Arsenal failed to keep up pace with Manchester United as we can only managed a draw against fellow title contender, Manchester City at home. It was two points drop rather than a point gained. A fact that is apparent in the zero shots on target that City could mustered and the totally negative tactics which Roberto Mancini brought to the Grove.
There are many sections (at least from those that I followed on Twitter anyway) who were lamenting the fact that City spent millions of pounds just to park their bus. I do take somewhat a neutral look at this. This is no different from what United and Chelsea set out to do when they play us or when they visit the Grove. In fact, almost all the teams come to play at Arsenal with that defensive style. It is up to us to find the way to goal.
Arsene Wenger choose to go for the same team that started 3 of the last 4 games for us. It was undeniably the best available line-up. Right from the kick-off, there was a real sense of hunger from this Arsenal side. We just went at City and bombarded their goal with shots after shots. At this point, it is hard to see past Arsenal, if one had to choose a winning side.
Unfortunately, during that 20 minutes spell, we did not managed to put a single ball into Joe Hart’s net. Three times the woodwork was struck. Robin Van Persie wriggled himself into some space and was unlucky to see his shot crashed against the post. Then Cesc Fabregas played a one-two with RvP and subsequently slammed the ball in the same spot of the post. It rebounded kindly for another Arsenal player but the third of those shots which came from Theo Walcott, who was offside.
The best chance of the night was created when Samir Nasri gathered the ball in the middle of City’s half and went on one of his mazy runs. Cutting directly at the heart of City, he somehow managed to poke the ball wide to Jack Wilshere. Inexplicably, Wilshere decided to hit the ball across goal, hoping for a team mate to slide home into an empty net. But either the ball was too fast or the players (RvP and Walcott) were to slow to react, it reached neither of them. From that angle/position, Wilshere should have just taken a shot at goal.
The other chances which I can remember is the one in the first half where Wilshere had a shot comfortably saved by Hart and the one in the second half, a stinging drive by RvP that was well saved by Hart. Taking those chances into context, Arsenal created a lot of goalscoring chances but did not get any of them right. On this account, Mario Balotelli would surely take note of another mature performance by Song.
It is no coincidence that our best spell of the season happened when we seem to have recovered Alex Song. Not the Song that scored vital goals for us, but the Song who is a defensive midfielder first and foremost. This was another disciplined performance from him and it set the platform for Fabregas and Wilshere to do what they do best, playmaking.
Change was needed to pep up the side. Walcott was unhappy with his substitution while Nicklas Bendtner came in for the impressive Wilshere. What I don’t understand is why Wenger chose to slot him in the left side of the attacking trident when we needed someone upfront to suppport RvP. A switch to 4-4-2 would’ve made perfect sense .
Defensively, this is our second consecutive clean sheet in as many games. Hopefully, that is a statistic which they players will start to get use to. Not that they had much to do, but did it well when City and Yaya Toure in particular, decides to start and attack. On the downside, Bacary Sagna stupidly earned his first sending-off of the season. I get that he gets kicked a lot recently but his response and the subsequent head to head clash with Pablo Zabaleta was totally unnecessary. Worse, it came at time when we were pushing for the winning goal.
Still a lot of positives to be taken from this game despite the 2 drop points. The team will take a deserved break for at least a week and allowed the fringe players time in the FA Cup and Carling Cup. More tomorrow.