Archive for September 24th, 2012

City 1-1 Arsenal: A moral victory, and a victory for morale

321 comments September 24th, 2012

Arsenal outplayed the Champions
Afterwards, Sky said the draw was “a fair result”. I’d go one step further, and say City could feel a little lucky to come away with a point. On their own turf, they were comprehensively outplayed by a majestic Arsenal midfield. Their goal was the result of a set-piece, and whilst Sergio Aguero did have one superb chance to win the game, Arsenal spurned several similarly presentable opportunities.

What was most heartwarming about our performance was that we played with real character. Even after the setback of conceding the opener, we continued to probe away and stick to our footballing principles. The equaliser was something approaching just reward, but had we gone on to nick it City would have little to complain about.

Arsene got his team selection spot on
On paper it was a surprise to see Aaron Ramsey start on the right wing, but he put in his best performance in months to justify his inclusion and validate Arsene’s judgement. We’re also extremely lucky to have a set of centre-backs that enables us to compensate for the loss of a player of the calibre of Thomas Vermaelen without any noticeable drop in quality.

The debate about zonal marking is painfully tedious
When individuals defend well, zonal marking is a very effective system. In fact, there are at least three factors that contributed to Lescott’s opening goal far more than our chosen marking pattern. Those are:

  • A great delivery
  • A superb header
  • A kamikaze lunge from Vito Mannone

I found it intriguing that when City subsequently conceded from a corner, the pundits didn’t embark upon a similar inquest. Perhaps they, like everyone else, was finally bored of it.

Mertesacker’s performance was inch-Perfect
The big German has been unfairly judged throughout his time in England. He looks ungainly, but his intelligence, cool head, and reading of the game are invaluable. Yesterday was probably his best performance in an Arsenal shirt, but it has been coming – his recent form has been superb. Steve Bould and Arsene Wenger were both centre-backs who didn’t rely on pace in their time, and I wonder if that’s part of why they’ve embraced the BFG so wholeheartedly. Hopefully the British media will soon realise they were a little quick to judge this gentle giant.

Carl Jenkinson threatens to become ‘the new Alex Song’
By that, I don’t mean that he’s going to grow bleached dreadlocks and move to Barcelona. I’m referring instead to his rapid progression, from rabbit in headlights to accomplished technical player. Like Song, he is reaping the rewards of a manager’s faith in him, and like Song he is showing a dramatic improvement. Somebody said yesterday that for the first time they could envisage a future in which Jenkinson is our first-choice right-back. As a life-long Gooner, nothing would mean more to him or the fans than for him to prosper. So far, so good.

I’m surprised anyone was surprised by Gervinho’s performance
Granted he had scored three goals in two games, but that didn’t suddenly make him Thierry Henry. Two of those goals were tap-ins, whilst the other was his first against Southampton – when, frankly, he just decided to put his foot through it. On that day, it flashed in to the net. Yesterday, similarly thoughtless efforts were skewed high and wide. I’m afraid he will always be erratic in front of goal. Arsene knows that, but has presumably decided that what he brings to the team outweighs that particular disadvantage. And to be fair, Gervinho did most of his jobs well yesterday, stretching the City defence with his pace and movement. In that regard, you can be certain the Ivorian will give you willing running and a couple of thrilling dribbles. When it comes to finishing, however, I think he’ll always remain an enigma.

A win against Chelsea would round off a great start
Before the City game I told the Arsenal America podcast that four points from City and Chelsea would be a tremendous return. After yesterday’s draw, we’re well on course for that. With a host of new attacking talent, I think that Chelsea will provide us with a sterner examination defensively, but with morale this high and form this impressive we have every chance of going on to best them, and enter October unbeaten.

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