Date:Monday August 11 2014
Big-spending, champions-elect Arsenal took title-pretenders Manchester City apart to claim their second vital title in, what, 85 days? Chairman Khaldoon must have thought it was an extension to Eid Mubarakh as for the second time in as many weeks his expensively-put-together outfit once again failed to deliver on the biggest of stages, narrowing down City's season to concentrating on the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and the Capital One Cup.
As easy-to-collect silverware has headed to the Emirates Stadium in North London and the un-mentionable pre-fab just outside Manchester's city limits, Sheikh Mansour must be crying into his cheque book.
The swathes of empty red seats on level five was reminiscent of Gold Trafford on derby day as City's finest decided that this meaningless fixture was not for them, probably because the seats themselves are red. Meaningless? Try telling that to Arsene Wenger, fielding one of his best elevens against a City side bordering on the experimental. Indeed in the opening forty five minutes in particular, the Gooners played with a pace and purpose that seemed to be absent from City and for long periods laid siege to Willy Caballero's goal.
That said, it was of all people, Nasri who should have opened the scoring after 13 minutes when stationed at inside left he could only drill his shot into the midriff of the impressive Debuchy. Nasri may have stuck two fingers up to the FFF by retiring from French international football, but his shooting boots were on the wrong feet against his former club, maybe highlighting why they let him go. Of course, it was nothing to do with the near £30million that City dangled in front of the Arsenal board.
Seven minutes later poor defending between Boyata and Nastasic, these days getting too intent on pushing and pulling rather playing any recognisable football, let in Sinogo to line up ex-Malagueno, Cazorla to neatly place a shot beyond ex-Malagueno, Caballero to initiate Arsenal's rout. The Gooners were in raptures. Unused, of course, to seeing any meaningful silverware heading their way, for almost a decade now, party time was commencing at their end of Wembley.
Sinogo could have made it 2-0 a few minutes later dragging a reasonable chance across Caballero and wide of the target.
Cazorla was starting to pull the Arsenal strings and almost everything they were doing seemed to emanate from him but on thirty seven minutes neat play between Dzeko, Jovetic and Kolarov saw the latter get around the Gooners defence and deliver the kind of cross that would have set Aguero, watching in the stands with Frank Lampard, drooling. This time it missed everyone including the luckless Nasri who had made a great effort to get there. In the next move, the mobile, yes mobile Dzeko took the same route, skinning Chambers, to poke in a similar cross with a similar outcome, the ball ending up behind Jovetic.
In identical fashion to City's last forays up front Sanchez took up the gauntlet down the Arsenal right, easily out-pacing Kolarov. He slipped it inside to Sinogo who once again found Boyata wanting as he shrugged him aside to line up Ramsey for a simple shot beyond Caballero. Indeed, ahead of the break it should have been 3-0 as Sinogo returned the favour sending Sanchez in one-on-one with Caballero who rushed out of his penalty area to thwart Arsenal's pacy close-season capture from under Stretford noses.
Pellegrini tried to change things at half time sending on the Magician, Silva in place of Nasri in what was to be the prelude for numerous changes in the second half. Early on Navas got the better of Gibbs to tee-up a delightful cross for Jovetic at the back stick to hit the back stick, looking disappointed as the ball cannoned away to safety.
On the hour, Milner and Zuculini joined the fray as Dzeko and Yaya, largely absent today, got poorly-earned rests. The Argentine midfielder's first contribution was to lose the ball to Giroud, thirty yards out and the Frenchman's hit-and-hope found the back of the net as Caballero looked to have jumped too early and was on his way back to the centre of the earth before the ball whizzed past him. Wenger's delight was total as he now feels vindicated in joining his fellow countryman Platini in denigrating City's abuse of financial fair play. Notwithstanding that for once, he sees his onward charge for trophies funded by the type of spending he has, for the last few seasons branded as outrageous, the fact that City were able to mastermind a loan deal for an Englishman, Lampard, from their own New York City, is still a major sticking point along Ashburton Grove.
In the last minute, Boyata actually outjumped the impressive Arsenal centre backs to head a City corner wide of the far post. Despite his attempts to prolong the agony by adding on an extra three minutes, artist-in-chief, Michael Oliver finally brought the curtain down on the season's curtain raiser with Arsenal easily beating City 3-0.
It was, I suppose, disappointing that City couldn't get themselves a goal at Wembley, but it was also a tribute to Koscielny, previously maligned with aplomb in the Pedmachine's tidings, who I thought was the Gooners best player today. Somehow the powers- that- be gave their version of MoTM to Giroud. I don't remember him touching the ball before or after his goal, but no doubt there will be some stats somewhere to tell me otherwise and that he made a fantastic contribution to the afternoon's proceedings. Or maybe it was just his goal that did it, who knows?
There doesn't seem to be a lot going wrong at City that the re-introduction of Zabaleta, Kompany, Hart, Aguero and Demichelis can't put right. The football looks neat, a good blend of craft, shown in the second half today by Silva and robustness, shown today by Fernando and to an extent Kolarov.
Arsenal were able to make hay in midfield due mainly to the ineffectiveness of Yaya, who, with Fernando sitting maybe a little too deep, was left to create alone further forward. Navas looks to be ready to be let loose, his pace at times causing problems for Gibbs, but it was at the back where City were not good. Boyata has clearly gone backwards in Richards-like mode since he was red carded however many seasons ago against the same opposition and a player who at times last season looked like a future captain of the club, Nastasic, seems to have lost any semblance of being a footballer. Gentlemen it is time to look up to your captain, one Vincent Kompany and see how it is done!
North London's finest took their chances easily and well to push the score beyond City, but I suspect that Pellegrini will be pleased to have got another fixture out of the way with no more players heading for the treatment table, and the real season ready to commence. Despite his threats, City cannot afford to start a Premier League match with this back four. VK must be readied a toute vitesse along with Demichelis and Zabaleta. If Mangala ever does appear, he could be a useful addition, albeit, for me an expensive one. He looks like a typical French player heading for the world's toughest domestic league and I expect he will take time to acclimatise to the demands and challenges it presents. I don't see him playing week-in, week-out.
So, City need to get ready for an awkward opening to the season proper with a journey to Newcastle, a venue that has yielded fortunes over the last few years, but a venue that cannot be taken for granted so early in the season……read all about it in next week's Ped Report!!
Date:Monday August 11 2014
Inter Play Down Yaya Rumours (Sunday January 25 2015)
Pellegrini - We Have No FA Cup Excuse (Saturday January 24 2015)
Stats: Manchester City v Middlesbrough (Saturday January 24 2015)
Manchester City v Middlesbrough - Team Line-Ups (Saturday January 24 2015)
No Villa Move For Scott (Saturday January 24 2015)
Team News - City v Middlesbrough (Friday January 23 2015)
Containing Boro (Friday January 23 2015)
FA Cup Magic Not Lost On Fernando (Friday January 23 2015)
Pellegrini - We Need To Return To Our Best (Friday January 23 2015)
City Need To Refocus In A Set-Piece Nightmare (Friday January 23 2015)
|Man City||3||-||0||Crystal Palace|
|2. Man City||22||14||5||3||+23||47|
|4. Man Utd||22||11||7||4||+15||40|
|7. West Ham||22||10||6||6||+10||36|
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