Arsenal v Manchester City
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: March 29, 2014 17.30 PM BST
It was a point gained for the Gunners in an exhilarating match at Emirates. For the third consecutive game Arsenal went behind in the first half to a scrappy David Silva tap in but responded with a well worked Mathieu Flamini goal. Very encouraging and spirited performance from Arsene Wenger’s men that still leaves them in the title race if results go their way.
Amazingly Chelsea lost 1-0 earlier in the day, and even more amusingly to a John Terry own goal. Before kick-off we would’ve taken a draw, and after watching the Gunners second half performance it’s understandable to be a little disappointed. But it will boost the sides morale for a win-able season run-in. Six consecutive wins and we could do it.
Anyway, Wenger opted to make just one change to the side that drew with Swansea, Lukas Podolski coming in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who has looked a little overworked recently. Tomas Rosicky occupied a more central role with Santi hanging on the wing. For City, Pellegrini opted for Jesus Navas on the right and boy did he give Gibbs a bit of work. Dzeko continued up top with Aguero (thankfully) still injured.
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It was all City in the opening period. The Zabaleta-Navas combination threatened regularly during the first half and were a real handful. However some good work from Arteta managed to clear the danger, before Gibbs dealt with a Dzeko breakaway. Another Navas cross was then collected and cleared by Sagna, things were looking nervy for the Gunners.
They weathered the storm, and even had a penalty shout around the 12th minute. Rosicky taking on Zabaleta on the outside and even though there was a bit of contact, the Czech made a bit too much of it. Referee Mike Dean thought it was more of a coming together of two players, Hart was awarded the goal kick.
It wasn’t long after until City took the lead. A swift counter attack started and ended with David Silva, Edin Dzeko lashing a shot at Szczesny who saved well to his right only for the ball to bounce off the inside of the post and Silva following up with an easy finish despite pressure from Vermaelen. It felt like the same old Arsenal of late.
It sparked a response from the Gunners however and they enjoyed some decent spells of possession with Cazorla and Rosicky creating openings and shifting the ball around. Flamini also looked comfortable in a little more advanced role than usual however Wenger’s men failed to really create any clear cut chances.
In quick succession both Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany were booked for challenges of Rosicky and Arteta respectively which was a big bonus for the Gunners. It helped spurn on a decent spell for the Gunners however again they failed to really break down City’s defence. Both Silva and Rosicky entered the ref’s book before half-time after some late challenges.
Arsenal came out of the tunnel raring to go and put City on the back foot with some aggression and energy in their movement. The breakthrough eventually came, with some smart, patient play from Arsenal outside the City box before Podolski was fed the ball down the left. He produced a perfect cut back cross to Flamini who dealt with the awkward angle to shoot well beyond Joe Hart. 1-1 and game on.
The Emirates Stadium roared back into life and a tasty Sagna cross placed City’s hearts in their mouths but Giroud was unable to get there quick enough and Demichelis strangely let it go at the last minute as it flashed painfully past the City goal.
Around the 60th minute Podolski was put through after some tidy footwork around the edge of the City box and fired powerfully at Hart’s goal from a tight angle. The Englishman produced a vital save for the visitors as his shot hit the side netting. Very unlucky for the Gunners, but the German really demonstrating why Wenger opted for the attacker.
The game was extremely open, some thrilling end-to-end football with both sides having chances however it felt the momentum was with the home side. Arsenal did all they could to break through a resilient City backline, but failed to do so.
There was one extremely nervy moment for the Gunners when Toure danced around Szczesny after a goal-box scramble, but Arsenal’s defence and midfield put everything on the line to quell any danger and eventually it was cleared.
The Ox entered for Podolski in the 79th minute and was an instant threat. Using his pace, he got at Clichy and the newly introduced Milner and helped to spark several exciting Arsenal attacks. Unfortunately they were unable to find a winner but it was an exciting match nevertheless.
Special mention to Tomas Rosicky for an outstanding performance in midfield, it’s hard to believe he’s 33 – playing like he was 23. Despite being on a yellow he put in a couple decisive slide tackles as well as continuing to run at City’s midfield and defence. Cazorla was back his old self which bodes well for Arsenal season run-in, while Flamini scored AND avoided a yellow card which would have rendered him suspended for the Everton and Wigan (FA Cup) ties. The Frenchman was immense.
on whether it was a fair result…
Maybe yes. We were a bit nervy at the start, insecure in our attitude by our last two results. But when even we when we were 1-0 down you could see the team was ready for a fight and we controlled the second half, we controlled the first 20 minutes and overall in the first half maybe they had another chance, in the second half we had a second chance. We could have won it in the second half but overall it was a game of quality between two good teams and the game was played with a great spirit on both sides.
on the second-half performance…
They have played some good performances. With what happened last week of course if you read the newspapers you can believe that but if you look at our results since the start of the season, we are in the semi-final of the [FA] Cup. We knocked out Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton, we lost against Bayern with ten men and played a 1-1 at Bayern. You don’t do that if you’re terrible and with the players we have out and what we have shown today, I think it’s remarkable. I would like to see Toure, Silva and Kompany at home today and play the same game again. I think the team has been remarkably consistent, we have gone through a nightmare last week. Of course you could see with the 2-2 against Swansea that the team was on the floor and hugely disappointed because we conceded an own goal in the last minute. Despite that, we responded very well today.
on contrasting performances…
You cannot even say we played well or not well [at Chelsea]. When you’re 2-0 down after 10 minutes and if you’re 3-0 down with 10 men in a big game there is no game anymore.
on playing badly at Chelsea…
I do not say that, I just think it was a nightmare. You cannot even say it was a game. When you have to attack with ten men and you’re 3-0 down you have no chance anymore.
on the importance of Flamini…
I believe we played 1-1 at Bayern with the team who played at Chelsea. I like Flamini because I signed him at the surprise of everybody and I think he has done extremely well tonight. He gives us the balance and qualities that are needed in the team. But overall we have played some good games with him and some good games without him.
on where it leaves title challenge…
What happens at Chelsea doesn’t help us because it does not give us more points here. It just shows that we have absolutely to fight until the end of the season because everybody can beat everybody. Chelsea lost today at Crystal Palace, so that means all of us have to be careful and consistent. Mathematically we are still in there but it is not in our hands. That means you cannot say it is just depending on us and it is not realistic maybe to say that today. We have ti look above us and behind us as well, because behind us they are coming as well.
on players retaining belief…
We will fight until the end. This team has qualities, it is has quality on the pitch and quality in attitude as well and it will do that until the end.
on whether team should feel nerves…
I think we have been consistent since the start of the season. Maybe you never played at that level and maybe it is very difficult to explain the mental insecurity that is in every single team. One or two bad results… Real Madrid for example went 30 games unbeaten and then lost in a big game, then lost the game after because the disappointment is so difficult to deal with. The pressure after bad results is so big that it is easy for nobody.
on Rosicky penalty shout…
I think we scored a goal that was given offside, I would like to see if it was offside. For me, Giroud was offside, Flamini I don’t know. The penalty I don’t know, I have to watch it again. I would have given it! But you are not surprised by that.
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Sagna Mertesacker Vermaelen (c) Gibbs
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