The starting line up was a little bit different then usual due to TV05 having flu, while Ramsey played instead of Giroud.
The team was:
Mannone, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Ramsey, Diaby, Arteta (Captain), Cazorla, Gervinho, Podolski.
Subs: Martinez, Andre Santos, Giroud, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Djourou, Coquelin.
We kicked off the game equal on points with City but with a better goal difference.
Contrary to what was suspected, and that is Cazorla being pushed out on the right, it was Ramsey who played out wide, being placed there to give a better balance to midfield and allow Cazorla to work his magic behind Podolski and Gervinho. However there was nothing to stop the forward players from interchanging positions whenever they wanted.
The first few minutes saw a lot of Arsenal possession but the City players kept nipping in to dispossess the players in red. Whenever City had the ball the Gunners usually dropped back until they retrieved the ball and that was when they usually opened up.
Cazorla was usually at the hub of action in the attacking half, always being positive, always trying things, always trying to be innovative and it was he who stretched Hart first, however his shot did not have that enough power.
Statistics have shown that in this year’s EPL, Arsenal have been the team who have made the most tackles and with a high success rate too. During the first ten minutes, that reputation was enhanced as even the attack was pressing and tackling and this was shown mostly by Gervinho who neatly dispossessed Lescott before passing to Gibbs. Cazorla, with his giant frame of 5ft 6 ins managed to down the slightly built Yaya Toure and was even clever enough to make it seem as if he was fouled.
This teams attitude was shown all around and it helped in Mannone not being called into action before the 14th minute when he was equally good to a stinging shot from Sergio Aguero.
Arsenal continued to press mainly from the right and the 23rd minute saw Jenkinson get behind the City defence before squaring a cross to Podolski who fired high. Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey were finding a good amount of spaces in between City’s midfield and defence while Gervinho spurned arguably the best chance of the game for Arsenal.
City was playing a very solid 4-4-2 system with two banks of players whenever AFC players had the ball. However they quickly switched to attack whenever they were in possession and every now and then, they threatened the AFC defence near the box.
The Gunners had their moments especially from the wings. However if one was to consider the sum total of play it was evident that Arsenal were the more positive of both sides and always tried to play the ball forward at every opportunity instead of the crab like sideways passing we had grown accustomed to previous years.
Cazorla slipped Gervinho on the right and only a last gasp challenge from Clichy stopped him getting away. Moments later Podolski over cooked his pass to Diaby. Had it been a good pass Diaby would have been in on goal. Arsenal were in charge of the midfield battle and Mancini was clearly upset about it and he was constantly berating his players to close down the spaces.
However for all their good and positive play, Arsenal’s good play was undone by just one simple set piece. From a corner delivered to the far post, Lescott jumped the highest to steer home a power header.
Arsenal, conceded the goal at the worst possible moment! Just before half time and they were the more positive of two teams.
Zonal marking should be slightly questionable, however lack of communication in both the concession of the corner (when AFC defenders should have told Gibbs that the ball was going out) and in the marking of Lescott contributed to Arsenal finding themselves down at half-time.
Arsenal had been impressive both defensively and offensively, however at set pieces they have not looked good enough. Their zonal marking in open play was very good however during set pieces zonal marking meant that City’s players who were also tall could get a run at the ball. Podolski should have stopped Lescott but he allowed him to drift in while his mind drifted elsewhere.
Moments later Mannone made a great save when he chipped a shot by Aguero over the bar for a corner.
The half time whistle went and AFC players trudged off to get a warm drink safe in the knowledge that no hair-dryer treatment was awaiting them. Rather a few tactical points and a motivational speech.
If Arsenal could stay positive and keep calm, it was possible that they would get something from the game.
And by the way, contrary to what many have said recently, Ramsey was having a very good game. He was tackling, he was making runs and was very much in the game. He was not bullied by the aging Toure and that was the best half we have seen him play in a long time. Jenkinson and Gibbs were also impressive.
The second half saw City being more the dominant side, having switched to 4-2-3-1, with Toure given licence to go forward while Garcia and Rodwell stayed in the defensive positions. Twice Aguero had a sniff at goal, especially when Diaby faffed possession on the half way line. However nothing came of them.
City continued to dominate possession and Arsenal were going through a torrid time, barely being able to implement their passing game in City’s half. This situation was getting to Podolski’s nerves and he made his presence felt when he tackled Zabaleta with a very strong challenge, followed by an equally impressive Germanesque stare towards the referee. The yellow stayed in the pocket.
Arsenal started to build patiently and slowly began to increase their possession stats. There was no panic from them and slowly began finding space behind the City defence, courtesy of Gibbs and Jenkinson, yet the final ball was always lacking and Hart was rarely seen during the first twenty minutes of the second half.
Tevez came on for Dzeko in a tactical change which meant that City now had three quick small players up front who could interchange positions at will. This meant that the AFC defence had to be on the look out more now as the front three were a dynamic lot compared to the one-dimensional Dzeko who always goes through the centre.
Then Arsene Wenger made a change. He bought on Giroud for Diaby and Theo on for Podolski. Both had a good game having run themselves to the ground. Neither looked too pleased but both had given a good account of themselves for the benefit of the team.
Within a minute of coming on Giroud had a shot on the turn, however it was cleared by Lescott for a corner. The ball was played in again and Hart had to scramble to reach the ball before Arteta, after the whole City defence stood still for an offside whistle which never materialised.
City broke quickly and Yaya Toure galloped nearly the whole length of the pitch before Mannone produced a fine save from Aguero.
Cazorla replied with a wonderful strike to which Hart was equal to.
From the resulting corner, Kosceinly struck a wonderful penalty. Well it was not a penalty in the actual sense but it was bang on the penalty spot. That was a tremendous strike from our free scoring centre-back who has now scored two in his last two games. A few minutes later Mannone made a superb save after Kozzer went from a hero to zero when he allowed a city player the time to perfect a scissor kick.
Arsenal looked to win it in the last five minutes and began putting in a lot of pressure. Gervinho was everywhere and he was harrying the City defence, culminating in him and Ramsey sandwiching the small frame of Yaya Toure between them.
Every Arsenal player seemed as if he wanted to play in this game and this kind of attitude is what stands the team in good stead as contrary to past years, players seem to demand the ball, full of belief that each and everyone could contribute something to the cause.
Coquelin came on for Gervinho, who received a standing ovation from me while typing this article. Well sort of.
Garcia received a yellow card for downing Jenkinson who was through on the right. Arteta lined up to take the free kick but nothing came of it.
The game went into added time over added time, but the whistle soon went.
Arsenal are still unbeaten.
Next up ….. the Chavs.
Written by DevilGunner.