Arsenal welcomed Manchester City to the Emirates stadium in the second big game of the “Super Sunday”. Although it was expected to be a fascinating encounter, the game was well and truly decided when Koscielny got his marching orders early on in the first half after fouling Dzeko in the box. Szczesny did save the resultant penalty, but Arsenal were always up against it with numerical disadvantage.
Although the Gunners put up a spirited display in the second half, Manchester City were too strong and held them off for a well deserved win at the Emirates. We take a detailed look at the match that unfolded last night.
Arsenal were missing their midfield heartbeat Mikel Arteta, who is expected to be out of action for 3 weeks with a calf strain. In his place came Abou Diaby, making his comeback from injury after 3 months, as Arsenal lined up in their traditional 4-2-3-1 formation. Theo Walcott began upfront.
City began with a 4-4-1-1 with Dzeko starting upfront with Tevez sitting behind him. The midfield was set up defensively- primarily due to Yaya Toure’s unavailability, Nasri’s absence-with Milner and Silva taking positions on the right and left wings respectively. Javi Garcia and Gareth Barry formed the central midfield partnership.
Manchester City began the game brightly as Arsenal’s defence looked shaky and with Dzeko pressing high up the pitch, Szczesny forced to kick the ball out of play under pressure. The initial attacks came from City’s left( Arsenal’s right) with Alex Oxlade Chamberlain tucking inside, leaving Sagna with a lot to do. This was exploited by David Silva- who was City’s standout performer- and he got a decent chance to score from the edge of the box. His shot was ultimately blocked by Vermaelen for a corner.
The game was as good as dead by the 10th minute after Laurent Koscielny was sent off and a penalty awarded to City. Koscielny wrapped his arms around Dzeko in rugby style and was denied a clear goal scoring opportunity from Silva’s poked header. Though the twin punishment of a red card and a penalty is debatable, it was tough to argue against Mike Dean’s decision as he played by the rule book. Arsenal were down to 10 men and this game was in many ways reminiscent of the game between these two sides at the Etihad in the 2010/11 season. In that game Dedryck Boyata was sent off in the 5th minute and Arsenal won 3-0. Dzeko though, failed to convert the penalty as his shot was saved Szczesny with his legs.
Arsene Wenger brought on Per Mertesacker to replace Alex Oxlade Chamberlain as they reshaped to a 4-4-1 without the ball with Cazorla on the right, Podolski on the left and Theo ploughing a lone furrow upfront. Still, it was City who controlled possession and the game as they especially found joy on the flanks. Arsenal, despite being a man down, continued to push the full backs up the field. The expected City goal came in the 20th minute. Podolski fouled Garcia and passed the ball to Gibbs. Mike Dean delayed blowing the whistle and ultimately when the free kick was rightly awarded, Arsenal’s defenders, instead of getting themselves organized, remonstrated with the referee. City took the free kick quickly and Tevez’s superb through ball found Milner who crashed his shot past Szczesny into the top corner. It was a silly goal to concede as Arsenal were caught napping.
City continued to boss the game as Javi Garcia and Carlos Tevez had good chances to double the lead. Abou Diaby looked rusty after a prolonged spell on the sidelines as he lost possession far too cheaply. The likes of Barry, Garcia and even Silva were afforded a lot of space as Arsenal struggled to defend sturdily. The second goal duly arrived after some excellent work on the right wing by Pablo Zabaleta. He won the ball off Gibbs with sheer determination and passed it to Milner, whose low fizzing cross was diverted goalwards by Tevz. Szczesny pulled off a good save with his right hand, but the ball fell right at the feet of Dzeko, who had to simply tap it in from a couple of feet out.
Though Arsenal improved a bit in the last 10 minutes, City took their foot off the pedal as they stroked the ball around in the midfield to hold onto their lead at half-time.
Arsenal began the second half in a more convincing manner, as they kept the ball well and did not cede possession as easily as in the first half. But City had a great chance early on the second half to make it 3-0 as Barry robbed the ball off Podolski on Arsenal’s left and passed it to Milner, who found himself in acres of space. He sent a lovely cross which Dzeko should’ve converted.
Giroud came on for Podolski in the 57th minute, as Arsenal looked set to lump the ball forward to a target man. It seemed Manchester City looked to conserve their energy as they seemed content to let Arsenal have possession and hit them on the counter. Jack Wilshere then took over the midfield with his drive and determination causing City’s midfield a lot of problems. Milner was booked for a late challenge on Wilshere, as was Javi Garcia, and there were countless fouls. Arsenal were essentially playing a 4-3-2 with Giroud and Walcott staying high up the pitch and Diaby tucking to the left, helping Gibbs with his defensive duties.
Wenger put on Ramsey in place of Diaby as Arsenal went in search of a winner. Despite the attacking threat posed by Arsenal with Giroud upfront, Nastatic and Kompany put on a very good display at the heart of defence as they nullified the threat of Giroud without much trouble. Walcott, playing in his preferred Centre Forward position,wasn’t much of a threat throughout the game.
Arsenal’s attacking intent meant they were vulnerable on the counter attack and Tevez had a great chance to make it 3-0 after Silva’s sumptuous ball from the edge of the opposition penalty box found Dzeko who squared it to the Argentinian. Tevez was one-on-one with the keeper but his shot was smothered by Szczesny. Giroud too had a great chance to pull one goal back, as Cazorla’s free kick from the right found him free in the box. But his header from 10 yards out went over the crossbar.
In the 74th minute, the game had a moment of controversy. Jack Wilshere was on one of his marauding runs into the final third when a two footed tackle by Vincent Kompany was deemed harsh enough to warrant a red card. Mike Dean again went by the rulebook; Kompany seemed to get a bit of the ball, but his two feet were slightly off the ground.
10 vs 10
It was 10 vs 10 in the the final 15 minutes. Mancini did not change anything as Tevez was brought off to be replaced by Lescott, who partnered Nastasic at the centre of defence. Arsenal, who by then looked knackered, threw Mertesacker up front as an “auxiliary centre forward” as they attempted to lump the ball forward in search of goal. Manchester City though, held on quite comfortably and their only moment of concern came when Aaron Ramsey’s through ball put Walcott clear on goal. Walcott fired the ball past Joe Hart, but Lescott was there covering the back post and he cleared it away. It was also interesting to note that Walcott’s run came from the right side, which many consider his best position.
So the game ended with a deserving 2-0 win for the champions. Although Arsenal showed some fight and spirit in the 2nd half, they were always up against it once they were reduced to 10 men and City led by the brilliant David Silva were comfortable winners.
Manchester City Man of the Match: David Silva
Arsenal Man of the Match: Jack Wilshere
Written by Guest Author Chaitanya Lakkapragada
Follow the author on Twitter: @chaitugooner