Well, what a game that was – entertainment wise at least. And that’s what we want isn’t it? Entertainment? Rather that than a well-drilled, but stifling 0-0 draw or 1-0 win circa Serie A before the 2000s. The defending was pretty poor in Arsenal’s 6-3 defeat to Manchester City, but the technique of a lot of the play – particularly City’s – was exemplary, and well worthy of any league in the world. But this is not about whether the Premier League is better than the rest. It’s about Arsenal.
With the Gunners 2-1 down and Laurent Koscielny going off injured just before half-time, down goes Sergio Aguero – the man at the focal point of most of the maulings City have handed out over the last two years – with his own injury. After Koscielny had gone I was fancying Aguero to get one or two more goals to finish off Arsene Wenger’s side. But when he went off, it seemed that this was that little bit of luck that champions need on top of the fact that this season so far is the best they have played for many years.
Just as this went through my mind, up pops Fernandinho with a third to build a two goal cushion over the league leaders. Soon after, Olivier Giroud misses three gilt edged chances, including the ultimate of scuffs (whereby one goes to hit the ball with one foot, only for the other one to touch it away before the former reaches it), and has a goal disallowed. Whether Costel Pantilimon would’ve saved it had he not stopped after hearing the whistle is another matter. Shame, because that was by far Giroud’s best effort of the day.
Jack Wilshire had an absolute mare, giving the ball away nearly every time he released it. He missed a clear-cut chance with the score at 0-0 by volleying the ball so far off target that it would have gone for a City throw had Theo Walcott not intercepted it. Needless to say, City went up and scored a minute or so after this thus demonstrating the fine line between winning and losing; which would have been highlighted more prominently had the game finished 1-0 to the Blues.
I heard Mesut Ozil’s name about four or five times throughout the whole encounter. His day was then summed up by the roasting he was given by the club’s captain and his ‘best mate’, Per Mertesacker, for not going over to their fans at the end of the game.
Arsenal’s and Man City’s respective Champions League games during the week pretty much sums up both of their title credentials. Sure, the Gunners have got a very good looking squad (that makes a change from the so-called ‘ugly’ team featuring Keown and Seaman), but as has been said many times, it’s up-front where they look very vulnerable. City left out Aguero and Negredo, but brought in the proven Edin Dzeco, whereas Arsenal played Giroud in both games with only Bendtner for back-up.
All this coupled with the fact they had a penalty appeal waved away plus a dubious disallowed goal from Nicklas Bendtner of all people (it was very close, but I think the linesman got it right) would seem to indicate that they might not have the luck needed to win the title let alone more important matters like creating and converting the chances needed to achieve such a triumph.
Considering the money that footballers are on I don’t think they could complain if they were made to train and play a match every day, but Arsenal’s grievances with the fixture lay-out are understandable. They would have had one day less to recover than City whatever time their game was scheduled for, but having three days instead of two to recuperate would have put them on a more level footing with Manuel Pellegrini’s men. Common sense would dictate that Aston Villa (who didn’t compete in mid-week) and Manchester United (who played on Tuesday and then face Stoke City this Wednesday) would have played out their match on Saturday.
We should take that into account, but Mertesacker’s admission after the game against Napoli last week that him and his Arsenal team-mates had given ‘‘10 per cent less mentally because we knew were through’’ was telling. It could well be a sign along with their luck that, although they may have overcome some barriers in their quest to land a first league title since 2004, and a first major trophy since 2005, they are not quite ready to win this campaign’s Premier League.
The haircuts are similar, but is that all?
On the subject of Manchester City, has Manuel Pellegrini turned them into a caricature of the 1995-96 Newcastle United side that was managed by a fellow greying mop-top headed man in Kevin Keegan? (Keegan has since transformed into what some would call a ‘silver fox’)
City are, like Newcastle were that season, phenomenal at home, but flounder somewhat on their travels. The Magpies won 17 of their 19 league games that season and were beating teams at not quite the same extent as City have done so far this term, but very convincingly all the same.
If you go through the forwards from the two sides then one can see the parallels between them; for Les Ferdinand take Alvaro Negredo; for Peter Beardsley take Sergio Aguero (or David Silva if you like). Negredo’s nickname is ‘The Beast’, which is what Ferdinand was on the pitch, being one of the best at holding off defenders and one of the powerful finishers in the 90s. Unlike that Newcastle team, however, the Blues are not many people’s second favourite team.
Like Keegan’s side had after 16 outings, Pellegrini’s current bunch have won eight from eight home matches so far, were the best ‘on their day’, and although Newcastle’s away form at this point was impressive, it was their results on their travels in the second half of the campaign that proved to be their undoing. City have suffered a lot already in that department, so will they end up like Newcastle in 1996 i.e. no title?
What do you think of Arsenal’s and City’s title chances?
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