So it was six in the city as Arsenal were gunned down at fortress Etihad as city slickers fired a ferocious….ah sod it, my heart’s not in this.
This was the biggest game of the premiership season so far and the stakes at this stage of the season couldn’t have been much higher. Victory and City were right back in the title race and Arsenal would have been hauled back into the chasing pack. Lose and City would be nine points behind the leaders.
The team line-up was as expected. Move on, nothing to see here.
But what a game. At no point did it let up, an amazing spectacle that had my heart pounding until the final whistle and beyond. It would be easy to go to town on the defence, but I don’t feel it is necessary after this game. Both teams have a world-class array of attacking talent and they went at it hammer and tongs for the whole match. Goals were bound to follow, and each defender on both sides did plenty of good things but they were worked to the bone and for once it may be best to focus on the positives and not pick holes in player performances.
And in that defence Zabaleta continued a superb week, as did Vincent Kompany, in the end putting in a Messi-like performance of dribbling and attacking prowess. Maybe he’s wasted in defence. He could certainly do a job once more as a defensive midfielder.
Playing against Arsenal in the past may have caused Samir Nasri to retreat into a metaphorical shell, but not the Samir Nasri of 2013/14. He was superb.
The attacking prowess right now though just takes the breath away. I keep saying it, but it needs repeating. I remember the pride a long time ago when a City goal made the shortlist of Match of The Day’s “Goal of the Month” competition. It didn’t win, a United goal did obviously, but I was still proud. Nowadays, we could fill all the nominations, every month. It’s a style that can leave gaps in front of the defence, but it an utter joy to behold.
There can be no doubt about the Man of the Match, Fernandinho reaching new heights. Even without the goals he was imperious and as beautiful as his first goal was I think I actually preferred the lovely dink for the second goal that sent Szczesny the wrong way.
James Milner has had a good week too and when he came on he once more excelled, quelling Arsenal’s threat down his side, and winning another penalty.
As for Pantilimon, this was not his finest hour (and a half). No disasters, though some may argue the first goal could be filed as such, the Romanian totally flat-footed by Theo Walcott’s shot, though he may have been distracted by Martin Demichelis and his rather bizarre attempt to clear the shot. He also failed to claim a cross that Giroud fired over and punched weakly a free-kick that he could easily have caught, but as his opposite number later showed, this is a trait of most modern-day goalkeepers. If Pellegrini wants a reason to recall Hart he almost had it in this game, but you feel he isn’t looking for one. And to be fair, Pantilimon made a few good saves too, the odd one for the cameras though.
Maybe the run-in is a worse period, but this is certainly not a good time for teams to lose players to injury with games coming thick and fast, so fingers crossed that Sergio Aguero’s calf injury is not too serious. City have back up in this area so hopefully won’t suffer too much, especially if Jovetic can now stay fit and get some playing time. I’ve been waiting three months to see him perform (Wigan in the cup isn’t enough).
The Zabaleta penalty incident deserves no further debate – it was accidental. The rules can’t be clearer unless the arm is outstretched, why the debate persists at times like this is beyond me. I’ve said it many times before anyway, penalties usually lead to a goal, so should be earned, not awarded for ridiculous incidents like this, because a ball rears up off another part of a player’s body.
Arsenal’s best spell came after Aguero departed and whilst a move to one striker upfront should have suited City as it meant more of a presence in midfield, they seemed to lose their shape for fifteen minutes and Arsenal came at City hard, culminating in their second goal. That’s why for me the fourth goal was the most important of the day, as it was a nervy time prior to that and it repelled the potential comeback from the Gunners.
There seems to be a feeling though that Arsenal were hard-done by due to refereeing decisions, especially regarding offsides, but they were not. If you watched Match of the Day you would probably think it was an even game – but it was not. Arsenal were dead on their feet by 70 minutes and if City had been more ruthless they could have had three in the following ten minutes alone. At the end of normal time I think City were flagging too and Arsenal came back once more as City tried to coast over the finish line, but it was too little too late. Oh and by the way, Walcott was offside for his second goal (by about 5 centimetres) – but hey, that doesn’t fit the narrative.
What’s more, Negredo, whilst generally excellent once more, could and perhaps should have scored two in the first-half. This game could easily have ended 10-5.
Stat attack (sorry): It’s now 35 goals in 8 home games, and Arsenal conceded more goals than all their previous away games combined. The game saw 34 shots (22 of which were City’s), 13 of which were on target. City had 53% possession and a 83% pass success rate. City have now scored in 58 consecutive home league games.
(I once took a book to a City match under Stuart Pearce. I think it was The Secret History by Donna Tartt.)
I’m happy Theo Walcott is soon to become a father, he seems a lovely bloke, very grounded, but please spare me the baby-rocking celebration. It was quite sweet when Bebeto did it 20 years ago, but for some reason it really annoys me now. Well done Theo, you have a satisfactory sperm count. Still, it beats Osvaldo machine-gunning the crowd last week I guess. And Fernandinho can cut out that heart celebration too, it’s crap and Gareth Bale will sue him if he persists.
On a similar note, if you sang “the baby’s not yours” at Walcott or think it is remotely funny, just to let you know – you’re a cretin. Still, they all earn £200,000 a week so should be able to take a bit of TOP BANTER eh?
No surprise at the graceless manner of Arsene Wenger after the game. As Daniel Taylor commented on Twitter, it is a trait of his not to ever compliment opposing teams. You could argue no managers do, but Wenger takes it further, the bitterness seeping out of every pore when things don’t go his way. His comment about City being no better than Southampton or Everton was classic bull**it from a bad loser, as were the complaints prior to the match about the fixture list. So what if City had an extra day to prepare? It happens, and we’ll play plenty of games when we haven’t had as much rest as the opposition and Arsenal will play games against teams who themselves have had to travel round Europe in previous days and I’m sure Wenger won’t be moaning on those occasions. In City’s first Champions League campaign they had an away match after every single Group Stage match, including games against Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea. No wonder we only put six past United.
Shaun Custis argued on the Sunday Supplement that the league should help teams in Europe by moving games to give ample rest time, as other leagues do sometimes. But with City playing on Tuesday, why should they have to play on a Sunday? Would it have made much difference if the game had been a normal 3pm kick-off, thus giving Arsenal an extra 135 minutes rest? When it boils down to it, the clubs are about to reap the rewards of a multi-billion pound TV deal, so if they are happy to take the cash, they have to take the consequences. So Arsene, would you be prepared to scrap the TV deal to give your pampered players a bit more rest? No, didn’t think so.
As you may have noticed in the past, the lack of grace often extends to the supporters, and there were some magical comments below the Guardian match report:
“No shame for any side to lose away to a team that cost a billion.”
“Arsenal were robbed, plain and simple, there was not one dubious Man City decision but five Arsenal ones… the FA want manure to win the league and are doing all they can to keep them in the hunt.”
“Our money came from inside the club, years of careful growing and saving up. Not some bored dodgy oil baron.”
Apropos of nothing, Arsenal are raising their ticket prices by an extra 3%. Doing things the right way, you see?
We scored from a corner!!! I take it ALL back….
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