Archive for October 25th, 2010

Attaboy Boyata: Arsenal capitalise on City’s frailties

190 comments October 25th, 2010

Man City 0 – 3 Arsenal (Nasri 20, Song 65, Bendtner 88)
Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

Like many games between Arsenal and a fellow big team, this was a match decided by defensive naivety and sloppiness. On this occasion, however, we were the beneficiaries rather than offenders-in-chief.

City will argue that the game turned on Mark Clattenburg’s decision to send off their confusingly-spelt centre-back Dedryck Boyata in the fifth minute. They’re absolutely right: from that point on, the contest had an entirely different dynamic. However, that does not change the fact that the referee was correct to brandish the red card I’ve seen some City fans complaining that the ref ruined the contest. He didn’t – Boyata did, with a foolish challenge. His inexperience, the fact that it occurred early in the game, or any other defence City have been able to offer make no difference. He was the last man – he had to go.

With the crowd up in arms, the referee did come under pressure to even things out, and we soon picked up a flurry of cautions. All three members of our central midfield, Denilson, Song and Fabregas, were given yellow cards and had to walk a precarious tight-rope for the remainder of the game.

It could all have been so different, mind you, were it not the plunging dive of Lukasz Fabianski to keep out a David Silva flick almost as soon as the game kicked off. That save was the pick of an impressive bunch from Fabianski, and reminded me of Jens Lehmann’s outstanding stop from a similar Craig Bellamy effort at St. James’ Park a few years ago.

Within fifteen minutes of the sending off, however, we were infront. Samir Nasri played the ball in to Andrey Arshavin in the penalty area, and he rolled an exquisite through-ball back in to the Frenchman’s path. Untracked by the sack of sedentary uselessness that is Gareth Barry, Nasri clipped a ball over the advancing Joe Hart and in to the net for his seventh goal in as many games.

It should have been over by half-time. An innocuous but definite foul on Cesc Fabregas in the corner of the penalty area saw the ref blow up again. Cesc’s spot-kick, however, was well saved by Hart. Maybe that superstition about the man being fouled not taking the kick isn’t so silly after all?

I was watching the game on Sky Sports, and couldn’t believe the negativity I was hearing from the commentators about our first-half performance. Gray and Tyler continually referred to the sending off as a “break”, neglecting to mention that in fact it was created by a brilliant pass from Cesc and run from Chamakh. It wasn’t the first time we’d got in behind City either – Arshavin had been wrongly flagged offside from an identical position moments earlier. The men with the mics then insisted that Arsenal had failed to make the most of our man advantage, but there we were, 1-0 up at Eastlands. I’m not normally one to suggest there’s any kind of ‘media conspiracy’ against us, but this was most odd. Perhaps Sky were simply disappointed that their Super-Duper Hot Fudge Sunday was turning out to be fairly one-sided.

At half-time, Roberto Mancini introduce Wayne Bridge, effectively bringing his team down to nine men. I have to say that whilst losing a man is always difficult to cope with, I thought City dealt with it particularly poorly. For example, wasting a sub bringing on a rubbish left-back when you already have Gareth Barry and Jerome Boateng on the pitch, both of whom are capable of playing there, was decidedly odd. Meanwhile the City player I most feared facing, Adam Johnson, didn’t even get off the bench.

Bridge, unsurprisingly, contributed to our decisive second goal. Attempting to cut out a Fabregas through-ball, he could only lay the ball neatly in to the past of Alex Song, who-toke poked brilliantly in to the top corner. His forays forward mean he now has three goals this season.

There was time for Nicklas Bendtner to ice the cake. A Fabianski clearance found Nasri, who kept the ball in play and released the Dane. His first touch with his left-foot was perfect, allowing him to advance on Hart and curl the ball around him with his right. Three super goals, and three valuable points.

Many pundits will add caveats to this victory, mainly because of the sending off. Nevertheless, it’s an impressive and important result. The back four had some shaky moments and missed the authority of Vermaelen and Koscielny – Johan Djourou in particular looked off-the-pace – but were supported by an excellent display from Lukasz Fabianski. He made several super stops, and commanded his penalty box unusually well. As things stand, he’s still more Tommy Cooper than Tomaszewski, but it’s hard not to be hopeful that maybe, just maybe, he’s turned a corner.

In midfield, Denilson impressed in place of Abou Diaby, who had presumably injured himself undertaking some daring activity like tying his shoelace or watching television. The Brazilian had slipped a little down the pecking order since the emergence of Jack Wilshere, but thrust himself back in to contention yesterday with an intelligent display.

Cesc Fabregas was handed the man of the match champagne, but seemed bemused at what he’d done to deserve the prize. Perhaps that’s because although he was good, he knew Samir Nasri was that much better. A summer’s worth of rest and a couple of season’s worth of maturation have landed us with one hell of a player. Rarely have I seen someone with Nasri’s combination of pace, creativity, and uncanny ball control. Now he’s adding goals to the mix he has the potential to become an outstanding player. One forgets he’s still just 23.

Marouane Chamakh, meanwhile, seems to be a one-man hoodoo, bringing sendings-off and penalties wherever he goes. Some will point to his tendency to go down easily – I’d rather credit his intelligent, energetic running. He is a midfielder’s dream: always willing, always available.

I don’t want to wade through too many of the cliches around this Arsenal team, but this really was a mature performance. Arsene said in his post-match press conference that we “negotiated in an intelligent way the difficulties of the game”. By that he means that we managed to avoid giving the ref an opportunity to even the two sides up, we recovered well from the missed penalty, and we took our chances efficiently. We controlled the game at the ground of one of our biggest rivals. It bodes well.

We now sit second in the table, five points from Chelsea, and with a few winnable league games coming up. It could be an exciting winter.

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