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Manchester City 4 Arsenal 2

After a two week international break with the season only just begun, the appetite for proper football again was ravenous. Perhaps it was a mixture of hunger for football and a bottle of Cockburns polished off the evening before that were making the guts churn at 6am Saturday morning as the alarm sounded. The spirit was willing but the head was spongy, the temples pounding full of blood. The fry up would soon quell the stormy waters as we boarded the coach to Eastlands. We arrived at the ground at around 2pm to find a creature so rare; David Attenbrough himself has probably yet to see it. It was a strange big yellow disc in the sky, radiating Manchester! A true scientific breakthrough. Most would have read Adebayor`s pathetic interview in the Telegraph on the way to the match, the broadsides he fired at Bendtner, Wenger as well as Arsenal`s Jamaican and American supporters prove that the levels of paranoid delusion he has built up through his increasingly erratic statements. So it`s the fault of people who can`t and don`t get to games that a few people booed you at the games? Work that one out. He was predictably booed with his every touch, whilst Toure was given the warm round of applause his service deserved.

Arsene bafflingly altered a formation which had been working pretty well for us all season, ditching the three pronged strike force and electing to play Bendtner on the right wing and van Persie on his lonesome up top. It was a regressive, negative move which showed City far too much respect and demonstrated fear on the part of the manager; it was a fear that would manifest itself in our build up play in the first half. City were content to get numbers back on the edge of their own box and due to van Persie being Arsenal`s sole outlet upfront, the home side easily dealt with some pretty unconvincing attacks from Arsenal. It appeared the manager had fallen back into old habits, not trusting the players to play an offensive system that suits our style much better, again the faith he proclaims to have in his players is simply not borne out by his team selections in big games over the last three years- which are stained by caution and fear. It`s not worked too well for us in that time and it didn`t work too well for us yesterday either with City easily containing our flaccid attacks. Fabregas` radar was well off kilter as he gave the ball away persistently and with no Arshavin or Nasri present, Arsenal`s sole creative outlet was having an off day. It was telling that Arsenal`s only chance in the first half came from a set piece; van Persie`s inswinging corner found Gallas on the back post and he headed the ball narrowly over when he might well have scored.

Despite their impotence in attack, Arsenal were rarely threatened themselves until City`s first opportunity of note. Sagna`s cynical foul on Bellamy off the ball gave the home side a free kick. Almunia did not bother pointing out to his defence that both Richards and Lescott were unmarked on the back post, Barry`s delivery subsequently found Micah Richards and Almunia mistakenly thought the ball was drifting out of play and left it, only for the ball to hit the post, rebound off his frame and into the goal. It was a laughably soft goal and Almunia`s season so far has been marked with these sorts of basic errors. He will have to shake himself from this fit of anarchic form pretty quickly. It`s worrying that the team`s oldest player is the one making the most immature mistakes thus far. Half time came with both sides having created little, but City dealt with Arsenal`s spells of possession much better than we dealt with their sole threat of the match. Arsenal were using the same system that failed last season and still did not seem any closer to knowing how to take control of a game`s key moments. I`d written in my earlier match reports this season that we`d find out more about this team when they went behind. The gauntlet was down.

Disappointingly, Arsenal began the second half with the same system and, though there was a little more energy about us, the same old story of having only one striker meant our attacks were still limited and easily contained. That is until a weird looking gentleman came on that I`m not sure I`ve heard of before, Rosicky is it? He must have come through the youth team, but they appear to have kept his emergence quiet. The fact that he appeared in a first team fixture means I`m £20 down but it`s an amount I`m happy to lose. If he can play at least a bit part in our season we will be better for it. His emergence in central midfield saw a more dynamic Arsenal. Though that Wenger decided to surrender Denilson as opposed to the slow, lazy stylings of Diaby would ultimately cost us. Another van Persie corner saw Arsenal`s most potent attacking threat William Gallas again stoop for a header which Given beat out and Bendtner couldn`t steer home the rebound from a tight angle. Arsenal had slightly more verve and conviction, Vermaelen moved forward and let fly from twenty five yards, causing Given to beat the ball out in front of him and van Persie was thwarted for the rebound by a last ditch Lescott challenge. The goal was coming and when it arrived, it did so in some style. Rosicky played the ball into van Persie with his back to goal, the pass was a little short but van Persie excellently beat Lescott to the ball, demonstrating a gravity defying spin before hitting an off balance, right foot shot low past Shay Given`s right hand and into the net. It was a neat snapshot of what van Persie can provide even on the measliest of scraps. Arsenal were in the ascendancy.

