Man City Prove They Can Battle For Points at Arsenal


Arsenal 2 (Wilshere, Sanchez) – Man City 2 (Aguero, Demichelis)

If you’d asked me this morning if I’d take a point at the Emirates, I wouldn’t have been quick to say yes. Last season, Man City outplayed Arsenal, and, bar a pointless Community Shield loss to them, there was little to make me foresee anything other than a City win in my biased imagination. Yet, with the way the game played out, I was more than happy to leave the Emirates with a single point under our arm.

City’s side was looking slightly different today; Lampard and Fernandinho occupied the central midfield in the absence of Fernando and poor Yaya Toure, who despite being on an obscene amount of money, couldn’t quite muster up the energy to play after his midweek AFCON qualifier.

Fernandinho replaced a tired Frank Lampard in midfield, putting in a tenacious performacne capped with a yellow card.

Although I’m slightly miffed at Toure’s lacking passion for Man City, I can’t say I’d like to see him play when not fully fit, particularly after his lacklustre displays thus far. In its most poetic form, Toure at 100% is like watching an old lion try to chase younger gazelles around the arid flats, while Toure at anything less seems to be like watching a dying lion being picked off by vultures.

The circle of life.

It always seems that if City don’t immediately start well. they’ll wait for a good half-hour to get going at all. Today was no exception, with Arsene Wenger’s side hassling City for the majority of the first half, and making my earlier prediction seem less and less plausible. Most notably, new signing and post-Alexis ‘Arsenal Messiah’ Danny Welbeck took advantage of a rare David Silva mistake to chip Joe Hart and strike the post.

But, as Pellegrini’s side often do, they heave themselves back into the game. Exploiting the Arsenal left flank that was so heavily pre-empted to be weak, Navas blasted down the right wing and placed a perfect low cross into Sergio Aguero, who of course gratefully placed it into the back of the net.

The reason Man City were behind the pace of the game for half of the first half (and some of the second) is down to Arsenal’s pressing, particularly from Arsenal’s frontmen, Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez. Players shipped in from the European leagues have a reputation to stand still and wait for the ball (e.g Robinho); Alexis never seemed to run out of energy. With every ball played back to Joe Hart, Sanchez was chasing the ball right down the England keeper’s throat.

It may be because they’re used to outplaying all comers, but City’s midfield often were closed down before they could even decide what to do with the ball. Even City’s ‘Merlin’ was caught out once or twice.

City were outplayed a few times in the game, and the point they earned does prove something significant: that they can get points without playing that well.

Pellegrini made a big deal about Mark Clattenburg’s decisions today, and rightly so. I believe that Aguero was fouled in the run up to Wilshere’s admittedly brilliant goal, and Wilshere hand-balled in the box in the second half. But if you spend all day thinking of how you were screwed over by the ref, that would be to admit there are no problems whatsoever and the referee is the only reason Arsenal scored.

For the first goal, Clichy was half-hearted in his tackle attempt at Wilshere, and for the second – despite being my favourite footballer – Zaba should have been tighter to Alexis.

Martin Demichelis started his challenge for Golden Boot yesterday, with a great header that just couldn’t be kept out.

Now that that has been sorted, I’m going to express my sheer ecstacy that Martin Demichelis scored. This time it was a header, and thanks to Arsene Wenger’s penchant for zonal marking, Demichelis was given a free one to pound into the top corner.

The game was a great watch, and in the end both sides need to assess some issues:

Man City’s complacency, and Arsenal’s defending.


3. Alexis Sanchez

Alexis’ goal was a piece of class – but let’s not pretend City weren’t at any fault for letting it in.

As a fan of one of Arsenal’s league rivals, I silently hoped Alexis Sanchez would disappoint in an Arsenal shirt. Albeit it was an ambitious proposal, given his form at both international and club level, but it was still something I tried to hang onto before today. Sure, from the start of the season he’d been praised; but I tend not to totally listen to certain Arsenal fans, as they do tend to have a reputation for Twilight-esque fangirling when it comes to players.

However, as I said earlier, he impressed me with a work rate that for me made him the second hardest-working player on the pitch, and a few flashes of brilliance proved why he made Wenger fish out £35 million from his notoriously untouched pockets. Alexis’ control of the ball is more than equal to his hard-working attitude, as he displayed with a dizzying couple of touches past City’s whole central midfield. Yet that was only a warm up for the main attraction.

Latching onto a floated Jack Wilshere header, Alexis elluded Pablo Zabaleta and directed the ball on the volley past Joe Hart in what some Arsenal fans are already hailing the goal of the season (I’m joking of course…). Although it wasn’t in Hart’s top corner, the power on the ball did enough to flash past the England Number One. Although he’s in my opinion the best right back on the planet, Pablo Zabaleta should have been tighter to the Chilean.

Sanchez is Arsenal’s most talented player, hands down.

2. James Milner

Although the ‘Boring James Milner’ Twitter account is warranted, Milner yesterday proved that sometimes ‘boring’ is the best approach.

I must admit that I was surprised James Milner started yesterday. Although Fernando and Toure both weren’t ready to play, I thought it would have been more likely for Lampard and Fernandinho to start in midfield; which shows how underrated the man is. It’s funny that a player who is so often dispatched in right midfield as a sub can play so well starting in central midfield, particularly against a side as strong as Arsenal.

Even when I did see him on the teamsheet, I was expecting Milner to disappear in midfield and come off at half time (despite his ability to seemingly play for hours upon hours on end), but Pellegrini was obviously impressed enough to keep him on. Milner drifted out left, allowing David Silva to drop inside as he likes doing, and, as a testiment to his 100% effort in every minute, Mathieu Debuchy was hardly seen in the City half.

I hope I see Milner more in a City shirt this season. I’d hate to see him doing what he does best at any other team.

1. Jack Wilshere

The question is: can he keep it up this season and fulfil his potential?

God I hated seeing Jack Wilshere do so well.

But he did.

Jack Wilshere has for what seems like years been England’s ‘next big thing’. I’m not going to argue with his potential; a few years ago he looked like he could have. Yet for the last season his time at England and Arsenal has been a mix of well-broadcasted games of brilliance, injuries, and for the most part, mediocre performances.

I try not to have his attitude affect my judgement of him as a player…but it totally does. The whole ‘smoking fiasco’ was bad enough for him, but Wilshere’s on-field demeanor is just as alienating. When he doesn’t play well, he keeps his head down and gets frustrated with teammates more than himself, and has made it his forte to abuse referees and fellow players.

Yesterday he once again flirted with fans and press alike, with a stellar performance that was topped off with a goal and an assist. Will he follow it up with another great game? I don’t think so. But was his game against Man City still great? Yes.

Wilshere translated his aggression into tackling the City midfield (most notably by brushing Samir Nasri to the ground, to the biggest cheer of the day), and was disinctly creative in the centre. His assist to Sanchez wasn’t pretty (he simply batted the ball into the box with his head) but it came straight down to Sanchez, who of course put it in.

Wilshere’s goal was, in my opinion, better than Sanchez’. The pure skill to drag the ball past Gael Clichy and then dink the ball over Hart was a piece of brilliance, I’ll admit it.

If Wilshere can get some consistency, he’ll be vital to Arsenal. But the guy’s had a few years to find his feet and still hasn’t done so, so I’m not sure if it’ll happen.