Tuesday, October 26, 2010

City 0-3 Arsenal, Significance Uncertain.

Is a win in a big game automatically a big win?

Regardless of circumstances, the result on Sunday must have lifted a great weight off this Arsenal team's shoulders.

It had been almost two years since they defeated a team that could be described as title rivals, so we can hope that this game will go some way to erasing the inferiority complex that seems to infect Arsenal against Chelsea and Manchester United.

At the same time, there is a tendency to judge matches only on their scorelines and this is something that should be avoided. For instance, when Chelsea beat Arsenal recently, the consensus was that the Gunners were outclassed, despite dominating the game and failing to take some early chances. Chelsea scored from two half-chances, and their second goal came late, but they were depicted as comfortable, superior winners. All on the basis of the scoreline.

Arsenal having won 3-0, at Eastlands, suggests a gulf in class, but that is not so.

A fifth minute red card is going to have a huge effect on any game. Even more vitally, Arsenal scored soon afterwards, leaving City with a mountain to climb. But Arsenal gave up chances throughout the game and so any praise for a newfound maturity may be a little unjustified.

When you break it down, the game told us little about Arsenal that we didn't already know. Their defending is rotten. Djourou was roasted by Tevez in the first minute, leading to a chance for Silva. He was embarrassed again by Micah Richards with the score at 1-0. Despite playing against ten men, there was little sign of the game being killed off until Song buried the second goal. City always looked threatening up to that point.

City enjoyed large doses of luck against Blackpool last week and here it ran out. The red card was justified but they were unlucky to lose Tevez early in the second half. Yaya Toure looked formidable first half but he too had to be teken off (his replacement, Wayne Bridge, teed up Song's goal with a lovely lay-off). They had chances but encountered a keeper who is finally finding some form.

There were of course poitives for Arsenal. If the first half was a little hot-headed and nervy, the players did more to defuse the situation after half time. Fabregas, Song and Denilson had all been booked but curbed the instinct to lunge into any more silly tackles.

Nasri was outstanding, took his goal beautifully. He set up Bendtner's too. And he has been steadily improving since the back end of last season, moving out of Fabregas's shadow.

Chamakh has already proved a wonderful signing; it becomes clear why Wenger was happy to wait for him rather than rush into buying another striker last January. While Van Persie may be a more explosive player, Chamakh arguably has a more rounded game, and the Dutchman may find it difficult to regain his place at centre forward when he returns from his latest injury.

The Moroccan's falling over skills were in evidence again- how many red cards and penalties has he forced already this season??

Fabregas, despite the missed penalty, showed few signs of rust despite having just returned from a fairly lengthy lay off. He provided the pass slide rule pass that sent Chamakh through, having already released a wrongly flagged Arshavin moments before. These facts form a riposte to Mancini's assertion that City would have won 11 v 11. Of course we'll never know, but the signs were that both sides would have made chances, and it may well have gone either way. But that game never materialised, and instead, maybe this Arsenal team got exactly what they needed in a big encounter.

The significance can only be decided by what comes next. Remember West Brom, that's all I'll say.

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