There then followed a nasty incident, van Persie piled in with a rash tackle on Adebayor and the former Arsenal striker responded with a deliberate rake of his studs down van Persie`s face. Adebayor has subsequently lied about apologising to van Persie, skulking past the Dutchman`s prone body as blood dripped from his face without so much as a glance. I was never under the impression the two were anything other than friends at Arsenal, but there again, characters like Adebayor will find friends very few and far between as his life goes on. He might be able to buy cheap love from the supporters of whichever shirt he happens to be wearing, but once the football life is over and his talent has gone and his limbs have receded into achy stumps, he will be a very lonely human being indeed unless he swiftly reviews his actions. Arsenal continued to push, Diaby`s cross was headed on by Gallas and Vermaelen steered wide when in an offside position. But therein lay Arsenal`s problem, with the scores at 1-1 both centre halves were in City`s penalty area from open play.

Rosicky again was Arsenal`s key point of contact in midfield; he fed Diaby who manoeuvred past two players before slipping a ball into Bendtner whose shot was blocked by Lescott. But yet again, as they had in Manchester a fortnight earlier, Arsenal fell to pieces psychologically in a strong position to get a result. It`s almost as if Arsenal can only play on instinct and when a bit of thought becomes necessary to win the game, they crumble. Clichy showed bad decision making in his attempt to go make or break into a challenge with Lescott when he should have held his position. That he lost the tackle meant Wright Phillips was free to slip the ball to Richards- who had careered into the gap left by the errant Clichy. Richards beat Song before pulling the ball back to Bellamy and the Welsh striker guided the ball past Almunia. As they had at Old Trafford, Arsenal then proceeded to completely lose their heads. Adebayor meandered around three desperate Arsenal challenges before cutting the ball back to Wright Phillips who amazingly put the ball wide with Arsenal`s rearguard showing all the command of a drunken sailor scampering around the deck with his trousers around his ankles. The inevitable then came; Clichy once again surrendered the ball high up the pitch to Wright Phillips, leaving the England flanker to move into the space, as with the first goal, Diaby made absolutely no attempt to run back and cover his flank either- the folly of immolating Denilson once again exposed- Wright Phillips clipped in an inch perfect cross and Arsenal`s defence should know better than anyone what happens when you give Adebayor a free header in the box. The subsequent celebration, the sarcastic applauding at Arsenal fans when he could already see there were injuries as a result of his actions and City`s PA system amazingly attempting to make the situation worse have been spoken about in a separate article.

Fully aware that the defence had gone completely and utterly to pot, the Gunners attacked with gusto. Van Persie`s corner broke to Diaby but his shot was shanked off the line by Adebayor. Gael Clichy would then conspire to lose the ball high up the pitch yet again and yet again Diaby ambled backwards with the air of a man looking for a bush to shit in. Bellamy sauntered through Arsenal`s buttery underbelly, releasing Wright Phillips who beat Almunia with a calm chip. 4-1 was in no way a reflection of the game, but it did reflect that City were more mature about controlling the game`s key moments, something Arsenal have an illustrious recent history of failing to do. There was consolation to be had, Diaby all of a sudden looked interested when their was the chance for some personal glory, he ran at the City backline, only giving possession to Fabregas when he absolutely had to, Cesc picked an accurate pass for once and Tomas Rosicky prodded home a consolation. Arsenal rallied and Diaby fed van Persie late on and the Dutchman`s curling shot struck the post. This was before Rosicky`s deflected shot hit the base of the post in the dying seconds. With the chances created in the second half, Arsenal might well have taken a point at least, but defending so amateurishly made the task impossible for us. Once again, brain farting had become endemic in Arsenal`s individuals. The first half was marked by caution and fear from the manager with a conservative system which handicapped us massively. In the second half we then when too far in the other direction. After the equaliser I was convinced Arsenal would win the game, doubtless most people would have thought so too, but the constant occurrence of basic errors reveals a soft mental underbelly to this Arsenal side which has not vanquished. The team`s ability to grow up in these situations is compromised because they only have experience of defeat in these games, they do not know how to be calm and nose out the victory. This team is not as young as it was three years ago, Diaby, Clichy, Sagna; they`re not young boys anymore. Yet these mistakes will keep appearing because it is programmed into our DNA and doomed to play on repeat. Arsenal can play like a world class football team. It`s just unfortunate they can`t think like one. The balance between attack and defence was not right because we ditched our new formation and reverted to old habits. The individual abberations are a much more embedded problem.LD.

