So City-Arsenal. Massive massive game. Given our well-documented recent history against the others in the Big 4 which in case you haven’t heard, it’s pretty rubbish, we had to win this. Ofcourse, City aren’t a member of that club, but seeing as they’ve got huge designs on one of those spots, or the title even, it was almost as big as a Big 4 game. The reverse game last season we lost 4-2, and we subsequently lost the Carling Cup game against them, before then drawing nil-nil at the Emirates. We just had to beat them to remind them, and ourselves, that we can win against the ‘top’ teams.
With Almunia, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Robin still out injured and Cesc, Theo and Bendtner back in contention, the line-up for the match was:
Sagna – Squillaci – Djourou – Clichy
Nasri – Cesc – Arshavin
Diaby was meant to start in place of Denilson, but he did his ankle in the warm-up apparently, but nothing serious I hear. No real surprises in the line-up, with the bench consisting of Szczesny, Koscielny (Wait, Kos was on the bench!? Totally didn’t realise, thought he was out injured. Well, good to know he isn’t!), Gibbs, Eboue, Walcott, Rosicky and Bendtner. Very strong starting XI. Man City’s team and bench looked equally strong, so definitely was not going to be an easy match. Adebayor was on the bench, in case you were interested in that bit of info. But why would you be?
Anyways, with this being a home match for City, they started really well, or should I say we started sloppily? Silva had a chance in the first few minutes, with the left-hand side of our team having not yet turned up, and were it not for a smart save from Fabianksi, we would have been 1-0 down. The first few minutes were nervy, and at that point I was seriously worrying about our ability to keep a clean sheet.
But about 4-5 minutes into the game, City were reduced to 10, Dedryck Boyata being sent off for a last-man tackle on Chamakh on the edge of the box, after he’d been slipped in by Cesc. Definite Red and good to see the referee not bottle it, it being so early in the game! Very timely Red I thought, because City seemed up for the game and looked like they’d be the first to score at the time. Is it just me, or does there seem to be a little bit more tension in the games between us and City? I know there’s the Ade factor now, but it seems much deeper. Our games seem to have this extra edge nowadays. It’s probably to do with their new-found football model, which is at complete odds with ours!
So with the man advantage, we slowly got into the game and we looked the more likely team to score! But we also looked like we’d go a man down if we didn’t calm down, especially with Clattenburg card-happy. Song, Cesc, Denilson got booked early in the first half and that was a bit of a concern. City had Barry booked too, but serial offender Nigel De Jong didn’t even get a card all game! Amazing! We eventually calmed down and settled into our game. I was really impressed with our passing and at times it looked like we were the home team. Credit to City though, as even though they were down to 10, they still remained a threat, and with Johan very shaky, they were always in with a shout.
The first goal didn’t come until the 20th minute, and it was a beautiful goal. No less than you’d expect from an Arsenal team, but it was still a marvel! Nasri started the move and finished it himself, playing a 1-2 with Arshavin IN THE BOX, before firing into the net from close range. Well-taken! 7 in 6 for Nasri now, he’s on fire! Arshavin has been getting stick, but he does the job, believe it or not. He got the assist there, and we probably would have conceded a goal at one stage, if not for him tracking back and winning the ball. I’ll always have the little Russian in the starting XI if he’s fit!
We were definitely on top at this stage and it was a matter of the next goal being crucial. We score it, game over, City score it, and with the momentum and the crowd behind them, it would have been nerve-racking until the end!
We had a great chance to make it 2-nil from the penalty spot after Cesc had been fouled inside the box. I thought Nasri would have taken it, but as Fabregas was back in the team he re-assumed his role. But maybe Nasri should have taken it, as Fabregas had his effort saved! Joe Hart dived to his left, same place Cesc was aiming for, but it was not high enough and Hart made the save. Could have been a real game-changer that, but unlike against Sunderland, it didn’t come back to haunt us!
So we went in at half-time a goal up and a man up, but we still looked like we’d be a man down too, so Arsene really need to calm the team down. I think whatever he said worked, as we didn’t get a single booking in the second half, if I remember correctly! City still looked lively with David Silva who seemed intent on giving Fabianski a work out; and (un)luckily Tevez got injured, and luckily, he was replaced by Mr Offside. All going to plan for us, but we needed that second goal to make things safer and ease the nerves. We went close a few times, Cesc shooting straight at Hart, Nasri and Cesc wanting the other to shoot, us trying to walk the ball into the net, the usual.
But our pressure eventually told in the 65th minute, and it was a fabulous goal scored by none other than our defensive midfielder, Song! It reminded me of Chicarito’s second goal for United today, a defender making an interception in the box, but the ball falling to the opposition player who lashes it in! Cesc had tried to slip Chamakh in, but the ball was intercepted, but it fell to Song who toe-poked it with force (strange how a toe-poke can be powerful!) into the roof of the net. Game over, surely?! The score-line said so, but the nerves were saying otherwise! 25 minutes to go, and it only takes like what, 10 seconds to score a goal? You bet most fans weren’t thinking it was game over just yet!
Arsene made his first change, replacing Arshavin with Rosicky. But City were looking flat already, even though an off-side Ade forced a brilliant reaction save from Fabianksi. He didn’t look in the mood to be beaten at all!
Arsene clearly felt the game was won already with less than 10 minutes to go, as he sent on Theo and Bendtner to get some game time, withdrawing the excellent Cesc and hard-working Chamakh. They’d both played really well and deserved the rest!
If at 2-nil there was still any doubt as to whether the game was over, but with a few minutes to go it was definitely game over, with Bendtner making it 3-0, even though it seemed Nasri had run the ball out of play (he hadn’t), and that Bendtner was offside (tight, but probably not). Doesn’t matter though, as the goal stood. Bendtner’s 50th career goal I think it was, and it was a good finish! He’s not shy on confidence, but that would have helped him no end, after being out for so long!
So 3-nil in the end, very good result. Doesn’t matter if Man City were down to 10, as we still had to do the business. Major confidence boost for us, especially as we’re now up to second on goal difference, albeit 5 points behind Chelsea. Only downer in the game was that our defence was a bit shaky, Johan being the main culprit, but not too much of a worry I guess, as he’s been out for a while and he’s not really first or second choice at the moment. But we kept a clean sheet, which is massive in games like this and Fabianski is really starting to look like the top ‘keeper Arsene has always said he is. He wasn’t too busy, but he kept his concentration and made crucial saves at the beginning, in the middle, and towards the end of the game. More of the same, Fabby!
Nasri was great! He’s in such blinding form, and it would be a real shame if he were to get injured. Glad Theo’s back, and I hope he gets back to the level he was at before his injury pretty soon. I didn’t see much of Squillaci during the game, which can only mean he was doing his job really well! Great team performance, really, hard to pick a man of the match! Sky gave it to Cesc, but I’d give it to Fabianski. Really top performance from him today, I was proud of him. Was proud of the whole team, really! We need to keep playing at this level and I’m sure we’ll win something this season.
Great chance to do so is in the Carling Cup which we resume on Wednesday against Newcastle at St. James’ Park (or whatever name the place goes by now!). Not sure what the team’ll be like, but you’d expect Theo and Bentdner to start. Will be a battle, but should be a good game and hopefully we’ll progress to the next round and maybe even get a home game!
I’ll stop rambling now, but I’d say once more that today’s win was important. Hope we continue to produce performances (and results) like this!
The future’s bright, the future’s red and white!