Arsenal took full advantage of a Boyata’s early red card with a superb 3-0 win away from home at the Eastlands.
There are those who will say playing ten men is easy, I have to disagree. Firstly I think you face a different pressure and more often than not, you find it galvanises the opposition to give 10% extra.
Geoff called for Arsenal to win ugly and for the first 60 minutes, you’d have to say his wish was answered. We were dominated by City 55% – 45%. We made sloppy defensive errors all over the pitch and there was a serious lack of discipline considering the importance of a win against a top 4 team would represent.
As with all good match reports, lets take this from the start.
In the first minute JD allowed Tevez to get inside him on the touchline, the Argentinian slipped a ball across the box, Silva flicked across goal where Fabianski was on hand to make a superb one handed save.
Up the other end, Cesc stamped his mark on the game slipping Arshavin in, wrongly adjudged offside. Moments later he replicated the same pass feeding Chamakh who reached the ball first only to be chopped down when he touched inside towards goal. I’m not sure too many Arsenal fans were confident of a red card after 5 minutes, but Clattenburg was in no doubt… OFF!
It didn’t take Denilson long to pick up a booking with a slightly reckless challenge on Tevez. To my mind he had to make that tackle, the last thing you want is that monster tearing away on a counter attack. Aggressive tackling was happening all over the park. De Jong muched Cesc, Cesc returned the favour, Song clipped a City player… I wasn’t expecting the game to finish with 11 Arsenal players on the pitch. This felt like Arsenal of old!
Sagna whipped in an inch perfect cross only for JD to head over unchallenged for our first chance.
Not long after, Nasri picked up the ball on the edge of the box, he stopped then made up his mind to play a one two with Arshavin, his run wasn’t tracked by Barry, the Frenchman curled it inside Joe Hart’s near post! A stunning goal by one of the Premierships star performers this year.
The first half didn’t all go our way, Johann Djourrou was having a torrid time in defence getting himself turned inside out by Micah Richards and Tevez. Luckily Arshavin was on hand for the Tevez slip to clear up, that boy loves defending…
Song’s passing was incredibly bad and it was saddening to see that his imaginary friend had returned and he keener than ever to get ball time. He picked up a yellow card along with Cesc.
As the half drew to a close, Cesc picked up the ball in the area, Kompany stuck out a leg and down went the Spaniard for the penalty. I don’t know why, but despite Cesc scoring all of his last 5 penalties, I didn’t feel confident. He hit it hard at the perfect height for Joe Hart to smother. It was a great save, not an amazing penalty though.
The second half nearly opened with a goal but neither Cesc or Nasri wanted to pull the trigger.
Down the other end, Silva made the most of a loose ball outwide striking a cross goal shot that Fabianski did superbly well to guide past the post.
What’s that? A goalkeeper making the saves you don’t expect them to make? This was novel!
Adebayor took his opportunity to show us what £24million buys you these days… He managed to find himself offside (shocking) when he shouldn’t and even then he couldn’t find the net with Fabianski denying him with an incredible save.
Arshavin picked out Nasri from outwide with a floated cross field ball, the Frenchman cut it back to Cesc who slipped Chamakh in, City managed to disrupt the ball into the path of Alex Song who toe poked it first time into the far top corner! A ripping strike and a superb finish from the man who is determined not to be remembered as a holding midfielder.
Arsenal had caught wind that City had better possession stats and after the second goal decided to play keep ball for the rest of the game. City began to tire and just as the game was petering out, Nasri did well to keep the ball in play, he laid the ball into the path of Nik Bendtner who announced himself back in the Arsenal team with a cheeky finish past Joe Hart.
The final whistle blew up and Arsenal had taken three deserved points from the most expensively assembled team in the world. We fought hard, found our discipline and took our chances in what could be dubbed the first ugly win of the year. Last time we down to ten men, we were playing a bottom 3 team (Liverpool) and could only manage a draw.
There were some areas for concern. Despite Song scoring a superb goal, his overall game was very slack. He made unnecessary fouls and his passing was a little too Hollywood for me. He needs to rediscover the basics and work his game up from there. Johann Djourou had a shocking game in my opinion. His finishing up top was bad but in defence he was turned inside out on at least 3 occasions. That’s not good enough at this level and on another day we could have been severely punished. Arshavin seemed off the pace for large parts of the game today, but once again, he popped up with an assist… and he even tracked back!
On the plus side I thought Denilson played well. His passing was in the main pretty crisp, he was aggressive and he stood his ground well. Fabianski was excellent, the confidence is slowly ebbing back and he made three game changing saves. Exactly what I expect from an Arsenal goalkeeper. Nasri is growing into the player we’d all hoped and he stamped his mark on another match with a MoM performance. Cesc played to his normal high standards and Nik B scored.
In other more statistical news, we’ve picked up 7 points in away games we didn’t pick any points up in last year and we’re sitting very pretty at the top of the joint second place crowd.
A great day for Arsenal… next up, Newcastle!
Player Ratings (Spreadsheet document):
Fabianski: Made two top class saves when called upon. His kicks are enormous and he marshalled his box without any jitters. 8
Clichy: I don’t have the utmost confidence in him this year, I thought he should have done better on a few occasions and it seems his confidence is so low he doesn’t really involve himself going forward. 6
Sagna: A top game from our right back. He defended well and put in a couple of top class crosses. 7
Squillaci: A quiet game from the Frenchman. Wenger talks him up as a leader, I don’t really see that, I hardly notice him on the pitch and our backline looks as nervous as ever. 6
JD: Not his best game, he’s not very mobile which City took full advantage of today. He was good aerially though and obviously he’s strong. 5
Song: His passing was wild in the first half and his silly tackles don’t show any sign of abating. Another yellow card as well. I’m unsure whether he lacks discipline or he’s being told to get forward, either way, I’m not comfortable with it. I don’t think he’s got the attacking instinct to merit a confusing formation. On the positive side, his game improved drastically in the second half and he banged in a peach of a goal. He made the most passes for us yesterday with 82! 6.5
Cesc: The master puppeteer pulled all the right strings today but missed a penalty. He is so dangerous on and off the ball and he has those tattoo’s which seem to have given him an nasty edge, even in the after match interviews! 8.5
Denilson: Put in a solid performance today with some classy passing, some crunching tackles and some intelligent play. I personally think there is a great footballer waiting to break out. If we can see more performances like yesterdays, I’d happily see him in the side. He made the 2nd most passes yesterday and certainly played a deeper role than Song. 7
Nasri: Really showed up today, wanted the ball, worked his socks off and scored a fantastic goal. He’s blossoming this season and I’m excited to see where we end up with him. He pops up all over the pitch if which makes him a hugely dangerous player. 9
Arshavin: Terrible in the first half, he looks unfit and like he’s clearly struggling with some aspects of his game. However, you pay £15million for a player and they produce for you. He managed another assist today which opened the game up. 15 starts, 5 goals, 7assists. 6.5
Chamakh: We really can’t complain that we’ve missed Robin this season. This guy has all the right ingredients to keep us competitive up top. He’s strong, deceptively fast and he has a knack for getting fouled in all the right places. 7.5
Rosicky: Didn’t put a foot wrong really. Still fit and its nearly November! 6
Bendtner: Glad we have another feather in our attacking cap. One that can come on a slot home with his first chance. That’s 50 career goals at 22. 6.5
Theo: Didn’t really have too much of the ball. 6
Geoff is on a blog holiday this week, so you’ve got my ramblings all week!
See you in the comments and maybe on twitter @Arsenal_Legrove !