By Robert Morris
In what was built up as one of the ties of the season so far, Arsenal travelled to the City of Manchester Stadium with a point to prove against the Premier League’s newest force. This very fixture hasn’t been particularly kind to the Gunners in recent years, but today Wenger’s men sought to put that right by grabbing second place in convincing fashion.
Both sides lined up in their familiar 4-5-1 formations, meaning Emmanuel Adebayor had to wait for his chance on the bench, despite a flourish in midweek. Captain Cesc Fabregas returned for the Gunners and replaced the young Jack Wilshere who is currently suspended.
The game began at a lively pace with the first chance falling to Manchester City in the opening minute when Carlos Tevez fired in a low cross to the feet of David Silva, but the winger’s audacious flick was stopped by the fabulous reflexes of Lukasz Fabianski. The Polish stopper has come of age of late and looks certain to claim the number one jersey for the foreseeable future.
Minutes later the game turned on its head. A perfectly weighted ball from Fabregas fell to Marouane Chamakh whose first touch took him away from Dedryck Boyata, before the inexperienced centre-half dived in and brought down the Moroccan. A red card was the only option, meaning City went down to 10 men and would have to cope with the numeric disadvantage for the majority of the game.
Arsenal began to control possession but created few chances. Despite Yaya Toure dropping into defence, the game was dominated by poor challenges in the centre of midfield. On the 20th minute Arsenal’s quick passing soon payed off, as Andrey Arshavin and Samir Nasri linked up on the right flank with a terrific one-two before the Frenchman lashed home a composed finish. Nasri has now scored 7 goals in the past 7 fixtures and is beginning to establish himself as the true successor to Arsenal legend Robert Pires.
Despite losing a man and conceding an early goal, City didn’t drop their heads and looked to attack as often as possible. However, the Blues were caught out towards the end of the first-half when Fabregas toppled in the penalty area from a clumsy challenge by Vincent Kompany. Unfortunately for Arsenal their ninth spot kick off the season was saved by the outstretched gloves of Joe Hart in the City goal.
Roberto Mancini was forced into a change early into the second-half, as Carlos Tevez was replaced by Adebayor because of a thigh injury. Arsenal were beginning to control the game and their pressure soon made it 2-0, as a failed clearance fell to Alex Song just inside the box and the midfielder made no mistake, sweeping a terrific poke into the very left hand corner of the net. The home support fell silent, knowing full well that their team had been beaten.
The introduction of Mario Balotelli made no difference as Arsenal continued to push. In the 88th minute, Nasri kept a loose ball in touch before slotting substitute Nicholas Bendtner in behind the City defence, allowing the Dain to curl a superb finish past Hart. Bendtner was back with a bang.
Arsene Wenger will be delighted with his side, as the 0-3 result highlights the sheer quality his squad possesses and their ability to match any side on their day. Roberto Mancini on the other hand will be asking ‘what if,’ as his team dropped 3 huge points to fall into fourth place; 5 points behind leaders Chelsea.