himself but it wasn't to be.

City had a couple of chances of their own but none of them were as good as the one Gervinho spurned. With half time approaching City won a corner when Gibbs headed the ball out under no pressure. It appeared as if he didn't get a call to let him know just that and he wasn't happy.

When the corner came in it was met by Julien Lescott's head and it thundered into the net. Vito Mannone had come for the corner but he failed to make it and Lukas Podolski was on post duty but he couldn't keep it out either. It was a blow to Arsenal but it was important they got to half time with only a one goal deficit.

Only a short while later Mannone made up for his lapse by tipping over an excellent attempt by Eden Dzeko. Arsenal had played the better football in the first half but City had the advantage.

There were so many positives in the first half it's hard to list them all. Arsenal controlled the game in midfield and City knew they had to counter that somehow. Scott Sinclair was withdrawn at half time by City with Jack Rodwell taking his place.

It was clear in the second half that City weren't going to let Arsenal have so much possession in midfield. They closed Arsenal down quicker and Arsenal found it hard to assert themselves as much. There didn't seem to be a way back at that stage, as the game lost some momentum.

With 20 minutes left Wenger brought Giroud and Theo Walcott on for Abou Diaby and Podolski. Gradually Arsenal began to exert some control again and City dropped further back. They were still a real threat on the break, but they were happy to soak up whatever Arsenal had to throw at them.

With 10 minutes left Santi Cazorla found some space outside the area and unleashed a great right footed shot. Hart made an excellent save and Arsenal had to be content with a corner. It looked like their best chance of an equaliser might have been gone.

When the corner came it was only half cleared and it fell to Koscielny 12 yards out. He blasted the ball into the top corner to give Arsenal the goal they deserved. The players were thrilled and the fans who had made the long trip were overjoyed too.

Only a short while later City almost won the game, but they were kept out by a combination of good goalkeeping and a little bit of luck too. An overhead shot by Vincent Kompany was well saved by Mannone but the resulting clearance by Koscielny was miskewed straight to the feet of Sergio Aguero only a few yards out. Somehow or other he contrived to miss his effort, but possibly Koscielny's challenge was enough to put him off.

Suddenly Arsenal sensed that they could go one step further and take all three points. Some more good play ended with Gervinho excellently making room for a shot 20 yards out and then blazing it high and wide. It typified his afternoon as nothing really seemed to work for him.

In the end a draw was probably a fair result but Arsenal went to the champions and took the game to them. It was City who had to change things around to cope with Arsenal and not the other way around. Even when they were trailing the players didn't give up and they got their rewards in the end.

Some of the Arsenal players had great games and yet again Per Mertesacker showed he just has to be in the team. Both full backs were very good defensively and offered an awful lot going forward too. Koscielny looked good in his first game this season and Wenger has some tough choices to make very soon.

I thought Ramsey was excellent in the first half but he faded in a wide role in the second. His game improved again though when Diaby went off and he moved into the centre of midfield for the last 20 minutes. Mikael Arteta was so solid yet again and his discipline in the defensive midfield role is great to watch.

Carzola showed exactly why Arsenal were so anxious to sign him with yet another fantastic game. Looking at yesterday's game you would never think David Silva was the current member of the World and European champions ahead of Carzola. With him in the team Arsenal are a force to be reckoned with and hopefully they can get even more out of him.

The players will now get a well earned rest in midweek ahead of their game with Chelsea next weekend. Arsenal will of course play in the Capital One Cup but it will be a chance for reserves and fringe players to show what they can do. Coventry City haven't had the greatest start to life in League One but I'm sure they will give all they have against Arsenal.

Arsenal and City were the two teams who had completed most passes in the league before yesterday's game and next up Arsenal play the team who have the joint best defence along with them. It's a tough week for them with Premier League games against the current champions followed by the current European champions. It's a challenge the players are looking increasingly like they are relishing more game by game.

It's a long way from where Arsenal are now to winning a league title but the signs are very promising at the moment. This time last season Arsenal had four points in the league and had conceded 14 goals too. There are still a few issues to be sorted out in the team, but the prospect of the team getting even better is one I'm looking forward to.

The next home game for Arsenal in the Premier League after Chelsea this Saturday will be on the last Saturday in October against QPR. It's a game I'm hoping to go to as I haven't been to see them yet this season. I should know on Thursday morning for certain but I'm pretty sure there will be no problems getting tickets.

I can't wait to see this Arsenal team playing live and get the chance to cheer them on in person. Of course the customary before and after game refreshments will be required, but that's all part of the experience. It's an experience which will hopefully feel all the sweeter with a team genuinely challenging for trophies to watch.

Here's the highlights of yesterday's game.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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