Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Wednesday January 5 2011
Both sets of fans were eagerly awaiting this one. Would there be a legacy from the bad tempered match at Eastlands where Arsenal managed to profit from City being short-handed? Or would this be the type of match you would expect from two teams probably playing the best football at this point in the season?
Arsenal clearly learned from their neighbours across North London and got out of the traps like a house on fire, bombarding City's goal for the first twelve minutes, but to little avail. Van Persie's shot found the woodwork with Hart beaten.
City's team, not designed to give the match away, surprisingly included the maligned Jo and it was mix and match again at the back with Boateng and Kolarov stepping down in favour of Richards and Zabaleta out wide and Kolo Toure preferred to Lescott against his former club.
Milner was used to hold the midfield width and offer some respite to Richards, with Barry doing likewise on the other side in front of Zabaleta. Yoyo was to be the engine room providing the link with Tevez up front and Jo playing from the left.
As the game started to break up, from the early Arsenal onslaught, Barry levelled Sagna in what did look like a leftover from the first match and was yellow carded as a result. Immediately afterwards de Jong was not quick enough but unfortunate to see himself catch a yellow card as a result of the Arsenal player being a bit too quick for him.
Next up Fabregas lost markers on the edge of the box after a neat Arsenal move and stunned Hart with a quick shot which hit the post, Andy Gray telling the world that Joe had 'given it up'. The truth was that he was wrong-footed and unable to react. Although the ball fell to Walcott who also hit the post, he was ruled offise by the World Cup Final linesman.
Arsenal were doing all the pressing and in the absence of Silva, City were finding it difficult to keep the ball and were forced to defend wide and deep to keep the Gooners at bay.
That said, towards the end of the first half Yaya started to get things going and a couple of rampaging runs created a chance which Tevez skied and a free kick from which Barry's delivery drifted over the big lads up from the back finding Tevez clear but wide of the far post. His shot came off his knee and failed to trouble Fabianski. City were lucky to survive a penalty appeal when a cross from Walcott hit the excellent Kompany on the arm in the way that it hit Everton's defenders about six times in the recent match, but on this occasion too the referee found in favour of City.
Song, looking a bit like Chicken George with his locks at odds with his colour, went down under a heavy challenge, as did Jo.
City would have been delighted to get to half time level, I suspect Mr Wenger was looking for more.
The second half got under way in similar style and by the hour possession figures were 62%-38% in Arsenal's favour. They attacked quickly and intelligently with City unable to find any outlets. A curling shot from Van Persie was superbly saved by England's number one.
Still City were finding it hard to get away from their own penalty area and this was not to improve quickly in the absence of Silva and Balotelli. Maybe City should have made sure that Dzeko was signed quickly and available for this match rather than forcing Khaldoon to tidy up the issue.
After sixty five minutes Johnson replaced Jo. Would he add any dimension to City's attack or would it be more of the same? Almost immediately a City break down Johnson's side brought a save from Fabianski.
With Johnson looking like making a difference, Arsenal sacrificed Walcott for that little squirt, Arshavin. Walcott was unhappy but none of the commentators found this anything like as interesting as they would have if it was Tevez or Balotelli.
De Jong was treading a thin line and was forcing himself not to engage in unnecessary challenges and at time Arsenal found it easier to get by him especially if they moved the ball quickly through the middle.
That nasty piece of work Van Persie was unhappy with an aerial challenge from Kompany when he didn't even jump for the ball.
Tevez was always a willing runner but again without Silva none of the passes up to him were accurate enough.
Koscielny flattened him and escaped a yellow card with the kind of tackle that would have been a nailed-on yellow if perpetrated by City.
Milner continues to disappoint me. He offers nothing positive in attack. although his remit tonight was to hold along with the holding players and he took the soft option of going down in a challenge with Clichy.
Tevez was working hard to keep the ball to give the defenders a breather but he was often alone against multiple members of the oppostion.
Arshavin clattered Zabaleta from behind and once again escaped admonishment.
Seconds later a collision between Sagna, a ghastly creature at the best of times and probably the lead Ashburton Assassin, and the robust Zabaleta resulted in both players going on a head-to-head with the aggression coming from Sagna. Mike Jones after speaking to his assitant decided to flirt both players with straight red cards. Unbelievable. What did Zaba do to deserve that?
Immediately Tevez was sacrificed for Boateng with Mancini intent upon deeping defensive numbers intact and a 0-0 draw very much on the agenda. At least there were no tantrums here!
Boateng gave away a neeedless free-kick as stoppage time came to an end and Hart was forced into one last save from Van Persie.
Nil-Nil was a great result for City and shows categorically that Arsenal cannot beat us unless we are short-handed for most of the match. They huffed and puffed , hit the post, maybe should have got a penalty but Unlucky Gooners.
The main beneficiaries tonight were Stretford's finest, happy to see a division of points here.
With the remorseless pressing from Arsenal I'm just glad City saw this match out and didn't come home empty handed. Football is not always about attack, attack, attack. Sometimes defence is just as important. Tonight was one of those times for City.
And ...finally...no I haven't given this bit to a ghost writer....may I say that I was impressed with Richards tonight. Only twice did he leave his post and he was tough and robust all night. Maybe, just maybe he is learning.
Date:Wednesday January 5 2011
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