Team: 1.ALMUNIA, 3.SAGNA (27.Eboue '78), 10.GALLAS, 5.VERMAELEN, 22.CLICHY, 52.BENDTNER, 15.DENILSON (7.Rosicky '55), 17.SONG (9.Eduardo '78), 4.FABREGAS(c), 2.DIABY, 11.v.PERSIE. Unused: 16.Ramsey, 18.Silvestre, 24.Mannone, 28.Gibbs.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday September 13 2009

Time: 2:46PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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I'm of the same pessimistic mood as the article and, sadly, am very confident that we won't win the PL or CL this season for the reasons mentioned above. Not quite sure what has to be done for this to change - is it the instructions from the manager, the philosophy or the players? United still played Scholes and Giggs yesterday and got a great result going down 1-0. If we had a couple of older, wiser heads a la Gilberto (or similar), perhaps things would be different.
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13/09/2009 15:31:00

Well written. I couldn't have stated it better myself. Over the last couple of seasons it has occurred to me that it is more important to look at what Mr Wenger does than what he says. Despite professing undying belief in these players, it appears that he doesn't trust them in big moments, which is all the more baffling when one considers that he has chosen not to invest in the two or three experienced heads that he himself suggested the team needed following the disappointment of the last campaign. If the first four games are a microcosm of our season, I will settle for fourth right now. Diaby's size and obvious talent reminds Wenger so much of the gladiator that was PV that the manager has become almost blinded to Abou's shortcomings. That he even considered him for the midfield anchor role next to Cesc last season says it all really. My hope is that the return of Rosicky, Arshavin and Nasri will provide enough impetus for a successful remaining season. At this rate we could be out of the running before December and Wenger would have noone to blame but himself.
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13/09/2009 15:50:00

As Arshavin was out injured it couldn't have been too baffling that Wenger made changes could it? I don't think we started out with the wrong team but we certainly ended with it. Rosicky should have come on for either Diaby or Bendtner. As we were chasing the game I can understand the idea to keep as many attacking options on the pitch as possible but the effect was to disrupt a fragile midfield balance which we have wrestled with now for far too long.
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13/09/2009 15:51:00

Somehow, Clichy's mistakes seem to hurt us a lot more - on 2 of those goals, he lost the ball in risky positions, where a safety first approach would have worked much better. I cant disagree with the last para, as it sums up this squad perfectly. There was a legit shout for a penalty at 3-1, handball off Barry (I think), but the ref didnt spot it, and Citeh scored off that counter attack. I still thought we did well at 4-1 and 4-2, creating lots of chances towards the end, but that was more coz Citeh had become complacent. We deserved to lose the game, but the scoreline was flattering. The one positive is Rosicky's appearance - an immediate impact on our creativity, and I hope he plays atleast a bit part this season.
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13/09/2009 15:52:00

Changes to the personnel no, but changes to the formation? Baffling to me. I had originall thought Eboue might line up on the right of the front three. Putting Bendtner wide right of a front three would have made sense as Bridge is very weak at defending his back post. But laying the same system thayt failed us last season was a sign of fear and I think it gave City more credit than they were due. Especially as they werw without a good few attacking players themselves.
Little Dutch
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13/09/2009 15:58:00

