It was the battle of the top two profit making firms in UAE. The clash of the rich aviation based sponsors. A game that I had been looking forward to; with a certain level of anxiety. Arsenal V/s Manchester City was supposed to have an entertaining side to it. And indeed it did. So many special talents, so many spectacular athletes on show in the, less than, freezing temperatures at the Etihad stadium.
This was a pivotal game for both the teams, with Arsenal coming into it with the confidence and the strong belief of a team that was unbeaten in its last eight games. And Manchester City, with the hunger to undo the outcome of last week’s performance against Chelsea.
The manager’s of the respective sides fielded the best eleven they could dig out from their dressing room. Arsenal, without the services of Bacary Sagna, Jack Wilshere and Andre Dos Santos, looked feeble. It was quite obvious when Arsene Wenger had no option but to field two natural central defenders as wingbacks in the starting line up.
On kick off, it was City that looked threatening with “Kun” Aguero, the winning goal scorer in the Cup tie 19 days ago, coming close to scoring in the 9th minute after good inter play between the City midfielders.
For Arsenal, it was Gervinho who had the best chance in the 16th minute. Hart made a crucial save, his first of the game, after Walcott’s pass through the sturdy City defense fell onto the nimble foot of Gervinho who eventually took a shot. Subsequently, on the other end, Balotelli made full use of a defensive misunderstanding between Mertesacker and Koscielny, to produce an attempt on Szczesny’s goal, which was amazingly dealt with a brilliant save.
Both the goalkeepers have had their moments in the first quarter of the game.
Robin Van Persie was displaying his sizzling form he is in. With 19 goals this season along with that impressive hat-trick against Chelsea, why shouldn’t he? He definitely had the most important job in the game though, the duty of holding up the play so that the wingers (Walcott and Gervinho) could make that run. It was evident; every time he did get the ball.
For a moment, I am quite sure, Arsenal fans were concerned when Zabaleta managed to pull out a clean tackle on RVP but as he did so, managed to take a bit of RVP’s ankle along as well. Moreover, Arsenal had to get more out of Walcott. Zabaleta is a good defender but I am pretty sure, Walcott would have been quite successful if he had decided to take on Zaba and make him commit. But that was not the case as Zabaleta was floating on the wing like Walcott never existed.
On the other hand, for Manchester City, Aguero looked sharp and quite a handful. His use of balance, strength and power were on display. Samir Nasri was being booed by the visiting contingent every time he touched the ball, which was implicit.
To sum off the first half, it was really enjoyable. Arsenal in all fairness had defended excellently as a team. Not the quality that the team is known for. Arsene Wenger must have been the happier of the two managers to go into the half with a 0 – 0 score line. As for City, Aguero’s first shot should have been a goal but he ended up ballooning it.
As the second half kicked off, Arsenal looked promising for the first 5 minutes of the game. But it was the Blues that came out on the top in the 52nd minute with a goal by David Silva. This is how it went:
Nasri with an inspired through pass to Balotelli – Balotelli uses his burst of pace to go past Song (Of all people) – take a shot which was loosely parried by Szczesny – Aguero runs in, which adds pressure on Vermaelen – the ball is missed by the central defender – Silva takes advantage of the situation and scores with an easy tap in.
Could Szczesnyhave done better? I think saw but only he knows what went through his mind as the play was carried out. However, Arsenal looked dangerous on the immediate round of play with Walcott coming close that was eventually put away by the England number one.
The game seemed like it opened up from there on. Arsenal for a few rounds of play looked desperate. Additionally, few straightforward chances missed by City, had Mancini fuming on the sidelines.
The second half also saw some brilliant play on the wings from both teams. RVP was unable to convert after a good old-fashioned wing play by Gervinho, as he took Richards to the cleaners. On the other end of the pitch, it was exciting to watch Richards make his occasional bullish runs, which we have seen a few times this season already. Micah Richards was enjoying his best career so far as he maintained his consistency on that right hand side of the City defense. There is only the England manager to convince now.
I wasn’t surprised when Arshavin came in for Walcott in the 68th minute. He was not his influential self in this game. But Arshavin? Lets be honest. Arsene is not getting value for money from Arshavin at the moment. He has the ability but seems like he is lacking the will or motivation that he had a few seasons ago. The team was also undone by a missed call on a clear penalty. They had definitely deserved it when the ball skimmed off Richard’s arm as it deflected off of Toure’s attempted clearance.
Arsenal did have good possession in the offensive end of the field but the final ball was always disappointing. Did Arsene deserve anything from this game last night? May be. He basically deserved what he got. Walcott was not up to his full potential, RVP did not receive the service which a star striker of his ability requires, and finally, the creative drive that the team had (initiated from the likes of Fabregas and Nasri) was not visible. Ironically, the man of the match award was given to Nasri which could have been a little provocative I think?
To conclude with, I thought first half was good but the second was even better. City deserved the three points tonight with fantastic performances from both Kompany and Zabaleta. In fact, the entire team did as they displayed an overall team effort. Mancini’s men had done its job. The blue moon continues to rise.
Whereas, Arsenal’s squad looked depleted. It neither had the ammunition nor the quality to compete against a strong City team. The Gunners were solid on the defensive end but still have some catching up to do. That said, today’s game proved to me at least, yet once again, the greatness of EPL and why this is considered as one of the best leagues in the world.