Man City 1-0 Arsenal: Hearty performance gives hope
Tuesday, 20th Dec 2011 18:08
The solidarity of this Arsenal side is a world away from the nervous and vulnerable squad that last made the trip to Manchester but we still didn’t quite have enough quality to take a result from Lee Dixon’s homeland.
In a high quality game we managed to repel a sporadically impressive City attack and countered with some quick fire forays of our own but both keepers were in top in an engrossing first half. We lined up with four centre backs which appeared to give us added discipline and aggression when defending but we struggled to maintain possession in wide areas with Johan Djourou, in particular, guilty of some sloppy passing in an area of the pitch where he was clearly uncomfortable.
The Swiss defender suffered an injury towards the end of the half which forced his withdrawal early in the second period and a damaging defensive reshuffle ensued. Three of our four defensive positions saw new personnel and an unsettled Koscielny was at fault for the winning goal. The much improved defender pushed forward from right back in search of an early interception but City bypassed him and unleashed Balotelli down the left wing. The Italian then stepped away from an isolated Alex Song with easy and drove a low shot across goal. Our new left back, Ignasi Miquel, could have also done better as he failed to pick up David Silva before the midfielder slid in to finish after Szczesny could only palm Balotelli’s shot into his path.
City had created other opportunities too, with Nasri amusingly wasting one clear cut chance, so you could not say that they didn’t deserve to win but we also had chances with van Persie the wrong side of a marginal offside call and Thomas Veramelen bringing the best out of Joe Hart in the closing moments. Micah Richards also got away with a clear handball so we could have easily taken something from the game and certainly put in an impressive display. If we can regain momentum quickly at Aston Villa we will still be well within reach of the top four.
Djourou’s latest injury means we are now beyond full stretch in defence and there are rumours that Kyle Bartley may return from his loan spell in Scotland to help bolster our options. Kieran Gibbs is not ready to return for the trip to Villa Park so Miquel will retain his left back berth with Koscielny on the right flanking Mertesacker and Vermaelen. This is still a strong back four on paper but the constant rotating of our defence could undermine our recently improved defensive focus.
Further forward may see some changes as Wenger seeks to keep the squad fresh but Arshavin and Chamakh will have done themselves no favours with their ineffective appearances at the Etihad. Many Arsenal fans will be hoping to see more of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yossi Benayoun over the Christmas period.
Photo: Action Images
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