Match Report: Manchester City 6 – 3 Arsenal

Premier League:  14th December 2013

By Zedie

Kos and AgueroWith the world still unsure if Arsenal really do have the minerals to go all the way, today’s tie was always going to be a litmus test to confirm our status with the biggest of the big boys.  A genuine 6 pointer; win it, and we maintain the 5 point gap at the top, while extending the lead over City (the pundits choice for the title) by 8 points. Lose and the gap we had amassed would look more like a slit.

City started off just as you would expect at home, confident, direct and playing with real purpose.  So much so, that Arsenal only saw the ball for 15 seconds in the first 7 minutes.  We fought to wrestle possession from them and started to push forward to relieve some pressure and put them on the back foot for a bit.

Arsenal were beginning to ask real questions of City, but those questions were halted when a City counter attack resulted in a corner in the 14th minute.  The set piece was fizzed into the front stick, with Martin Demichelis getting up first to knock onto the far post, where Sergio Aguero was on hand to volley home expertly.  His slight movement caught Laurent Koscielny unaware and there was little Szczesny could do to stop it.

The goal galvanised City, who stepped up their slick passing and they quite frankly looked dangerous every time they moved the ball forward.  In contrast, Arsenal were sloppy and seemed to turn possession over far to easily, inviting the pressure.  Arsenal’s attacking forays were also cut short a few times, with some suspect officiating from the linesman calling offside when the most advanced Arsenal attacker was anything but.

And then, a chink of light.  Aaron Ramsey did well to close down the pondering Yaya Toure in midfield and expertly picked his pocket.  He knocked the ball to the advancing Mesut Ozil, who cut the ball back to Theo Walcott, who hit the ball with his inseam, sending the away support to cloud nine on 31 minutes.  Initially, it looked like a deflection, but questions could have been asked of Pantilimon, who could have at least tried to get down to save to his left. At that moment, I didn’t give a shit if he did or not, game on mofos!

The goal stung Arsenal into action and there were chances at either end, but with Arsenal looking to capitalise on seizing the momentum.  Arsenal were pushing on when Yaya Toure picked up the ball in space, swept it out wide right to Zabaleta, who squared it into the path of Alvaro Negrado to make it 2-1 to City from point blank range in the 39th minute.

To add injury to insult, a rather grotesque laceration to Laurent Koscielny’s knee (I’ve seen the picture, his knee looked like Ravioli in too much Dolmio), meant that was the end of the game for our Kos.  Koscielny was stretchered off to sympathetic applause from all sides of the stadium.

There was still enough time for the same dodgy linesman to call Theo for offside when he clearly wasn’t ( he was right in front of you, dickhead!) before the first half drew to a close.

We were 2 minutes into the second half, when Aguero pulled up with what seemed to be a calf strain, ending his involvement in the game.  With the score still balanced at 2-1 and arguably one of City’s most potent attacking threats being withdrawn, you could feel a sense of confidence filter through the Arsenal support.

It didn’t seem to transfer to the players.  Yet another careless pass from the Arsenal (this time Ozil of all people) who was in little danger, missed Flamini and was intercepted by Fernandinho. He had enough time to scratch his arse, complete a level on Candy Crush and shape up an inch perfect curling shot, off the post into the back of our net to make it 3-1 to the hosts on 50 minutes.

I counted 4 goals out of their 6 today that could have been so easily avoided, but this one took the prize.  Fuming doesn’t begin to describe the rage at that moment.

Still, Arsenal pressed on and a fantastic pass from Wilshere to Giroud ended in a badly mis hit effort ballooning over the bar into the car park.  Giroud had fans face palming again not even 2 minutes later. Wilshere found Giroud with a defence splitting pass again, only for the big man to somehow kick the ball with his trailing leg, when it was easier to square it to a wide open Walcott, who surely would have buried the chance.

The City goal was under threat yet again when Sagna got free on the wing and snapped in a superb cross to Giroud, whose glancing header missed the goal by an arse hair.

Arsenal were pushing hard and the 58th minute saw a huge penalty shout for the Gunners.  There was great interplay in front of the box, which ramped up when Jack Wilshere threaded a pass to match a Theo Walcott run who had bypassed the City defence, only for Zabaleta to lean towards the ball.  The ball bounced between his thigh then arm, but the pass had come from a full 20 yards.  Him leaving his arm there was deliberate and it stopped a genuine goal scoring chance.  With the Arsenal players going nuts, neither the ref or linesman did what they should have done and motioned for the spot.