You're right. Eboue would have been an option. Might have even tried him on the left. Not sure how many would be happy to hear that though. I feel that the one area the squad needed some more support this season was an experienced creative wide midfielder. We could get by if we could rely on at least two of Arshavin, Nasri and Rosicky being fit for the majority of games but there seems little so far to encourage the view that they will.
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13/09/2009 16:11:00

I agree with Amos. If we had Hleb yesterday, I would have banked on us winning.
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13/09/2009 16:39:00

there's no real reason why we shouldn't have won yesterday actually. When you have over double the shots and 60% of the possession, you generally walk away the victors. both city's good run and our poor run of results are due to end shortly. I still have confidence in this bunch
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13/09/2009 17:00:00

I am confident of Nasri's recovery since his injury is to the fibula rather than the larger, weight-bearing tibia. This will solve the wide midfield problem that you alluded to Amos. Arshavin is a tough character so I am not too worried of his long term fitness . However, I am not yet convinced of Song's big game reliabilty given his tender age, and I think Wenger may be conceding as much by using Denilson with him next to Cesc. Perhaps in two or three years he will be the finished product. Nevertheless, with the current squad, and with everyone fully fit, a trio of Song, Nasri and Cesc provides the best combination of creativity and defensive cover in my estimation as I think Nasri is better defensively than he is given credit .
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13/09/2009 17:26:00

I think we committed too many players going forward at 1-1 when we should have been a bit more cautious. Our marking was awful for 3 of the goals. We still created enough chances in the scond half to have got a draw but for bad luck and bad finishing. Think AW needs to have a good look at what went wrong defensively considering we had all our first choice defenders playing. I don't think any our midfielders did a good job of tracking back not just Diaby.
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13/09/2009 18:05:00

It's a combination of defensive naivete and sheer bad luck. Had the ref spotted Barry's handball (which I think it was) or had Robin's shot not hit the woodwork yet again, the game would've taken an entirely different complexion and scoreline. We didn't deserve to win it perhaps with this sort of defensive performance, especially on the left hand side (Clichy and Diaby to be responsible, especially after Denilson came off). But we created enough to merit a draw at least. It's like deja vu from last season I'm afraid.
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13/09/2009 18:21:00

Was the formation really that different?..or was it more a case of the players struggling to impose the system as effectively as in recent games? far as I could see it was the same the team and formation as the one that started against Everton and Celtic with the obvious exception of Diaby replacing Arshavin..I agree that the players failed to get close enough Van Persie and that the three forwards did not rotate their positions as frequently as in previous is often difficult to distinguish between a 4-3-3 and a 4-5-1 and I would not necessarily blame the manager for the players failing to impose themselves efficiently enough in the first half perhaps..but surely you can't deny how finely balanced football is and on another day adebayor would have been sent off twice and we would not have been denied the most blatant of penalties that everybody appears to have overlooked..the fact that we could so easily have made it 4-4 suggests that we are not as mentally fragile as others have suggested...the key reason why were exposed in the end was because one and ultimately both of our defensive midfielders were removed..but isn't that the price that most teams pay when searching for a winner??...
Anon 1
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13/09/2009 18:43:00

It was absolutely defintely a different formation, right from the off. You're right, on a different day it would have ended up 4-4. Is that really anything to shout about? We drew two games 4-4 last season- that shows a basic imbalance between defence and attack. I truly feel the 4-3-3 has shown signs of alleiviating that, everybody looks comfortable with their roles in that system. Yesterday few looked comfortable. In the first half we had way too few players in the City half, we went some way to rectifying that in the second half until we equalised. At that point we should have calmed down, taken stock and then pushed on. But that's what I'm saying, this teamlacks the basic intelligence to think of the right thing to do at the right time. Why were three of our back four in City's half when it was 1-1 with seventeen minutes left, that's madness and a madness we see time and again with little sign we can learn from it.
Little Dutch
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13/09/2009 19:08:00

You were good, just not good enough as it turned out. Simples.
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13/09/2009 19:54:00

