Arsenal - Arsenal 1 Manchester City 0
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Arsenal 1 Manchester City 0

With Tottenham drawing what was realistically the toughest fixture they have left at Sunderland and Chelsea invoking some kind of offside amnesty to beat Wigan, victory over Manchester City became essential. My own feelings were that if United were to defeat QPR earlier in the day, our prospects would be aided with a City side that have looked on the brink of self destruction for weeks. United too got some help from generous / incompetent officiating, but in doing so, my confidence grew that we could win the game. I wasn`t overly surprised to see Benayoun selected on the left. He tends to play in the bigger games because he solves two problems, he defends and attacks well. However, Mancini, as is his wont, was overly cautious in his selection, opting for Zabaleta at right back over Richards. It`s this caution that has crept into what was beginning to look like a fearless, free flowing City side that costs his team the title this year.

Arsenal began the game on the front foot with City looking to play compactly from the beginning. Sagna`s cross from the right was deflected to the edge of the area. Gibbs` wits were keen as he pounced on the loose ball, heading to Rosicky. The Czech`s volley deflected off of Kompany and looped just wide. Arteta swung the resulting corner to the front post, Koscielny went all Steve Bould on our arses with the front post flick on, van Persie met it with a firm header and Hart beaten all ends up. But the ball hit the back of the leaping Vermaelen and diverted onto the crossbar. Rosicky could only spoon the rebound over. It was a serendipitous escape for City.

But perhaps the next piece of fortune was Arsenal`s- albeit in unwanted circumstances. Yaya Toure hobbled off after a kneecap on kneecap collision with Song and was unable to continue. Essentially, this meant Sergio Aguero was starved of any kind of support from midfield for the remainder of the game. City weren`t carrying a great deal of threat, though Pizarro`s sweeping long ball looked set to find Balotelli, only for Szczesny to come rushing from his goal with a saving clearance. Since Szczesny`s installation into the team, Arsenal`s defending from set pieces has improved. But likewise balls over the top of our high defence have long been an issue. Szczesny is positive and assertive, meaning he`s very quick from his line. Compared with Almunia`s anxiety coming from his goal, which saw him humiliated a few times. Szczesny is a modern keeper in that his distribution is excellent and he fulfils the sweeper keeper role to perfection.

City appear to have been feeling the title heat in 2012, not just in the caution that Mancini curiously reintroduced to their play, but as egos have gone into overdrive. None more so than Mario Balotelli who seemed to conduct a 90 minute personal crusade to get himself an early bath. That it took Martin Atkinson 89 minutes to execute his wish is nearly as appalling as Balotelli himself. An intentional, studs up lunge, aimed purposely at Song`s kneecap was missed by Atkinson. That the referee didn`t see it is barely understandable, but Darren Cann- his assistant- was eight yards away. Either he wasn`t assertive enough to make the call, or else his eyesight failed him. Either way, he shouldn`t be officiating at this level whichever of those hardships is true. The F.A. really ought to be adding three matches to his current suspension tally anyway.

The hot headed Italian almost committed the ultimate injustice when he connected with Barry`s low corner and toe ended it goalwards, but Song was on hand to block. After then booting the post in frustration, having already thrown the ball away in dissent and tried to maim Song, he was eventually cautioned in first half injury time for a high challenge on Sagna. At the beginning of the second half, City showed some attacking intent for the only time in the game. Nasri`s cross drifted to the back post towards Aguero, but Zabaleta got in his way, causing him to loop his header softly towards the goal, making Szczesny`s task of tipping the ball over all the easier. It was City`s sole effort on target.

Soon after Kieran Gibbs had to come off injured. Again. I`m not sure what the affliction was or its ramifications, but it does look increasingly like the boy is made of hob nobs. I hope it`s just 'growing pains.` But after an initial ten minute flurry, the second half was again dominated by a more assertive Arsenal side. Once again Alex Song picked out an inch perfect through pass which sailed over the head of Kompany and into the path of van Persie, but his header hit the base of the post. Arsenal would come closer still when Sagna tucked a cross back for Walcott. His angled right footed shot was tipped onto the post by Hart, Vermaelen slipped as he went to sweep the rebound goalwards, but it still bobbled to Benayoun, who clumsily toed the ball towards the net from two yards, only to see it drift wide via the post off of Lescott`s calf. Another huge let off for the visitors.

City didn`t seem to appreciate that they needed to win the game. The egos were again all of a flutter when Carlos Tevez ("he plays when he wants" jibed the North Bank) was introduced. As he came on, Edin Dzeko, who had also been warming up, tossed his bib to the ground in fury and sloped back to the bench. All for one and one for all. Balotelli narrowly did not connect with an overhead kick attempt from Clichy`s cross, but other than that, the away side were being pressed back by a surging Arsenal. They finally got the reward their performance deserved on 87 minutes. Barry played the ball to Pizarro from the left back position. Arteta hunted the Chilean down, nicking the ball, before taking a stride forwards and pile driving a low shot into Hart`s bottom corner from 25 yards. In response, the Arsenal fans conducted a mocking Poznan salute. All chants of "you are our feeder club" vanished from the away enclosure.

