Written by Total Arsenal
Arsenal 0 – 1 Manchester City: Match Review
During the day there was a lot of discussion whether we should take this game seriously or not. Most bloggers felt we should not risk any injuries to our key players and it would not be a disaster if we would be eliminated tonight. After all, it would mean fewer games to play in the crucial and demanding winter months. However, Arsene does not like losing, especially not in front of the home support. The team he put out tonight was a mixture of young talent and experience, but only one of them has been a regular in our first eleven this season: the wonderful Koscielny. Manchester City put out a strong team with the likes of Nasri, Johnson and Dzeko upfront, a decent enough back four and De Jong and Hargreaves in midfield to add experience and steel to their team. After 30 minutes, Kolarov was substituted for Aguero and it became clear that Mancini was very keen to win this match.
Although Arsene had added some experience to the team in all areas, I felt that our team was not strong enough to deal with Citeh’s embarrassment of riches: after all, their team on the pitch had been purchased for the princely sum of £119m, and that is excluding Aguero’s little price tag! Luckily, I was wrong as Arsene once again showed what Wengerball really means, and it almost was enough to reach the semi-finals of this relatively unimportant cup competition.
Both teams showed great industry from the start, as they were trying to establish a coherent shape to their play and get a passing game going. The biggest battle was in midfield, but it was our boys: Coquelin and Frimpong, aided by the industrious Benayoun and the supertalented AOC, who took more and more control over that crucial area. In the 11th minute, just after Johnson saw a great effort from distance almost dip into the top-corner, Arsenal had their best chance of the match to score a goal. Chamakh, typically playing with his back towards the opposition’s goal, shields off Citeh’s two central defenders and passes the ball perfectly sideways to Coquelin – the latter does not hesitate and puts a peach of cross in towards Park who, although hindered by a defender, makes decent enough contact to hit the target and score. It was not to be as the beautifully named Pantilimon is able to save the effort with a strong hand. Such a shame, as a goal would undoubtedly have given this unfamiliar team a real boost of confidence and purpose. After that, the game continues as before with a lot of endeavour on both sides and a hungrier Arsenal, but very few changes. Out of nothing, the Ox produces a fantastic shot from distance – pretty similar to the one Johnson produced earlier – that looks bound for the top-corner, but the giant Pantilimon makes a great flying stop to deny him. Both Chamakh and Park are trying hard to get involved but are missing sharpness, cutting edge and football intelligence to find the right runs. It is fair to say though that many chances were neither carved out for them on the night.
The second half continues down the same lines as the first. There are very few clear-cut changes, but once again Oxlade-Chamberlain keeps driving our attack by trying to create something – unfortunately without success. The pivotal moment of the game comes seven minutes before the end of the game. In the 83rd minute, Djourou collects the ball from his own box and drives forward, and combining with Gervinho they almost find Benayoun in the box, but the MC defence is there just in time to put the ball out for a corner. The subsequent corner-kick by Oxlade-Chamberlain, once again, does not beat the first man and Citeh are able to break. Dzeko, who had a brilliant game last night, uses his strength and speed to get past a few players and plays the ball to Johnson, who had made a clever run away from Frimpong. Johnson combines a fine first touch with spinning cleverly just outside the box to get the ball to Aguero with the outside of his foot who, from that distance, leaves the keeper with no chance. All night Citeh managed only one shot on target – compared to five by Arsenal – but unfortunately they make that one count. Arsenal keep attacking after that but to no avail.
A Few Conclusions
We missed real cutting edge last night, and that was the only difference with Citeh (although our defence did a great job in keeping them from scoring). Unless Joel Campbell is to join us soon from Lorient, Arsenal really need to do some business in January to fill this obvious gap. Park needs more time, although I cannot see him making it at our club: it is just a gut-feeling but something is missing. Chamakh, for me, tried hard but it was not to be. Just like Arshavin, he seems to have reached such a low in confidence that nothing seems to go for him anymore. It is time to move on for both Chamakh and Arshavin, and buy one or two new wingers/strikers of decent quality.
The real positives have been the performances of the Ox, Frimpong, Coquelin and all of our back-four players. Coquelin reminds me of Gilberto. Such a graceful player with real power and determination, and he just did not show any fear or too much humility on the night: a super prospect. Frimpong is just steel and enthusiasm combined: another great prospect. The Ox was simply phenomenal on the night and that at 18 years of age! What a joy to watch, and tonight he proved for me that he can play in the first team from now onwards. The same goes for Coquelin, and that is the real gain of last night’s match.
We narrowly lost this battle, but we made progress in the war with the club of bottomless pockets and weightless morals: Citeh. Our cheap and cheerful team displayed so much quality on the night, and the potential of our second string team is simply enormous. The margin between them and us was very small: in fact, if Arsenal would have played their first-team strike-force, just like MC did last night, we would have won this game with ease. But Wenger has bigger fish to fry with Arsenal and decided to rather take the risk of losing gallantly on the night (words borrowed from Rasp), than the risk of potential injuries to our first eleven players.
Despite an eye-watering investment of £800m in the last few years, MC are no better than Arsene’s sustainable Wengerball, and I am now more than ever confident that Arsenal will show who is boss in a few weeks time at the Citeh of Oil stadium.
Back-Four: 7.5, Koscielny 8: all had a good game and worked well together to my surprise. Miquel had a nervy start but really improved after that.
Benayoun: 6.5: had some good spells, but was not consistent/dominant enough.
Coquelin: 8: what a prospect: an absolute joy to watch.
Frimpong: 7.5: another great prospect – has improved a lot since the start of the season.
Park and Chamakh: 6: tried hard enough, but just not enough quality/end product.
The Ox: 8.5: he drove our attack last night. Fearless and never gave up: top-quality performance. Man Of The Match.