We were beaten by a more clinical team we have to accept that and move on. Wenger for me is not making the best of the squad that he has, its not perfect by any means but if 1 week he is playing Eboue right side of a front 3 and the next week Diaby left side when he has Eduardo benched on both occasions and Bendtner benched on 1 occasion then he is tinkering far too much. Last year it was the experiment of Cesc behind the front man and Nasri central midfield in a 4-4-2, its baffling and worrying that he doesnt seem to know his best team or formation. Also even with a fully fit squad we still lack players who play out game situations, wenger seemed to think the 3 month summer break would help them gain that experience, it clearly hasnt based on yesterday but then you look and see how they dealt with the Celtic tie and you just wonder is it that or a genuine lack of quality against top opposition?
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13/09/2009 20:51:00

I think that what Adebayor did to Van Persie was terrible ......... how a proffessional footballer of that standard could miss his eye from such close range, and only catch the side of his face shows that inacuracy that probably lead to his departure. I used to genuinley hate Adebayor, but I quite like him now !
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13/09/2009 21:10:00

agree the team seems to lack a "winning mentality" - for example chelsea's start to the season would have looked very ordinary with a 1-1 draw home to hull and 1-1 draw at stoke but
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13/09/2009 22:20:00

... their ability to regularly grab a 90th minute winner makes them far better equipped for a title push then we seem to be currently
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13/09/2009 22:23:00

Good review LD. That's basically a 100% accurate summary of everything that I saw on the tele too.
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14/09/2009 02:15:00

good review LD, well done again. just want to add that, we have gone from being the masters of counter attacking football to the victims of it. i think its time wenger shackle our back four to focus on defending and leave the creating and scoring of goals to our attacking players. i mean why the heck are our centre halves loitering at the opposition's penalty box when we have the likes of eduardo and rosicky on the bench? doenst make any sense. wenger needs to focus on our strength which is attacking football as you stated in your piece. it was a game we should have won, another 3 pts needlessly given away.
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14/09/2009 07:33:00

Nice summary. Watching it from Kenya, I'd say Clichy was horrible. Almunia needs a wake up call. And there was no spirit to win it, form the players.
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14/09/2009 12:35:00

Such a pity that we ended up on the losing side as we did play some good football, but as usual goals win games, not possession!
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14/09/2009 13:25:00

Looking at the replay again, was Richards offside for the first goal. Looks like it although marginal. Either way does not change the fact we played in a real naive way
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14/09/2009 14:13:00

No clean sheets through four matches should tell you something. Too much energy in attack and not enough in defense. You guys seem to lack the inclination (not necessarily the ability) to grind out wins.
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14/09/2009 15:39:00

Adebayor is innocent, I think Van pu55ey headbutted his boot to get him sent off, which is right in line with your slimy cheating policy, no doubt van P will escape punishment like Edwardo, tut, tut.
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15/09/2009 02:08:00

YidEdy ...are you fkn stupid? Thats one of the most ridiculous things i've seen someone write on this website. ***** off back to wherever it is you came from retard. Anyway, as for Arsenal, Diaby and Bedtner were terrible. I think there's no way Diaby should have started when Eduardo who is a proven goal scorer through and through was sitting on the bench for so long. I could understand Bedtner in that posistion if we played 4-3-3 because he worked well there against Everton. But on saying that Bedtner had a really bad game. He (along with most of the squad) seemed to take a step back to the Arsenal of last season. Rosicky and Eduardo should've been on ealier (Eduardo should've started really), and it should've been Diaby and Bedtner off instead of Song and Den. We win games through our sexy attacking play and Eduardo and Rosicky can support that. While Song and Den can provide cover. Someone mentioned before that it's like Wenger is blind to Diaby's totall fk ups. Its very true. I was swearing at the TV that night and wondering how long i had to watch him play ***** before he got pulled off the pitch. And! WTF was Eboue thinking with that shot towards the end when he was in a mile of fkn space... again, Eboue of last season to go along with everything else.
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15/09/2009 05:58:00

PLUS!! Songs "attempt" at a tackle before it was passed to Bellamy for that second goal... There was so many things wrong with our game it's hard t list. ****
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15/09/2009 08:11:00

Seems I did the manager a slight disservice in criticising him for taking Denilson off,turns out Denilson was injured. Still doesn't alleviate Diaby's responsibility.
Little Dutch
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15/09/2009 20:33:00


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