We came, we fought and we came away with zero. Yet there’s still much to admire about this Arsenal side. We did not get thrashed by the team supposedly to be champions elect. Neither were we outplayed and hung on by the skin of our teeth.
Arsene Wenger fielded the same line-up as the one that took to the field on our 125th anniversary celebrations. Up against the oil supplemented Manchester City side enriched by a selection of stars and Samir Nasri, we gave it a good go. That’s the bare minimum we asked of our players in every match.
That said, despite our recent good form, it seemed that nerves kicked in right from the start. City gained control of the play and surged forward at every opportunity. The early yellow card shown to Alex Song minimising his effect on the game. A switch was require, fearing the red for a second yellow.
Mikel Arteta was to take up the deeper role and he was more than an adequate replacement. The Spaniard epitomised everything good about this Arsenal side. He chased after every ball and was a tireless worker in the middle of the park. He even provided the drive forward when required.
However City grab the early initiative and Wojciech Szczesny was called upon to make decisive saves. The Polish custodian was in no mood to be giving despite the holiday mood around the corner. Not for the first time showing that we now do have a very solid and dependable keeper in our ranks.
It took us a good 25 minutes before we got into the game. Gervinho was the attacking outlet with his surging runs and fancy footwork. There was no end product but inspiring nonetheless. On the other flank, Theo Walcott had a quiet night going forward but provided the solid defensive shield which help Johan Djourou negate the effect of Nasri/Silva combination.
Half time and we’re still very much in the game. Something had to give in the second half and it did. Unluckily for us, it was the injury to Djourou which impacted us the most. Ignasi Miquel entered the fray and it was not long after the substitution that City took the lead.
Not that Miquel is solely to be blamed for it but he needed time to adjust to the game and so did the rest of the defence. Laurent Koscielny was shifted to the right and Thomas Vermaelen moved back into the centre. During this shift in positions, City took advantage.
A breakaway on the right of our defence created confusion. Song, perhaps mindful of his caution was reluctant to tackle Mario Balotelli but should have got his positioning better. Instead, he allowed the Italian to shift the ball to his stronger foot and make space for a shot. Szczesny parried that shot, Sergio Aguero missed the first rebound but David Silva stuck home the second one. Miquel not reacting to the Spaniard’s running inside the box.
At a time when we needed someone to come off the bench to claw our way back into the game, the substitute list was a disappointment. There was no game changer there. Instead we called upon Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh. Two players who had their moments in an Arsenal shirt but those moments looked to be long gone. Arshavin in particular had 2 chances which summed up his predicament. A poor final pass and a shot that went wide.
We did have chances to salvage a draw in the final minutes and it came from the impeccable Vermaelen. A rasping drive from just outside the box drew a great reaction save from Joe Hart and a curler which went just wide of the post from almost a similar position. Make what you will of the fact that our goal threat came from a centre back.
On any other day, we might have been luckier. Phil Dowd was the referee and that usually means no luck for us. The handball that should have been a penalty not withstanding, Dowd was not giving us much. He was more lenient with City’s tackling than ours. Couple of times that he deemed it not a foul by us, he failed to book the home player for diving. That offside goal by Robin Van Persie was marginal but no blame attached to the linesman as he did not have the benefit of a video replay.
No one gave us a ghost of a chance in this match but we fought valiantly to show that we’re no pushovers. The gap that was supposed too be huge is most definitely not there. As long as we keep up with this attitude, I’m sure there will be plenty to be proud about by the end of the season.
For now, it’s time to pick ourselves up and get ready for the next challenge. Aston Villa in midweek and the game can’t come soon enough for us to get back to our winning run.
Defiant and proud.