So with last week’s surprise defeat at Wigan all but ending our title challenge, there isn’t much left to play for this season. But with third place not yet safe, it’s important not to lose any games. And as luck would have it, we were playing a team in Manchester City, who are chasing fourth and who’d be in a position to take third from us, were we to slip-up. Very important not to lose to them. And with the return of 3 of our ex-players- Toure, Vieira, Ade- adding extra spice, losing wasn’t an option.
Team news for the game saw Fabianski retain his place in goal, RvP come in for Bendtner, and the returning Song for Eastmond. With Robin and Song back in, the team seemed much stronger! As for City, Vieira and Toure were in the starting XI, with Ade unsurprisingly only on the bench.
As for the game, in all honesty it was nothing to write home about. I thought it was going to be open, or that at least there’d be a couple of goals in it. As you probably know, it finished 0-0. Not the interesting type of 0-0 with loads of chances, but the boring type, with very very few chances. The goal-keepers were hardly troubled. Manchester City were ultra-defensive, it was surprising. They had no attacking intent, except to hit us on the break, but we never let them, really. They defended really well, and so did we.
We had a few half-chances in the first half, but nothing of note. The first shot on target came in the second half, a weak Rosicky shot which Given gathered easily. The match only livened up in the second half, when Ade came on and obviously not for football reasons. He came on as a replacement for Vieira, and the contrast in reception was unbelievable. Vieira was cheered by the whole stadium (although a few of his tackles weren’t impressive), whereas Ade was booed, ofcourse. His every touch was. That was the only bit of excitement in the game, unfortunately. But at least, there was something to remember the game by!
Arsene took off Theo and Rosicky for Eboue and Bendtner and although there was a slight improvement, it wasn’t a lot. It was a bit ironic that the closest we got to scoring, led to an injury to the goal-keeper! Diaby hit a shot from outside the box and looked like it was headed for the low right corner, but for Shay Given’s out-stetched arm. He dislocated his shoulder the process, unfortunately. He was treated on the pitch for about 6-7 minutes before he was stretchered off. Sad sight, and crefit to our fans, as everyone gave him a round of applause as he left. He was replaced by Gunnar Nielsen, making his first team debut. It was hilarious, his name being ‘Gunnar’ (Gunner) and what would have capped it off would have been an own-goal or a Flap-ianski moment! Well, that didn’t happen, ofcourse.
Robin had a good chance with a free-kick in his type of territory, but his chipped effort was just wide. The ‘keeper was nowhere near it! A few more half-chances here and there, and it was full-time. Watching th highlights on ATVO and Match of the Day, it’s nothing short of a miracle that they were able to find 10-15minutes worth of highlights.
So it was a poor game, but the atmosphere at the game was brilliant. The referee was a bit rubbish to be honest. I thought City fouled us more, but they only got 2 bookings, whereas we got 4! Our attack might have been blunted, but we defended really well. I thought City would have offered more attack-wise, but we defended resolutely and the likes of Tevez and Bellamy were hardly in the game. Song was brillaint, as usual. So was Sol. The big surprise was Silvestre, as he was excellent. Someone made the point that maybe it was his United loyalties coming to the fore, but either way, it worked for us! Fabianski didn’t have much to do, but the little he had to do, he did well. That would have helped his confidence immensely. Robin got 90 minutes under his belt and although he was a bit rusty, those were valuable minutes.
There were a couple of interesting tussles in the first half between Diaby v Vieira and Song v Vieira. Song and Diaby ofcourse came out on top which was great to see, but sad at the same time, it being Vieira! Im really struggling with what else to say about the game, as there isn’t much. It had an end-of-the-season feel to it which in our case, it really was. Incidentally, a draw mathematically ends our title challenge. It was fun when it lasted. Don’t really care who wins it now, to be honest!
Here’s Arsene’s reaction to the game:
“It was an afternoon I am not used to because we created very few chances and Man City didn’t create anything. They were highly focussed on defending well. They didn’t give us any space and we could not find the opener. For as long as we couldn’t do that it was a locked game basically. There were very few chances. It was two teams who played well defensively, had very good discipline but created very few chances.”
“He was sharp for 60 minutes, 70 minutes. After he dropped physically, I left him on because I thought we can only win on set pieces today and that he could score a free kick or give a corner that could allow us to score. But overall he was very sharp, in the first half especially. But for having been out for such a long time it is quite positive.”
And on the forever-impressive Sol:
“Maybe you should take him to South Africa!”
…Since he has been in the team he has been outstanding. I never expected that from him and that is great credit to him. You can compare him with any centre-back in the League. He has been very, very good.”
“I believe it was important that he can play a game without having a lack of concentration. Today he was spot on from the first to the last minute. He read all the situations very well and that is what you want from him. I always said he is one of the most talented goalkeepers and when he gets the concentration right he will get there.”
He’s spot-on about Fabianski; he just needs to work on his concentration levels. I do hope Sol gets a new contract though, as he’s been brilliant for us since he joined and his experience will always be valuable.
But yeah, 2 games to go until the end of the season- one away at Blackburn (a toughie) and the last, home to Fulham. It’d be great if we got 6 points from both, but whatever happens, it’s not been a disastrous season even though it’s seemed that way a few times, not least last week! It can only get better!
Onwards and upwards…