Man City playing the way they did last night must be the equivalent of buying a McLaren F1 and driving everywhere in second gear.
As expected Arsenal played the same team that started against Birmingham and we started very brightly. Before City had a chance to get themselves properly organised defensively we cut them open. Nasri played in Wilshere who seemed to be just caught in two minds between a shot and a cross. In the end the ball flashed across goal and just out of reach of Robin van Persie at the back post.
Further chances were created in the first half. Robin’s clever turn outside the area saw him fire in a shot which came back off the outside of the post. When Arsenal broke after a City corner Nasri eventually played a lovely pass to Cesc and his first shot time cannoned off the inside of the post. Had we had any luck it would have hit Joe Hart on the back and gone in. Instead it came out to Theo Walcott who also his the post but was flagged offside. Theo drove a shot just wide.
City, for their part, did very little. The best they had was an early Milner shot which went about as far wide as it could go and and a set-piece which found Tevez at the back post. Song defended well to put the ball out for the aforementioned corner.
In the second City’s tactics became even more negative. Only Tevez stayed ahead of the ball when Arsenal were in possession and Arsenal faced a wall of large, quality defenders. The best opportunity came from a Robin van Persie shot. One of the few times we even found enough space to have a go from outside the area. It was heading into the top corner, Joe Hart made an excellent save.
The boss tried some fresh legs. Theo replaced by Arshavin, Wilshere by Bendtner but there was no way through. At the end Sagna and Zabaleta were sent off for nothing much. A coming together of heads. Sagna pushed his into the City man’s and I suppose, given what we’ve seen lately, you can’t really complain too much about the red card, although given the timing a sensible ref would have just shown a yellow and told them to calm down.
The City player can feel slightly unlucky that he was sent off but you have to think something had been brewing there. Sagna is normally unflappable. If a scrote like Bowyer stamping on his leg doesn’t provoke that kind of reaction then you do have to wonder what had gone on between them. I didn’t notice anything but that’s not to say it didn’t happen. I thoroughly enjoyed the moment when Zabaleta tried to go off with his arm around Sagna’s shoulder only for the Frenchman to shrug it off. None of your fake camaraderie there and that’s why I love Sagna. He’ll miss three games but if you could have chosen three games for him to miss two cup games and a trip to West Ham are about as good as it gets. He can recharge a bit.
So, 0-0 at the end and plenty of frustration at the result and the way Man City played but not the Arsenal effort. Mancini’s attempts to justify the negativity by saying they’d played four games in ten days kind of miss the point that Arsenal have done exactly the same. Only one team tried to win that game last night and that was us. I can fully understand teams coming for a point but you expect it of relegation fodder, not the most expensively assembled squad in the Premier League and a team sitting in second place in the table.
I realise City were missing Silva and Balotelli, as well as Adebayor who didn’t even make the bench after his scrap with Kolo, but what justification is there for playing Jo. What is Jo? I don’t claim to know everything about the game of football but I know a footballer when I see one and he’s not it. Adam Johnson on the bench while this Jo gets a game. Is he someone’s brother or something? Was he there on behalf of the Make a Wish Foundation?
The difficulty from our point of view was that when a team plays defensively it’s very difficult to break them down. When you’re playing a team that plays defensively and has extremely talented defenders and extremely talented defensive midfielders, with an excellent goalkeeper behind them, it’s even more difficult to break them down. We tried hard, made a couple of chances and were the width of the post away from breaking the deadlock, but as the second half went on we also felt the effects of four games in ten days and couldn’t quite maintain the pressure of the first half.
Question the substitutions all you like – and my only question would be why we didn’t play Bendtner more central – but they were fresh legs and it was not unreasonable to hope they could contribute. In a tight game perhaps Arshavin’s ability might have found a way through. As it was he lost the ball more than he did anything with it and if he doesn’t start to produce, or at least look like he cares, he might lose the crowd more than he obviously has.
I take a lot of encouragement from tonight’s game, even if mathematically we are all frustrated and the players are very disappointed. But overall there is no way we should lose courage or belief in our team. It is the opposite. We should even come out with even more belief in our quality and be more resolute in the coming games because we have shown we have what it takes to be a serious contender in this League.
As I said, I’ve got no complaints with the performance. There was no lack of effort or desire from Arsenal and you could see the way City celebrated at the end that they got exactly what they came for. I have to say I hope that’s as much as we see of them for this season because they are excruciating to watch. They’ll point to a point away from home to a title rival as good result. I’ll point to a squad, put together for £200m+, who showed no attacking ambition whatsoever and whose style of football, if you can use that word, is as entertaining as watching paint dry.
I know there’s no one way to play the game but if I were a fan of a team who had unlimited resources and who had spent that much money I’d at least expect them to try and win the game. You can be cautious defensively and still attack now and again. Still, they do what they do and that’s up to them.
I suppose from a positives point of view that’s two clean sheets in a row for us now. The first time that’s happened since we beat City back in October. You can’t really comment on how the defence played because they had nothing to do. The rest of the lads did their best and should now get some time to recuperate as I expect plenty of changes for the FA Cup and Carling Cup games.
Also positive were the other results from last night. I can’t ever remember so many managers on the brink at the one time. Around us Chelsea and Sp*rs both lost while Woy’s time at the Mugsmashers seems to be well and truly up after they got beaten 3-1 at Blackburn. There’s no Premier League for 10 days or so, I suspect we might see a change or two between now and then.
In other news Bolton have confirmed (at the end of the video) they’ve made a bid to take Carlos Vela on loan. They only had 15 players for last night’s game, one more than the 14 they had at the weekend, so they’ll be anxious to get a deal done as soon as possible to add to their threadbare squad.
Also, some not particularly encouraging news regarding Thomas Vermaelen. The fear is that he could be out for at least another month, dashing hopes of a January return. The difficulty for the manager is what happens if we’re a month down the line and he’s still not ready? At that point it’s too late to add to the squad so he’s going to have to make a decision about a reinforcement sooner rather than later, I think.
And while it’s bad news for us as Vermaelen’s return would have been very welcome you have to spare a thought for the player who must be hugely frustrated at missing so much of the season. Last night, pre-game, Cesc talked about how missing games through injury is one of the worst feelings a footballer can have, so fingers crossed the further month is just that. Even if it is though, we’re looking at a guy who will have been out of the game for coming up on 5-6 months and there are natural consequences of that too.
If I hear more on that I’ll keep you up to date. Anyway, for today that’ll have to do. Let the City bashing commence.
Back tomorrow with an Arsecast.