Monday, September 24, 2012

Manchester City 1 Arsenal 1

Although the season was only four match old, this game came as a big test for Arsenal and their title credential underwent a close scrutiny as they faced one of their title rivals for the first time this season. And how did they come out of it? It seemed that most journalists and pundits alike admit Arsenal passed the test with flying colours. They certainly think Arsenal are bona fide title contenders now.

Arsenal may have deserved more than a point as they were clearly a better side in the first half, but Manchester City had more clear-cut chances. Coming away with a point from the Etihad Stadium, where the hosts haven't lost since December 2010, is not a bad result at all. The draw also meant that one of our rivals dropped two points at home.

As for the team selection, Thomas Vermaelen missed out due to flu and in came Laurent Koscielny, who was arguably our best defender last season, but he struggled to get in the team, with his involvement this season limited to just an injury time appearance against Liverpool. We thought the France international might get the nod, but we didn't expect he would start in place of the skipper.

A surprise inclusion in the starting XI was Aaron Ramsey, who had never started this season before this match. Prior to the match, Arsene Wenger boasted the quality and quantity of the Arsenal midfield and the team selection this day showed just that. In fact, Arsenal midfield dominated in the first half and looked imperious. Ramsey was probably the player who enjoyed the space and freedom given to him most and he used them very well.

Ramsey's inclusion meant that Giroud was left on the bench. Gervinho played the central role once again, with Podolski on the left wing, but these players and Cazorla were very mobile as usual. Ramsey took a unfamiliar wide-right position.

Another change to the side which faced Southampton was in the goal keeping position. Mannone came in for the injured Szczesny.

In the last season's same fixture, we were unlucky to lose. We played well again this season and although we fell behind against run of play, we kept going and fought back to earn a draw. This is definitely an improvement over the last season.

What a difference a year can make. This time last year, just as we had thought we would be OK with the five deadline-day signings after registering our first win against newly-promoted Swansea, we suffered a heart-breaking defeat to Blackburn. We were left with only four points from the first five games and a deficit of eight goals in goal difference. This season we have bagged nine points from the same number of games and are yet to be beaten. After going through another difficult summer, we, Arsenal fans, remain optimistic and look forward to this weekend's encounter with another title rival, Chelsea. And we have enough reasons to be hopeful. We have a good team with mostly experienced players aged around 26 years and a few young players who have been stepping up their game in each game, like Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs. We still have Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna and Tomas Rosicky to come back as well. There are still some sceptics about Arsenal's depth in the squad, but as long as we stay injury-free, we have enough quality in the squad.

Player ratings

Mannone: 7
Arsene admitted that the 24-year old keeper had a hand in Man City's goal through his misjudgement. But other than that, he had a solid game and made some excellent saves, including the fingertip save that denied Dzeko's effort. Can he keep his place when Szczesny's back?

Jenkinson: 8
Outmuscled Lescott and his powerful runs gave Garcia a hard time. On the defensive side, he kept Scott Sinclair in his pocket. Sinclair was so ineffectual that he was replaced by Jack Rodwell at half time. His best game so far this season, but we are quite sure at this rate he will improve further, which is an encouraging sign because it is expected to be a few more weeks before Bacary Sagna resumes his normal service.

Mertesacker: 8
Apart from a few mistakes, he was solid. Good positioning. Arsenal fan's Man of the Match with 27% of the total votes (according to the site), followed by the goal scorer, Koscielny, with 23%. The interesting thing about the fans opinions, they tend to rate the performance of the players who have been under criticism, such as Mertesacker, Jenkinson, and Ramsey more than acclaimed players like Cazorla.

Koscielny: 8
Scored a well-deserved equaliser. He smashed it at the top corner of the goal, just like a striker. On the other hand, his poor clearance nearly gifted Aguero a winner. Other than that mistake, he defended well.

Gibbs: 7
Good going forward, although some of his crosses left something to be desired. His unnecessary clearance at the cost of a corner, which led to Man City's goal, may have been avoided had Vermaelen been on the pitch. Captain would have called him to leave it.

Cazorla: 9
He seems to be journalists' Man of the Match. His passing caused Man City all sorts of problem.

Arteta: 8
In the heart of the Arsenal midfield. Made 106 passes and successfully completed 100.

Diaby: 7
Did OK in the first half, but was replaced in the 71st minute, when he started to look tired.

Ramsey: 8
Made good runs and incisive passes. Slid a pin-point pass to Gervinho, whose poor touch let him down. He had a good game and was effective for the team.
Gervinho: 6
Left his shooting boots at home. His finishes were awful and the timing of some of his runs were wrong. It was disappointing as he looked like going in the right direction this season.

Podolski: 6
Worked hard, but chances didn't fall on him. Had a good chance after receiving Jenkinson's pass, but blasted high.


Giroud: 6
Came on as a 71st-minute substitute for Abu Diaby. His introduction prompted Ramsey to move to more familiar central midfield and Gervinho to move to the left wing.

Walcott: 6
Came on in the 71st minute to replace Podolski and play on the right flank.

Coquelin: N/A
Left the bench to replace Gervinho in the 90th minute.

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