Coming out of the ground yesterday there was a weird, subdued atmosphere. I guess it was based on the fact this was a game we probably should have won but could easily have lost.
To get pegged back at 2-1 up with seven or eight minutes to go is annoying, but then they hit the post twice and had a goal hilariously (because it was Nasri) disallowed for offside. The sea of ‘Ohhhh we got away with that’ faces when Szczesny clutched the ball to his chest late on told its own story to me.
I thought we started brilliantly. The opening 25 minutes we were fantastic, on top of the game, working hard, pressing high up the pitch and making City look like a team that just lost to Stoke.
Danny Welbeck came so close to opening his Arsenal account when a ball rebounded to him and he found himself one on one with the shampoo salesman. I thought he might just roll it underneath him but his chip was almost perfect, clearing Dandruffy Joe before it hit the base of the post and rebounded to safety.
And then, of course, City scored. I say of course because:
Arsenal have conceded from the first shot on target faced in all four Premier League games this season.
— Orbinho (@Orbinho) September 13, 2014
But also because that’s just kinda what we do. We threaten, we’re dangerous, we’re on top, and then the opposition come forward and slot it home. I think there was a touch of misfortune in that a deflected ball didn’t go out for a throw but Flamini should have tracked Auguero’s run better.
I like that small guy but it’s not like his movement was so good you thought ‘There’s no way we could have prevented that’. All Flamini had to do was get in his way. It was a goal that was probably preventable, but that’s the thing about top teams, they can hurt you at any moment.
That said, our response was fantastic. We’ve talked before about Jack Wilshere needing to step up this season and he did just that. In a game in which Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil were both disappointing, Jack was outstanding. I know the Welshman will be credited with an assist for the equaliser, but it was all down to Wilshere’s drive and determination.
Having burst into the box without being fouled cynically and for the game to be stopped so Mark Twattenburg could call the City player over to have a sincere chat with him about his behaviour and what might be troubling him in his personal life, Jack finished with aplomb. And by aplomb I mean with his right foot. What a finish though, delicate, precise and enough to give a goalkeeper flecks of dessicated scalp on his shoulders.
He then followed that up with an assist of his own, looping a header to Alexis who volleyed home his third goal of the season. A genuinely quality finish but I don’t think there was any doubt we deserved it – and how notable was it that the referee saw fit to book the Chilean for taking his shirt off. He’s a real stickler for the rules regardless of how silly they are.
Except when a player already on a yellow card kicks the ball away when one of his teammates gets away with another foul in midfield. Then, it seems, the rules don’t apply in the same way, but perhaps that’s what being champions and owners of billions of dollars in unmarked bills does for you. We should try both of those things.
So, at 2-1 up and with just a small part of the game remaining, it really did feel like we should see it out. However, we got caught at a set-piece again and it’s hard not to worry that this isn’t becoming something of a problem.
The injury to Mathieu Debuchy probably had an impact. The mood in the stadium flattened considerably after people realised the seriousness of it (thankfully it’s just a sprain and nothing’s broken), but after that City really came back into it. The eqauliser was disappointing because it was a corner we should have dealt with, but also because it before that it was a ball we should have done more with to stop it being a corner in the first place.
However, when you take into account they hit the post twice and had a goal – hilariously (did I mention this was funny?) – disallowed, there’s also a sense that the point we gained could easily have been lost.
In the end it was cracking game of football between two teams who have their flaws but overall I think there are signs of encouragement for us. If we can cut out this conceding from the first chance thing, the fact we bossed the game for the most part is something we can take real heart from.
Jack Wilshere has spoken about how he needs to step up this season and he did that yesterday with a goal and an assist. Alexis scored another cracker and we looked more dangerous that we did against Leiecester. Welbeck had a decent debut, and the fact that we gave the league winners a really good game with two players (Ramsey and Ozil) who were well below par has to be a good thing.
The downside is that we’ve picked up an injury to a player whose absence adds to the precariousness of our defensive situation. I thought Debuchy was really good yesterday, but without him we’re going to have to play Chambers, and that means using our only central-defensive cover at right back.
We simply shouldn’t be this short of defenders. When you consider that Joel Campbell, Tomas Rosicky and Yaya Sanogo didn’t even make the squad yesterday, it shows that we’ve almost got too much depth in midfield and attack, but the injury to Debuchy illustrates there’s nowhere near enough at the back.
Now though, we’ve got to get ourselves ready for a difficult away trip in Europe. We’re still unbeaten in the league, and a draw against a team like City is never really a bad result, but in the cold, hungover (ouch), light of day, it does feel like a bit of a missed opportunity given the position we worked so hard to put ourselves in.