Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City: Boom

This season, with all its ups and downs has seen some truly special Arsenal performances. The effort to overhaul Spurs from two goals behind, the madness of the 5-3 win at Chelsea, the bittersweet 3-0 win over Milan in the second leg all spring to mind, but yesterday’s win over Manchester City was a strong contender for our best of the season.

The question others were asking before kick off was how Manchester City would respond to the pressure of Manchester United opening up an eight point lead at the top of the table. For me the question was were we going to allow defeat to QPR the week before to drain all the confidence that has built over the last several weeks, or would it prove a timely kick up the arse, reminding us that games are not won just by turning up.

It proved very much the latter, and for City’s part their ability to respond to the sort of pressure they were under can be sorely questioned. Although City had spells where they were able to relieve the pressure somewhat, they never had a period of control or sustained threat, whereas we dominated from the first whistle.

It seemed to me that this was a game everybody was right up for, not just the players but the crowd too. After the match Wojciech Szczesny reserved special praise for the fans, comparing the atmosphere to the recent win over Spurs as well as last year’s win over Barcelona. I’ve never seen anything more ridiculous in football than Manchester City’s “Poznan” celebration and I was delighted to see our fans take the opportunity to take the piss out of it after Arteta’s winner.

Our domination in the early stages didn’t avail us many chances, although there was the horrifying incident which saw Thomas Vermaelen accidently clear a Robin Van Persie header off of the City line. Arseblog has a fantastic picture of that incident this morning that captures the Belgian’s reaction perfectly – have a look. I realise that had we not got the three points we might not be able to laugh so readily at it, but as it is I think we can afford the chuckle.

What was not to be laughed at however, was Mario Balotelli’s “challenge” on Alex Song in the first half in which he went in studs up on Song, high on the knee, and I think quite deliberately too. Balotelli acted the petulant child all afternoon and his antics ceased to have any entertainment value whatsoever after his assault on Song. How he got away with it I don’t know. It was a challenge just as bad as Taylor on Eduardo or Shawcross on Ramsey, Song was very, very lucky his leg was not planted more firmly on the turf otherwise that’s the sort of injury he would have suffered. In one way it was worse than those challenges because Taylor and Shawcross might be careless, lumbering morons who don’t particularly worry about the consequences of their actions, but they didn’t deliberately throw a leg-breaking challenge at an opponent as Balotelli did yesterday. He receives a ban for his eventual, inevitable red card but could still face retrospective punishment for the Song challenge and rightly so. From what Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has been reported to have said after the match, it may be a moot point anyway as he seems to have finally lost all patience with Balotelli and I’d be surprised to see him play for City again.

So to the second half, and more and more Arsenal pressure. Van Persie hit the post after Song put one of those excellent balls over the top right on the Dutchman’s head and there was a truly inexplicable miss when a rebound from (I think) a Theo Walcott shot came to Thomas Vermaelen who slipped on the soaking wet pitch, skewing his finish to the otherwise excellent and ever-reliable Yossi Benayon who somehow contrived to send the ball wide of the post from inside the six yard box.

With pressure on City growing, but time running out changes were made. Ramsey came on for Benayoun, Chamberlain for Walcott, but it was a trusty source who finally gave us the goal. Mikel Arteta took matters into his own hands, winning possession and advancing through the City half with one thing in mind. He unleashed a spectacular drive from distance that left Joe Hart no chance, it smashed into the net and the roof came off the place.

There was still time for Balotelli’s richly deserved sending off, some seventy-odd minutes after it should have happened, and a City free kick which turned into an Arsenal break from which Aaron Ramsey gave us one of the most glaring misses of the season (though I’m not sure that Benayoun’s wasn’t worse) but that was that. 1-0 to the Arsenal, a fantastic and crucial result for the club that puts us very much in the driving seat for Champions League qualification. 

Arsene Wenger was delighted with what he’d seen after the game, saying,

I always felt the goal would come but it was very tight and in the end you feel it is important not to lose. But we kept going and at home recently we have produced some outstanding performances against any team. I am very happy that we got the win and the team continues to grow in quality.

It would have been a huge disappointment not to win yesterday having played so well. The team thoroughly deserve their place in the table and we’ve still got a great chance of finishing in the automatic Champions League places. The battle continues today with Chelsea and Spurs in action for Bank Holiday football, and we play again against Wolves on Wednesday.

For now, that’s all. Have a good one and I’m back soon.

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  • jamrockrover  On 09/04/2012 at 1:34 pm

    It’s difficult to understand how Mancini let Balotelli stay on the pitch for so long considering his antics. Surely he should have been substituted long before he was eventually sent off and Mancini has questions to answer too. Enough about City though, it was a great performance that deserved 3 points and that attitude for the rest of the season will surely gain us third place.

  • Leper Messiah  On 10/04/2012 at 7:26 am

    Crucially, we’re in form and our rivals aren’t. We just have to keep going, and who knows, maybe Newcastle will knick fourth off both Chelsea and Spurs. That would be hilarious.

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