From the minute our match kicked off there was only going to be one winner. Sure, at times I had flashes of the many times we’ve battered teams only to lose one carelessly on the break and let the game slip away from us, but this Arsenal side don’t seem to do that anymore. 24 points from 27 is a remarkable return when you consider that in that run we’ve faced three of the top five teams. This is an Arsenal side that was written off before the season started and nailed in to a coffin as the season got underway. There was no way we’d be able to make top six let alone top four.
It was what we wanted, what we knew this team could deliver. 100% and total dominance with City registering not one single shot on target. Their bench cost more than twice our entire starting 11 and we hammered them. Everyone did their job. When we lost the ball we went and got it back quickly. We pressed high, we hunted in packs, we gave them no time and when we had the ball we moved it slickly, quickly and with precision.
It was Arsenal.
A more one-sided 1 nil you could not hope to see and to do it against the richest team in the world fighting for their title lives just makes it even more sweet.
Before the match Mancini had said “Today, for us, is like a final” but they were caught like the Easter bunny in the headlights from kick off. 90 seconds in to the match Atkinson produced a yellow card as Toure hauled back Rosicky and it should have been a marker, an indication that he would referee this game as he does every other – as the strictest referee in the league. Alas, he did not letting Balotelli away with murder.
In the first few minutes Balotelli threw the ball away when he gave away a foul. He kicked it away minutes later after being flagged offside. Then he should have seen red for an horrendous studs up challenge on Song’s knee. He followed this by raking his studs along Sagna’s thigh before going after Sagna again and this time landing his studs on his ankle. He ended the half with a deliberate handball. What did Atkinson do about all this? Issue one yellow card. The strictest referee in the league issued one fucking yellow card. He finally got his marching orders at the end of the game for another foul on Sagna despite the fact that he should have gone an hour earlier, but by then it was too late. City were beaten. Rumours abound post match that someone in the City dressing room chinned Balotelli. Can’t say I blame them to be honest.
Our first corner came in the third minute, our second in the fifth. It took City almost 20 minutes to get any sort of foothold in the game, before which Vermaelen had expertly cleared Van Persie’s goal-bound effort behind for a goal kick. City managed to get in to the game for a while as we had a breather but as the break neared we picked up the tempo and began going at them again. They had no answer. Half time it was 0-0 and given we had a perfectly good penalty call not given plus had most of the play, it was far from a fair reflection.
The second half started and we just battered them from kick off again. Crosses were being fired in by Sagna and when they were cleared were just landing with an Arsenal player as we were first to everything the whole afternoon. As the half wore on I began to wonder if we would ever get the break through. From post which Theo hit to Robin continuing his love affair with the woodwork smacking the other, we thrashed them but couldn’t find the back of the net. Atkinson started to wave cards at Arsenal players for little to nothing, Balotelli continued to be an arse.
Gibbs limping off for Santos was perhaps the only major disappointment from the whole game with Kieran having put together his longest run in quite some time. A rumoured groin injury will hopefully be nothing more than a little strain and won’t keep him away too long. Kos receiving a yellow, his tenth of the season on the last weekend when the totting up process counts was also annoying. He’ll now miss our next two games, Wolves and Wigan.
The clock ticked on and City, weirdly, seemed to have settled for the draw when they badly needed a win and as we entered the 87th minute a little bit of magic from Mikki won the game for us. As the ball flew from his foot and past an outstretched Hart City knew the game was up. From there Arsenal expertly saw out the game, and apart from giving away a free kick on the edge of our box which Kolorov drilled in to the wall, City offered no threat.
Three points, but it was bigger than that. It took us to third, two points clear of Sp*rs and five ahead of Chelsea and Newcastle. We added one to our goal difference over Sp*rs as well and as this point of the season it all matters. That goal could be the difference between qualifying automatically and having to play a qualifier. A qualifier messes up pre-season, and with the Euro’s and Olympics, the last thing we need is another game when the team are just getting back to fitness.
We showed a passion which has been on display more and more frequently recently, a ‘mental strength’ which many have mocked Arsene for suggesting this team has. The handbrake was nowhere to be seen from the first minute to the last and when the final whistle went you could see what it meant to the entire team.
I don’t know what we’ve been feeding Rosicky but he is a completely different player. Like a tiger in the middle of the park he is fighting and tackling in a way I don’t think I ever thought he was capable off. Man of the match for me. United fans were tweeting me that, in his role, Alex Song was perhaps the best in the world right now, and at the back Sagna was, well, Sagna. Aguero was in the pockets of the defence the entire game and when he was replaced by Tevez it made not one single jot of difference. Milner? Please. Nasri? Ha. What a waste of money, but, you know, thanks for it City.
Yossi worked his ass off all over the pitch, as did Theo and Robin. When someone was out of position, someone else slotted in to fill it. The team, and that’s what it was today, a ‘team’ showed City’s collection of individuals just what we really are capable of.
42 crosses to their 16, 12 shots to their 4, 734 touches to their 450, 64% possession to their 36%. We were *that* dominant.
This Arsenal team is growing in to something special, a new feeling surrounds the whole club, fear has been replaced by belief. We are starting to relish the big games rather than shirk from them. There is still work to do, but after the summer and start we had, to seal third place will give this team a really strong platform for next season, and with players to return from injury and the potential of new signings, the future might, finally, be arriving at Arsenal.
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