Arsenal visited Manchester City with one goal in mind, take all the points. Arsenal are on form and Manchester City are a few strides behind their previous season. Ripe for the picking the Gunners visited the Etihad.
The match featured many Arsenal moments typical of three or four years ago. Arsenal control a large part of the game with the momentum needle leaning heavily to the Red and White side. Only moments later a goal is conceded where the flow of the match would suggest that otherwise was more likely to happen.
On the Premier Punditry podacst, www.premierpunditry.com, I discussed the important players in the match, the ones to look for. For Arsenal it was Gervinho and for Man City it was Yaya Toure. I feel like I called it because if either player had played to their current form, then the match would have turned to that team.
MOTM – Carl Jenkinson wins it; while several people could have earned the right to be the Man of the Match, Jenkinson had his toughest competition to deal with and he was really solid. He had to face Scott Sinclair and Aguero, the pair shifted over to his area and made little in the way of inroads. Their best opportunity came when they finally singled out Jenkinson in the first half, but Aguero shot it almost right at Mannone.
I am giving the runner-up spot to Aaron Ramsey, but I must admit I am not sure how much is based on his being second best or that he was THAT much better than he has been in all of his other appearances. Either way, he was one of the best on the pitch tonight. His through balls to Gervinho were well measured and he was not afraid to get stuck in, which at the end is what we want to see from him. It seems that his bravery and steely nerve is coming back. That is form, good health and pure desire.
Lukas Podolski has a great understanding with Cazorla, they switched positions a few times to elude defenders. It opened up chances, but I feel that Podolski spent too much of his time being creative and not enough time being direct. I said it in numerous previews and forums that attacking all the Man City defenders other than Kompany would yield positive results. Instead the creative attempts from deeper were stymied by Yaya Toure, the one person I felt would be Man City’s best player. Podolski is going to spend a fair chunk of time midweek shooting off his right foot, mark my words.
Gervinho epitomized the phrase two steps forward, one step backward; I just do not think that anyone expected him to leap backward. Gervinho’s touch was so immensely different than the previous matches of the season; that if anyone missed Arsenal’s first four games, you could excuse them for saying that he is not improved since last season. There were glimmers of hope, he moved into excellent positions, once picked out beautifully by Ramsey in the left channel on a through ball, but extra goals were there that went waiting.
Santi Cazorla keeps setting up opportunities and I fear that he is going to get frustrated that not enough are being converted. His shot that led to the eventual goal was fantastic, we’ve seen him tee up a couple so far this season, but no shot from distance look destined for the back of the net as much as that one. It won’t be long until we see that and credit to Joe Hart, who is a fantastically agile keeper, for keeping that out of the net.
Abou Diaby made some skillful passes and some great runs in a performance that was largely effective. I feel that he has not received the plaudits he deserved because everyone was expecting the battle for the match to be between him and Yaya Toure. Again, I HATE comparisons between Diaby and Yaya/Vieira. Yaya and Vieira share many similarities, but Diaby is a different player. I would venture to say that Diaby played as well as Yaya Toure. At times he got a little distracted and lost focus of the team nature of the game and tried to do too many things individually. As the match progressed he slotted in to a team system and created space for his teammates by heading straight for the weakest link of the Man City defence, Joleon Lescott. A good match, but it was good to get him off so that he can rest, the lad is still not at 100% fitness.
Mikel Arteta was a player that I could forget was on the field even though I knew he would start the match. He made some good passes but his defensively abilities received their toughest test to date, and possibly toughest test he will have all season. I might give him a passing grade, but he needed to get in a little harder on his tackles. Experienced players in England may still think of Arteta as a soft tackler, “oh he’s a nice lad.” I would have preferred to see Arteta go hard into a Man City player so people would see that, “That lad is going to win the ball hard, and fairly.” This was a good match for Arteta to show his skill in the Arsenal system defensively and I think he came up a little bit short. Case in point in the 80’ when he could have dropped a shoulder on or clipped the ankle of Yaya Toure. That led to an Aguero shot, and should have been an Aguero goal if Yaya had delivered the wide pass sooner.
Kieran Gibbs is hanging out with Gervinho I think because he took a step back with his crossing. After two fantastic displays he was way off the mark this time. His runs were not as deep as previous matches, yes he go to the byline, but not as frequently as previous matches. I think that was a tactical decision as our centre-back pairing was going through their first partnership of the season. Gibbs should also never try to cross of a volley again, touch, settle and slide it across to Podolski and it would have been a goal.
Koscielny could be right to be annoyed to not be the man of the match by yours truly, but let’s be honest you have to take the excellent with the idiotic. I like Koscielny and I think that on potential he is better than Mertesacker, and I said as much to many when we were discussing who should start with Vermaelen. For all of Koscielny’s potential there still seems to be a guarantee that he will make a mistake. I still think that zonal marking is not for Koscielny, his footballers brain is not completely acclimatized for it. He wins headers and make clearances from open play, but on a corner and without a person to beat he doesn’t make it happen. His goal was well taken, and lucky that his control did not go right to Yaya who was obviously just having a pie. The celebration was fantastic and exactly what we want to see out of the team. I love how this team celebrates.
Per Mertesacker has solidified himself as a starter for the club. Yes he made a few of us think twice against Montpelier when he lunged in and missed, but if you think about the opportunities that he has blocked or stymied then you instantly forgive his two mistakes he’s made this season, only one of which created a goalscoring opportunity. He blocks shots when he wants. He also has the most awkward goal slide celebration, please son stick to dancing, LOL.
Vito Mannone did ever so well against Man City. When asked he saved it, when in trouble he stood tall. Mannone made some fantastic saves and distributed the ball very well. He has one pass that was intercepted, but he kept his cool and has instilled more confidence in the fans that he can do the job. He is unlikely to start against Coventry, so we’ll have to wait for Chelsea to see what else he can bring us.
Theo Walcott for previously being a super sub was more of a ‘going through the motions’ type player this weekend. Not only was he not an impact he was also not really on the ball. He tried to make one run in the 78’ as he tried to express himself centrally, but with opportunities to drift wide and skin Clichy gone waiting we were all disappointed.
Olivier Giroud did not get the service he needed, but that was largely in part to him not having a foot of space. Someone was always glued to him, and backup coverage was never far away. The Man City players on the pitch recognized what was going to happen.
Coquelin came on for a quick jog, I thought he should have come earlier, but that was provided we started the second half with more attackers to score, then having got the scoreline to 1-1 then brought in Coquelin for some defensive prowl and desire. Not to be, so he got to run and a chance to take in the sounds from the green of the pitch.
Arsenal got a result they could be content with, but not happy with. Man City are a team that lacks cohesion and of all the chances Arsenal would get for three points at the Etihad this weekend was their best chance. I view it as an opportunity squandered, but not an opportunity lost. We have a ‘reserves’ match midweek and then get back to serious business on Saturday versus Chelsea.