From the moment Mike Dean wrapped his thin lips around his whistle and blew for kick-off at the Etihad Stadium yesterday till he blew it again to end the game after ninety minutes, we looked good for a result against City. No mean feat considering City is the defending champion and was playing in front of their home fans on a turf they have won 29 of their last 31 games and drew 2 on.
We showed no fear as we took control of the midfield early on and stopped Yaya Toure and Javi Garcia from getting any modicum of grip on that area of the field. Difficult to remember what Silva contributed to the game other than taking corner kicks, one of which Lescott scored from. Even when we went a goal down, we kept our heads up and kept plugging away with the belief that we were the better side on the day and deserved to get a result out of the game and that belief paid off eventually.
If Gervinho had a better first touch and was a bit more clinical in front of goal, the story of our trip to City would have been a much more positive one. It was really no surprise to see him start at the Etihad ahead of Giroud with three goals to his name already this season. He was a thorn in the flesh of the City defenders all afternoon as he ran at them and got behind them quite a number of times but had little luck with the final ball. Errant finishing after usually brilliant approach plays, cost Gervinho the opportunity to make an overnight hero of himself for the Emirate faithful. It was that kind of game at the Etihad -the type one little Russian took by the scruff of the neck a couple of years back at Anfield and netted four goals.
Both full backs had an excellent afternoon and contributed excellently to the attacks. Gibbs may have had the earliest chance to score if he had gone for a shot at goal instead of the volleyed pass to Poldi that went awry. Against Southampton last weekend, he had forced two own goals from the same position but this time he chose different. Gibbs notably headed the ball out for a corner kick when under no pressure from a City player which led to City's goal but he had an excellent game with significant contributions in both defense and attack.
Jenkinson set the marker early on in the game for Scott Sinclair as he ran him down on his first attacking approach and took the ball away cleverly to set the tone for an all round brilliant display. He rendered Sinclair so ineffective that he had to be taken off after the break and replaced with Jack Rodwell. Indeed, Jenkinson was man of the match for many. The 20 year old was cause for worry for many Arsenal fans after he replaced the long-term injured Sagna. So much so that an experienced right-back was top on the wish-list of every Arsenal fan while the transfer window remained open but the boy has come into his own and proved a capable deputy in Sagna's absence. Sagna will not be walking straight back into the team if Jenks continues to put up performances like he has done so far.
The center halves put up a good show as well with Mert intercepting everything -man or ball- that came his way and going up field for set pieces usually causing problems for the City defenders with his towering frame. He was rewarded with Sky's MOTM. Koscielney was a surprise listing when the team sheet came out shortly before the game started. He was a replacement for Captain Vermaleen who was reported ill. Though he may have been a bit culpable for City's headed goal against the run of play, he more than made up for it with the equalizing goal in the 82nd minute.
One thing is clear though, each of Verm, Kos, and Mert deserve a place in the starting line up and will cause a whopper of a selection migraine for Wenger in weeks to come.
In the middle of the park, Cazorla was king on a day he was not at his best but still stood out as he patrolled the area and linked up play between the defense and attack. It was impossible to keep a rein on him with the unpredictability of his play. He drew a magnificent save from Joe Hart that could easily have been parried into the net and caused City problems all game. Diaby did not replicate the play that earned him plaudits at Liverpool and gave away the ball a few times while trying to hold onto the ball for too long but all in all he put in a good shift and was replaced by Giroud in the 72nd minute. Arteta stood out conspicuously as he provided cover for the back four and quietly broke down many an attack by City. Stats show that he made a 106 passes during the game out of which 100 were completed. He has my nomination for MOTM. It's so easy to overlook his contribution to each game he features in but that fellow is slowly put his face on the dictionary meaning of defensive-midfielder.
Aaron Ramsey is a man I haven't reckoned with for a while and in fact I was surprised to see him in the starting line up yesterday but evidently Wenger Knows. He had a magnificent game, starting on the right side of midfield, he made all manners of clever runs and supplied a number of telling passes in the course of the game that came to naught. He eventually moved to the middle to replace Abou Diaby after Theo Walcott came on in the 72nd minute for Podolski.
Podolski had an indifferent game and would be remembered in this game more for his defensive duties than any significant attacking moments. He will share culpability for the City goal with Koscielney since they were nearest to him when he made the leap to head in the goal but did little or nothing to make it difficult for him.
Mourinho, "I like this Arsenal team, I like the way Arsene is building the team. I think they can be a positive surprise"Conclusion: Quietly, this Arsenal team is making progress in leaps and bounds. From "no chance" pundits are giving us an outside chance at the title this season. We exhibited the kind of spirit and game play that is reminiscent of the Invincibles season when we didn't care what name any team went by and attacked, attacked and attacked again.
— Lalah (@naijaendgooner) September 23, 2012
This was billed to be our toughest test so far this season and we came out tops with unbeaten run intact, while easily acknowledged to be the better side on the day by friends and foe alike. This can only strengthen the confidence and self-belief of this team which has been much maligned for lacking in both. We earned the point we got at City many times over. Scratch that! We could easily have nicked all three points yesterday with a bit more composure in front of goal but let's face it, a draw from this game is a result many of us would have grabbed with both hands before the game.
There's a lot to be positive about going forward especially with the likes of Gibbs, Jenkinson, and Ramsey beginning to show the qualities of top notch first teamers, Koscielney and Mert providing a selection headache for the manager and the long term injured making their ways back within the next two weeks. Our bench will be one to die for. Options will abound and with a bit more consistency, something tells me we'll be partying when this season rounds up next year.
Up next is another financial doper next Saturday. Chelsea at the Emirates.
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