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Arsenal were good but not brilliant – My View from North Bank

Arsenal 2 – 2 Manchester City

This game looked a bit strange at the start to Emirates regulars. Manchester City decided to attack the Clock end in the first half, which normally the visitors at the Emirates attack in their second half. Arsenal attacking the North Bank in the first half does not happen very often therefore seemed strange.

Arsenal players showed a lot of intent in the first half and were at most times winning the 50-50 balls. There was a lot of hard physical challenges made by Manchester City players but the team stayed focused. Danny Welbeck had a glorious opportunity after a wayward David Silva back pass. He reacted to the ball first but his finish had everything right except, the ball hit the post and came back. It happened right in front of us at North Bank and for a moment everyone thought it is going in. My instant thought to that miss was “It will come back to bite us. We need to take these chances in these big games.” In the end, if you look at the whole game you might want to agree or disagree to that reaction.

Manchester City goes one up

Man City took the lead and scored from a devastating counter attack, which was a mixture of luck (ball spun and stayed inside the playing field) and Navas showing his willingness to run for his team’s cause at great pace. He cut the ball in and Sergio Aguero knows well how to finish these types of balls. Arsenal did not learn their lesson from earlier. In first 15 minutes, Man City were in the similar attacking positions and Per Mertesacker cleared the danger. Sergio, at the time, was making a run at the far post. For his goal, he ran a bit more towards the near post and finished brilliantly. It was a goal that was clearly against the run of play.

Arsenal played some really good football in the whole game and just lacked a final ball at times. It was a case of Manchester City having a much organised defensive shape and formation. Arsenal players, at times, found it easy to by-pass city players in the midfield but were unable to go past the defensive solidity marshalled by their captain Kompany at the back.

Arsenal Respond in the second half

In the second half there was a clear physical approach showed by the Gunners. Amazingly the City players were not liking it at all. The first Arsenal goal came as Clichy showed Jack Wilshere the flank, on his weaker right foot, and Wilshere basically said “thank you very much.” With a turn of speed, he left the defender for good and then dinked the England goalkeeper, Joe Hart. Sublime finish by a player who has been under the pump from the pundits, fans and ex-players for last few weeks. Nothing better to answer your critics in a big game and that also by scoring a quality goal with your wrong foot.

Arsenal take the lead

Arsenal’s second goal came from a player who has won the red army hearts already. Jack Wilshere found him with a header but Alexis Sanchez had a bit of work still to do. He was on left side to start with and then cleverly adjusted himself to the flight of the ball coming over his right shoulder. Then came the magic. He hit it first time, side footing the ball in the top corner past the England goalkeeper. Clock end erupted with joy while silencing the away fans. Anyone thinking it was a regular finish, just try that on the football pitch and you will know what skill and quality this goal was. Technical ability at its very best. This is the quality that Arsene Wenger has bought in big bucks.

Man City bounce back

Champions did bounce back in the later stages and as seen already this season, Arsenal conceded another headed goal. This time from a simple set piece. Martin Demichelis was unmarked and his header directed goal wards was parried in the goal, via post, by Szczesny. Keeper could have done better and again the zonal marking showed its flaws when a player gets a clean header in the box unmarked.

As the game reached the last 10-12 minutes Manchester City pressed high up the pitch and were doing a very good job in pinning the gunners deep in their own half. Kolarov and Dzeko, both hit the post in the dying moments of the game and the teams hung on to a draw. There will be disappointment in both camps after the game. Both camps will also realise that it was a good point against their direct rivals.

Set Plays are an issue

Dead ball defending needs to be improved. There are times against sides which are more physical when Arsenal needs to consider a mixture of man marking and couple of players marking space as well. In the attacking play, Arsenal has looked all at sea while taking free kicks in and around the box. There are no variations or any imagination to be seen. Quality of free kicks, direct shots or indirect efforts in the box have been poor. Arsenal will have to improve in this department if they want to keep their ambition of winning trophies this year.

Sanchez playing in his own formation

Sanchez has been hailed as the new messiah for the gunners but he seems to be hell bent on playing in the middle in a formation that looks a clear 4-1-4-1. As per the formation he was a wide player. He played too much in the central areas against Manchester City. Yes, his industry is there to see but he cuts the width that is required to stretch the teams. When width is not coming from him then the full backs have to make more effort to run further forward. Cutting in with the ball is one thing but being in a central position before the ball is played to you is another. One could see from the stands how, at times, Wilshere and Flamini were shouting to get the team back in their formation. Sanchez coming in makes us more like 4-1-3-2 or say flat 4-4-2 and this system has seen its days. Whatever side he was on, left or right, he had the full back under undue pressure. Sanchez also had a poor day passing the ball. On the other hand, if he scores every game like he did today, fans will let him off. If Arsenal wants to play better and make themselves tighter defensively, then players like Sanchez will have to do better than 61% passing success he had in this game. Completing just 28 passes out of 46 attempted does not justify his caliber. (For stats credit

Flamini looked out of position at times but then on a further glance one could see that he is covering the space left by Sanchez, who at times as I have said, failed to give the full back any cover.

Ramsey looked a bit off today and that can be the effect of travel and playing on artificial 3d surface in the international break. One thing that all the players do worry about straight away is the surface and whether its psychological or it actually affects them physically more can always be debated. He has played better and will see better days in future.

A lot of the players in the team are still looking short of full fitness and there is a bit of tiredness evident in the play. As the weeks go by Arsenal will have to build on this unbeaten streak and head towards glory.

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