Reading through the comments on message-boards today I can see that those who don’t ever watch a game in the flesh talk some complete bollocks. Even those who occasionally attend a game seem to be afflicted after last night. As you may have noticed over the past six months I am given to a little Arsenal-bashing when I feel it warranted, but the amount of loathing I have found today leads me to think that they are the comments of Spurs fans. I thought Arsenal were tremendous last night and created really well, particularly in the first-half. To say that Manchester City rode their luck would be an understatement. It is unfair to say that Arsenal were not good enough to break them down because the boys did just that on numerous occasions. City’s tactics, from a Club that has spent so many millions of pounds on attacking players, were scandalous. They didn’t attempt to score a goal at any time in the game, but their defence was far from impregnable – as you would expect from a back line including a past-it Kolo Toure. A lot of criticism is being made of a perceived failure by Arsenal to get the job done when dominating the game again last night and that is, I suppose, an understandable conclusion. Having said that, it’s not one I agree with – not many goalkeepers would have saved Wilshere’s early effort or Van Persie’s second-half screamer, not to mention the woodwork saving City twice.
Unusually, following a failure to win a home game, I can not fault the Arsenal players last night (with Arshavin being the exception – another quite disgraceful performance from the Russian who had inexplicably replaced Theo Walcott). I’ve always said that if the players show the requisite effort then the fans will appreciate it, regardless of the end result. Last night the football was superb and the workrate was once again outstanding. I would have like to see more pressing of their centre-halves when they were content to prod the ball around, but in midfield Alex Song played the best game of his career and dominated the match. In the past three games he has played, Song has reverted to the genuine defensive midfield role, using his forays forward to much better effect as the situation dictates. His tackling last night, and his passing, were first-rate. I was amazed to see that the subscribers at arsenal.com had voted Robin Van Persie as man of the match. That is not to say that RVP performed badly – far from it in fact – but I have to question what game these people watched (albeit on their TV screen in Nigeria or Japan or wherever they may be). I must make mention of the outstanding (again) Johan Djourou who put Tevez in his pocket (he may still be there for all anyone knows) and Gael Clichy who put in his best game, for me, since we played away at Barcelona last year – it also included a tremendous cross in to the box that nobody reacted to.
I thought the atmosphere last night was excellent. The fans really responded to the players efforts on the pitch and continued to get behind the boys despite the frustrations of not getting a goal. The only player who did not get encouraged at every turn was our tiny Russian. I have already mentioned the paucity of his performance last night, but I am still angry about his contribution. The lazy back-heels and flicks which ended up with us losing possession every time had the crowd howling at him by the end. Wenger’s substitutions again were bewildering with Walcott replaced, and Bendtner playing wide-left was a complete joke – unfair on the big Dane (who actually performed pretty well) and unfair on the paying fans. Even worse was the decision to move Nasri in to a role alongside Song, rather than pushed up alongside Fabregas, upon Bendtner’s introduction (the sending off saw Nasri finish at right-back).
It seems that a match review will no longer be complete without some words on the awful officiating – so here we go. I believe the gentleman in question last night was a Mr Jones. I don't recall him from any other Arsenal matches which would indicate that he ias had a quiet game if and when he's taken charge of us in the past. Last night changed all of that. First of all I will state that I felt we should have had a penalty for handball as Kompany's arm was raised above his waist in order to make himself bigger to block the cross. The main gripe though surrounds the fact that he failed to get a check on City's time wasting and then sent off two players (Sagna possibly deserved it but it was hardly on a par with what Birmingham's players got up to on Saturday) when a booking each would surely have sufficed. The time wasting in the final half-hour alone has been shown to account for more than eight minutes (though Sky claim Theo's substitution took twenty seconds longer than that of Jo!) As the incident that led to the red cards happened the fourth official was raising the board to show four minutes of injury time (already not enough) and play did not then re-start for three minutes. Less than two minutes later (which also included another City substitution) we got the final whistle. Talk about being short-changed.
More tomorrow (today now as we are past midnight!) with a preview of the Leeds game.