City had barely the time or the gumption to offer a response. Zabaleta`s looping cross was tipped away from Balotelli`s head by the fingertips of Szczesny, as the ball broke loose to Sagna, Balotelli hacked Sagna down and he was awarded a second yellow. He had offended enough for two red cards prior to that. Mancini angrily told his errant striker to get off the pitch. Joe Hart`s reactionwas apposite. The Gunners might even have added a second, which their performance would have warranted. Kolarov`s free kick was charged down, Santos nipped in ahead of Pizarro to the loose ball and Arsenal broke. Rosicky manoeuvred the ball to Ramsey, who motored into green space on the left hand side. He had van Persie and Chamberlain to his right, but instead cut back, dummying past Tevez, before smashing the ball unceremoniously high and wide. It`s no great secret that his final product in front of goal has been a little skewiff this season. I had the impression he is trying to force it too much at the moment.

In the end, it had no bearing on the result and the Gunners grabbed a deserved victory. It was a result of a high octane pressing game that pushed City back for around 80 minutes. 64% possession, thirteen shots to City`s five. Mancini`s men have wilted under the lights, which is bizarre when you think of the liberated side that handed out away day shoeings at Old Trafford and White Hart Lane. Mancini`s natural caution has seen them win only 4 away games since that day at Old Trafford. Arsenal, meanwhile, did everything they didn`t do at Loftus Road last week. They moved with urgency, they made themselves available to team mates. They harried and closed down. When City lost Toure, they lost their only genuine means of support for Aguero. Milner, Barry and Pizarro aren`t the most enterprising of midfielders and Clichy and Zabaleta are their most defensive full back options. It allowed Arsenal to pin City back. It was somewhat fitting that the goal came as a direct result of Arteta simply harrying and closing down a City player. Arsenal have once again put themselves in pole position for 3rd, but this attitude simply has to carry over into the Molineux on Wednesday now. LD.

13.SZCZESNY, 3.SAGNA, 6.KOSCIELNY, 5.VERMAELEN, 28.GIBBS (11.A.Santos `56), 17.SONG, 8.ARTETA, 7.ROSICKY, 14.WALCOTT (15.Chamberlain `86), 30.BENAYOUN (16.Ramsey `78), 10.v.PERSIE(c). Unused: 20.Djourou, 21.Fabianski, 25.Jenkinson, 29.Chamakh.

Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday April 9 2012

Time: 1:09PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
Pretty sure the Gibbs sub was just tactical. Wenger is on talking about the competition for the LB spot, so I just think he wanted to give Santos a bit of game time. Thought they both did well.
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09/04/2012 13:23:00

Great report as usual LD. The performance looked to be one of the better ones of the season, and it came at a perfect time. Our run in had looked pretty difficult, but I'm feeling more confident about it now. Even Chelsea at home isn't as worrying as it once was.
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09/04/2012 13:30:00

Top match report LD. Cant think of any club this season that has beaten City as comprehensively as we did. Opta did not even recognise Aguero's looping header which Szcezsny tipped over, to be a shot on target - they thought it was going over. Opta records City as having zero shots on target. We won the midfield duels, had 100 more passes in the final third as they did, had an embarrasingly high amount of possession and still only won 1-0. It was as comprehensive as a 1-0 gets though. Hope we can be clinical against Wolves. A strike like Arteta's cant be expected every week.
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09/04/2012 13:49:00

Chipo, Gibbs was limping, signalled to the bench then went straight off down the tunnel. Felt we were unlucky to lose at their place, we were due yesterday.
Little Dutch
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09/04/2012 14:27:00

Thanks LD; your reports usually will bring to the fore some aspects of games that tend to be forgotten in all the euphoria. Take the loss of Yaya for one; I must admit it helped to make things somewhat easier in midfield but, clearly, the kneecap collission he had with Song was on his left knee whereas, he appeared to be troubled by the right one, as he hobbled off. Perhaps, he was carrying a knock that that collission only worsened. This weekend, the refereeing was something that should result in some serious review of the state of the support the officials get. It was shocking at times; from offside goals being given to dives resulting in red cards and a penalty, very un-EPL like.
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09/04/2012 14:42:00

Many great points in the report LD but the most salient was surely "City didn`t seem to appreciate that they needed to win the game." Hard to understand why they gave such an uninspired performance in a must-win situation. All is clearly not well in the blue side of Manchester.
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09/04/2012 14:58:00

Only real downside of yesterday's game was Koscielny's card which means he'll be missing for the next couple of matches. Our winning run has coincided with a settled defensive line-up.
Wyn Mills
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09/04/2012 15:13:00

Well - as a Rag fan I am probably gonna get a load of abuse - but just wanted to come on here and congratulate you lot - very good win for you yesterday, and obviously it helped our title hopes
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09/04/2012 16:06:00

Not time to laugh yet but I am watching Norwich playing a great game of it at WHT and the Spurs down 1-2. But for the Ref, it could have been more with at least 2 stone wall penalty shouts for the Away side not given. Mhmmm.
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09/04/2012 16:51:00

