Cut-Throat Arsenal Punish 10-Man City.


A ruthless display from Arsenal at Eastlands reaffirm their title credentials.

 Samir Nasri wheels aways in delight from Joe Hart

Flinging his hands to his head was Dedryck Boyata’s instinctive reaction as he prepared to face an early bath, a reaction which was as a prelude for the rest of the game, seeing as it was the young Belgian’s misdemeanour which ultimately cost his side the chance of matching Arsenal. Nevertheless, in bygone years an Arsene Wenger side may have struggled to capitalise on a man advantage at the home of one of their title rivals, and thus the ruthlessness with which they saw off a strong City team shows the steps this young side have taken.  

Post-Match reports and radio phone-ins heaped praise upon City’s apparent cohesion and spirit, an irony that will escape few Arsenal loyalists as it has not been a lack of these attributes at fault for a recent baron spell. Winning trophies requires more than this, and had it been Sebastian Squillaci scything down a clean-through Carlos Tevez in the early exchanges yesterday, I don’t hesitate to suggest a rather less sympathetic outlook from the nation’s observers. City were not ‘unlucky’, and neither was Boyata. A divine combination between Cesc and Chamakh forced Boyata to go to ground at risk of conceding a goal, and the experience of Chamakh paid off as he drew a 4th red-card of the season for fouls committed against him. A turning point maybe, but certainly not lucky, and no more needs to be said about the mentality of either club as City fans continuously lauded their side on 606 last night. No prizes for guessing which out of the two is, and will remain to be, the bigger club.

Undoubtedly the game would have been very different had City kept all 11 players on the pitch for the entirety, yet hind-sight is a wonderful thing, and it has no place here. Moreover, perhaps the games key incident proved to be in the 4th minute seeing as no team take advantage of a sending-off better than Arsenal. Patient possession domination commenced, yet only after the much maligned Lukasz Fabianski had time to continue his redemption with a brilliant save from a David Silva back flick just prior to the sending-off. Without troubling Joe Hart’s goal an awful deal Arsenal patiently probed, before springing into life as Samir Nasri played a devilish one-two with Andrei Arshavin in the depths of City’s penalty box, before smashing the ball over the England No.1.

Just as an Arsenal side may once have been overawed by a raucous crowd and feisty opposition, Wenger sides of a more youthful composition may have lost a man themselves as the tackling became fiercer, just as was alluded to in Wenger’s post-match interview. Whilst the danger was always there, Arsenal seemed to find a limit to their niggling, as Fabregas, Song and Djourou were all booked in quick succession, yet with tackles that were applauded by the travelling masses, not bemoaned. As Arsenal regained their heads and grasp on possession, it was City who blinked first, as Kompany reacted to a clever touch from Cesc by flattening the young captain. Clattenburg had no choice but to point to the spot, he must dream of such straightforward decisions, yet what came next was a rare blemish to Cesc’s near faultless penalty record, side-footing the ball towards the goal at a saveable height. Hart duly obliged and leapt to his left successfully.

As Mancini continued to fiddle with his formation, exchanging Wayne Bridge for Yaya Toure at the break, Arsenal began the second half just as they ended the first, as Cesc and then Arshavin were afforded presentable chances only to find their procrastinating punished. It is this tendency to not take chances that so often comes back to bite, and this was nearly the case yesterday as David Silva span a shot off the outside of his left boot, only for Fabianski to make another impressive save, this time pushing the ball past his far post. Similar to the fast half, a moment of goalkeeping excellence, two words I never thought I’d attribute to Fabianski, was followed by an act of offensive brilliance, with Arsenal seemingly deciding enough was enough and killing off a weary opposition. Quick passing culminated with Cesc Fabregas’ intercepted through ball falling at the feet of Alex Song, whose toe-poked finish flew into the top corner in an unorthodox but highly effective manner.

Although that didn’t entirely wrap up the three points, with Balotelli and Adebayor now on the pitch to bolster City’s offensive armoury, it created a comfortable platform from which Arsenal could happily keep possession and tire the opposition. Emmanuel Adebayor’s introduction added some more huff and puff but ultimately a lack of playing time and a lack of confidence has inhibited his progress, vindicating Wenger’s decision to exchange his arrogant laziness for £25 Million two summers ago. Both Nicklas Bendtner and Theo Walcott’s introductions were an encouraging sight as they recapture their form after injury, and the former’s well taken goal in the dying embers of the game was the cherry, upon the icing on the cake. A brilliant, brilliant result had been earned, yet we are all under no illusions, and this is merely the beginning of what will be a tall order to nab Chelsea’s crown.

Team Ratings:

CITY: Joe Hart (7), Micah Richards (7), Vincent Kompany (6), Jerome Boateng (6), Dedryck Boyata (4), James Milner (5), Gareth Barry (5), David Silva (8), Nigel De Jong (7), Yaya Toure (6), Carlos Tevez (6). SUBS: Wayne Bridge (6), Emmanuel Adebayor (N/A), Mario Balotelli (5).

ARSENAL:  Lukasz Fabianski (9), Bakary Sagna (6), Sebastian Squillaci (7), Johan Djourou (6), Gael Clichy (7), Cesc Fabregas (8), Samir Nasri (8), Denilson (8), Alexander Dimitri Song Billong (7), Andrei Arshavin (7), Marouane Chamakh (7). SUBS: Tomas Rosicky (6), Nicklas Bendtner (7), Theo Walcott (6).

Man of the Match: Lukasz Fabianski


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