TheoBarely a minute later on 63 minutes, the excellent Theo Walcott had made it 3-2.  Ozil found Aaron Ramsey, whose slide rule pass arrived at Theo’s feet on the left hand side of the City box. He produced a fine curling effort that nestled in the top right corner and the fight was back on.

However, thoughts of revolution were ended when David Silva converted a low cross from Jesus Navas in the 66th minute to make it 4-2, knocking the wind out of Arsenal.

The next 20 minutes saw City turn on the style with wave after wave of attack, while the Arsenal looked like they had lost their shape and ability to close down or complete passing moves. Both Mathieu Flamini and Giroud were taken off for Serge Gnabry and Nikolas Bendtner as Wenger doubled down and went for broke.

There was nearly another lifeline when a ball was whipped into the box, for Bendtner to make fantastic connection with his head and bury it past Pantilimon.  Of course, the linesman flagged for offside, although how he could have spotted Bendtner’s offending toe is beyond me.  I suppose if you call enough chances offside, one of them might be right in the end.

With the game and our hopes of a point slipping away, a now exhausted and stretched Arsenal side could do nothing to stop Fernandinho from retrieving the ball from a dawdling Wilshere and exchanging passes with Nasri to get into the area. Fernandinho got the rub of the green when the ball bounced off Mertesacker back into his path and he expertly chipped the on rushing Szczesny to make it 5-2 on 88 minutes.

Arsenal went down the other end and won a corner that lead to the ball finding its way to Sagna, who put in another pinpoint cross to Mertesacker, who headed home to make the score slightly more respectable in the 94th minute.

Of course, there was still time for James Milner to burst into the box and win a penalty from a Szczesny save attempt.  The imposing Yaya Toure blasted home in the 96th minute, signalling the end of an insane game.

Having had time to reflect, the result was disappointing to say the least, but ultimately, we are still in the driving seat.  That’s 2 huge away games out of the way against Man United and Man City and we have a shaky Chelsea side still to play after a 9 day break, while they still have to deal with a League cup tie.  There really is no shame in being beaten by a fully rested City side at their place, having scored 1 goal more than the rest of the Premier League have managed so far at the Etihad.

The pressure has ramped up, but no one said it would be easy.  Chins up!

 

Match Ratings

Szczesny – 6 –Despite shipping 6 goals, there was little Szczesny could do about most of them. The penalty was slightly soft, Milner left his foot dangling and ensured contact, but you dance with the devil and all that…

Sagna – 6 – Whipped in a few excellent crosses and was dangerous going forward.  Was part of a defence that was just too stretched to stop the tide from overwhelming them.

Mertesacker – 5 – again, not his best night.  Seemed half a yard off the pace for much of the game, wasn’t really helped out by those around him, but could have done better regardless.

Koscielny – 5 – (off 41st min) Completely switched off for the first.  He stuck when Aguero twisted and anticipated the knock on from Demichelis.  A bit of movement could have kept it at 0-0.

Monreal – 5 – Struggled massively on the left flank.  It could be that him and Wilshere were not used to playing with each other on that left side, but he struggled regardless and often had no idea where his man was.

Flamini – 6 – (off 72nd min) Couldn’t get going or impose himself as he normally does.  ok, he was up against a monster in Yaya Toure, but he just couldn’t cut it.  Expect much better.

Ramsey – 7 – He played well, used the ball well and created a lot.  One of our better performers today, although there were some really slack passes in the mix.

Wilshere – 5 – What can I say?  Played some exquisite passes throughout the game, but also messed up simple balls and got caught in possession a number of times.  A frustrating display today, bad outweighed the good.

Ozil – 6 – Was guilty of a very slack pass in across the front of the box that led to the 3rd City goal, at a time when we were in the ascendancy.  There were some good moments, but now is the time when the rigours of the Prem will kick in and he needs to learn to cope with it.

Walcott – 9Was great today, caused problems for City every time the ball came near to him.  2nd goal was a work of art and would have been clean through if the officials weren’t brain dead.

Giroud – 5(off 76th min) Its probably the worst performance I’ve seen from him to date.  Made a catalogue of simple errors, couldn’t hit the target (aside from another incorrect offside where he smashed in a peach of a shot) and generally looked jaded.  We need a striker so badly right now, if only to take the burden off Giroud’s shoulders on occasion.

Subs

Vermaelen – 5 – (on 41st min) – Probably didn’t expect to come on, but did ok considering.  Was still guilty of over committing at points.  As culpable as anyone today for the lack of coherent defending.

Gnabry – 6 – (on 72th min) – Did well considering, made some nice moves, but it was all a bit too much for a youngster to turn it around for us.

Bendner -6 – (on 76th min) – Won a few headers, was called offside by inches for another trademark header.

 

 

 

 

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