Sunderland was the spuddies toughest remaining game eh LD? I think Norwich must have read your match report :-)
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09/04/2012 16:53:00

Hahahahahaha! Now, I can laugh! 1-2 it's ended. A massive result for Chelsea and Newcastle; the initiative still with the Arsenal. An upset it may be but this Norwich side was good value for the win.
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09/04/2012 16:55:00

Time to laugh now tho mwahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa bottling feckers
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09/04/2012 16:55:00

DBerg, I'd say LD was only quoting the views of the many Spud trolls on here. Hehehe!
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09/04/2012 16:58:00

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09/04/2012 17:05:00

fail on the pic front there
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09/04/2012 17:06:00

The cocky chicken is squawking!
Wyn Mills
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09/04/2012 17:14:00

Oh dear, oh dear. Looks like ''Arry might even be managing himself out of the England job. LOL. Over on VitalSpurs, they're actually WORRIED they're gonna be stuck with old Twitchy for next season. What a LARF! Great result that- well done Canaries. So much for an "easy" run in. Nothing like football for bursting bubbles.
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09/04/2012 17:17:00

Battle of the ball balancing birds, canary chomps chicken.
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09/04/2012 17:50:00

Great win, deserved. One thing I would disagree on is Szczesny's distribution - that's the one thing he needs to work on, sometimes his poor distribution puts pressure in our third of the pitch. His clearance was very good though, high on confidence, solid. Playing Benayoun was a really good move and its a shame he doesnt feature more. After a poor start to the season, he has performed well in the few games that he has played. Anyone but Ramsey for now, who cant seem to get the simple things right.
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09/04/2012 19:38:00

Agree with you about Szczesny's distribution, it's the one area he can clearly improve on at the moment. I can't understand all the Ramsey bashing. He's clearly not at his best and not good enough to be a regular starter but I think he still has a lot to contirbute. Sometimes it takes a long time for a player to recover from a serious injury as demonstrated by Rosicky's recent form. The only way you can get them back to their best is to keep them on the fringes of the first team and give them an occasional run out.
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09/04/2012 20:26:00

Agree with bowiecokemirror. Ramsey will likely have a big part to play at Wolves and needed that run out on Sunday. With the fixtures coming thick and fast, the Manager has to use the squad and give the team a chance for a strong finish in the league.
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09/04/2012 20:37:00

"City didn`t seem to appreciate that they needed to win the game." We seem to underestimate the work those lads did on Sunday, not many teams would have been able to play better than City against an Arsenal so rampant as the team was on Sunday. It is not that City did not come to play it is the fact that no Arsenal player was willing to let City play. We need to keep this attitude. The team is beginning to gel properly and I am believing we are at the begining of something good.
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10/04/2012 06:14:00

I think I'm right in saying that Szczesny has the best distribution of any keeper in the league. Largely cos most keepers just pump the ball straight back to the opposition centre backs and lose it again. Szczesny tries wherever possible to pick out defenders and start attacks. He doesn't get every single one of them right. His passes are usually accurate but occasionally he plays a pass too quickly. But overall his distribution gives our team so much compared with just hacking it downfield.
Little Dutch
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10/04/2012 07:57:00

I’m worried about our trip to Wolves. Can we play with the same intensity as we did against City? It could be another “QPR” if we aren’t careful. Our consistency HAS to improve to clinch that third place and give us some hope for next season. It’s great to beat City and get all three points but the three points against Wolves and Wigan respectively are just as valuable. By the way, what’s happened to the officials in the EPL? What an absolute shower they are, I really didn’t think they could get any worse.
Sir Henry
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10/04/2012 14:04:00

Gary Neville on Balotelli: " You put your faith in him Mancini. Its been a circus. And whenever I've been to a circus there's been some clowns." Lol. Never really liked Neville as a player but you have to give it to him as a pundit.
Wyn Mills
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10/04/2012 14:53:00 Absolute bull***** - if any match official does not deem this as a red card offence they shouldn't be officiating
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10/04/2012 18:10:00

I am completely staggered by the FA ruling on this. It makes a complete mockery of the game in my opinion. How can tbis be right?
Wyn Mills
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10/04/2012 18:27:00

chesneys throws are sensational - totally pin point, his kicking on the other hand can often be a bit wahey mainly when he tries to clear first time on the volley.
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11/04/2012 00:07:00

There have been a few times when Szczesny has passed the ball to a defender who has an opposition player too close to him at that time. That puts pressure on our team in our 3rd. That's what I was referring to, LD. True, it would be worse to simply the pump the ball straight back, but I think Szczesy can work on his judgment for his distribution. Not really a criticism, coz he will improve that part of his game. But I have rarely seen him start off a counter attack for eg, with his distribution, something that Lehmann used to do quite frequently.
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11/04/2012 09:51:00

I'd agree there, sometimes he's a bit rash. Sure that'll temper with experience.
Little Dutch
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11/04/2012 11:38:00

Good result guys. You thoroughly deserve to finish above us this season.
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11/04/2012 14:38:00


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