An Arsenal victory pile for Laurent Koscielny and his equalizer late in the match
Don’t be fooled. From the look of the photo in this post, you’d think Arsenal had just won the league title. They didn’t… not yet anyways. But this IS the way Arsenal reacted to an equalizer that denied Manchester City two points at Etihad Stadium Sunday.
Ending in a draw with Citay (as they are sometimes referred to) was almost as good as a win for Arsenal. Along with that point that put them in fifth place, the Gunners made an equally important point by demonstrating that they can hold their own against a top team.
Prior to this match, Arsenal hadn’t faced as formidable a foe as Manchester City. This was the first real test of the season for the North London side. Fans like myself were anxiously looking to see how the players performed both offensively and defensively against the likes of Manchester City superstars. We were pleasantly relieved at the results.
The offensive formation was a surprise. Wenger changed up what had been working so well in the last few matches by placing Gervinho out front and center with Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey right behind him. Podolski, who squandered a great opportunity by striking a ball well over the bar, continued to look promising.
Santi Cazorla is my new favorite player (since Alex Song left for Barcelona, I have finally found his worthwhile replacement) and I predict Cazorla will be key to this season’s success. In this match, I saw him make two mistakes — the only ones I have seen him make so far this season. Otherwise, a perfect game including a thunderous long-distance strike that challenged Joe Hart in the second half.
Ramsey was the surprise addition to the squad. I had lost confidence in the Welshman from last season, but he stepped up his game today and made some great contributions. Had it not been for a bad touch from Gervinho, Ramsey’s through-ball might have put the visitors ahead by the middle of the first half.
I’m not sure what to say about Gervinho except I will refrain from saying anything in hopes that the Ivorian had an off day and things will look up in the games ahead.
Arsenal’s offensive players matched up well with Manchester City’s usual back four, made up of former Gunner Gael Clichy, Joleon Lescott, Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta. This usually fearsome group of mercenaries seemed sluggish and lumbered around most of the match. Of the four, Joleon Lescott made the greatest contribution for both teams. His header at the end of the first half deflated some of the dominance Arsenal had established, but then he failed to clear a corner in the 82nd minute. That costly error allowed Laurent Koscielny to level the game with a close range shot that sent electricity through ever Gunner, player and fan. See photo again for proof.
Arsenal’s defense has been a bone of contention for a number of seasons but the pressure from the likes of Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure tested, but did not break down, Arsene Wenger’s back four.
Carl Jenkinson, looking far more seasoned than his young age reveals, was particularly strong down the right. And praised for reading the game well, Per Mertesacker denied City possession time and again from center-half. Additional and unselfish support from Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby also point to Steve Bould and his efforts to strengthen the squad defensively.
Take a look at that photo one more time. Look at the genuine and raw emotions on their faces – ALL of their faces. (Ok, Koscielny might have been exhibiting some pain at that point, but I bet it hurt so good.) Seriously though, that is the photo of a cohesive team. It’s a picture of a hard-working squad passionate about their game. That is a photo of a doggedly determined team destined for greatness.
It is still early in the season, but both Manchester City and Arsenal remain undefeated. Arsenal ended the week in fifth place while City settled into seventh on goal differential. City will need to pick up their game if they are to retain their title, while on this evidence, Arsenal could be well-placed to challenge them.