When Manchester City began to take control of the possession early in the second half up a goal, it wasn’t looking good for Arsenal. But our boys fought brilliantly to get back into the match, and scored two sensational goals. However, a goal from City tied it late, and they nearly won it three times in the final minutes. It all amounted to a 2-2 draw, but it was a thoroughly entertaining and engrossing match.
After not creating many chances for much of the game, Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sanchez stepped up their already strong play and created two fantastic goals when Arsenal desperately needed it. Wilshere’s goal came arguably against the run of play, as he cleverly chipped Joe Hart. Then he headed toward Sanchez for the second. Sanchez volleyed it brilliantly past Hart. Suddenly Arsenal were ahead against the champions deep in the second half.
City then equalized on a Martin Demichelis header from a corner. It was agonizingly simple for the Argentine, who found some space in front of the zonal marking system. Arsenal worked so hard to get in front, so this was a demoralizing goal to let in. The Gunners must be stronger defensively, as silly goals like that one will cost a lot of points over the course of a season. That City had three more chances to win the game – hitting each post and having a goal disallowed for offside – was hardly a surprise. After all that, you might want to check the hearts of all Arsenal matches. That was scary.
Arsenal were brilliant for much of the first half. Everyone looked lively. Alexis Sanchez was showing off his skill, and they were picking out each other’s runs. The only thing lacking was the definitive final ball. Danny Welbeck was getting himself in great positions, and aptly run onto a loose back pass. It looked for all the world that the new arrival had chipped Arsenal into the lead, but alas, the ball rebounded off the post. Painfully unlucky.
The goal from Sergio Agüero on the counter attack was inevitable. Arsenal were committing too many men forward, and City had to make one pass to get in 70 yards of space. Jesus Navas and Agüero will pick apart a poorly organized defense on the counter any day of the week. Flamini needed to do better with his tackle, and where was Nacho Monreal? Arsenal can’t be giving up goals on the counter at home if they want to be challenging for the title.
There are two major difference between Manchester City and Arsenal right now. The first is the defensive midfield position. When Arsenal commit men forward, Mathieu Flamini can’t control counter attacks. And suddenly City are in on goal. Fernandinho is always there for City, never afraid to tackle or give a foul. He covers the entire field, where Flamini simply can’t.
The other major difference is the ruthlessness to the attack. Arsenal were terrific going forward in the first half, but they weren’t creating many real chances. But when City attacked, they were getting shots off, and finding space in the box. Some of that is down to poor defensive marking from the Gunners, but it also highlights that City play a more direct style in the final third. Sometimes, Arsenal could do with a shot on goal.
I hate when people say Arsenal are guilty of trying to score the perfect goal. The problem isn’t that. Rather, it’s simply a hesitation to pull the trigger. They have been trained by Arsene Wenger to be unselfish, and to look to pass first. That manifests itself in hesitancy around goal. Even Alexis Sanchez was guilty of this early in the second half. Hopefully this is something that will change this year.
I guess Arsenal will be happy with the draw, but it could have been a big win. The final minutes showed how disorganized Arsenal’s defense is right now, and that needs to be rectified. But there were long periods of time today when Arsenal were brilliant.
Player Ratings (1-10)
Danny Welbeck – 7/10 – Welbeck came extraordinarily close to scoring the dream debut goal, but overall, he did very well in his first Arsenal appearance. His work rate stood out today, and he was all over the place in the final third, mixing things up well. He looks to be an immediate fit.
Alexis Sanchez – 8.5/10 – Sanchez was by far the best Arsenal player today, and he scored a magnificent goal on the volley to put Arsenal in the lead. He was incredibly lively on the ball, and made a lot of fantastic funs. His combination of skill and power on the ball was really impressive today. He also is willing to track back, which I appreciate. My only criticism is that his set pieces weren’t very good. But on the whole, Sanchez was superb.
Aaron Ramsey – 7/10 – Ramsey was a little quiet again, but he made the layoff to Jack Wilshere for the tying goal. He had his moments, and picked out a couple of passes in the final third, but he isn’t making those same driving runs into the box that he was making last year. I would like to see Ramsey moved deeper, restoring him to the role he player a year ago. As a number 10, I’m not sold.
Mesut Özil – 6/10 – The commentators harped on Özil’s poor play today, but I actually thought he was involved in a lot of Arsenal’s best moves. He wasn’t particularly good today by any means, but everybody needs to get off the “let’s pick on Özil” train. He definitely looked shy on the ball in the second half, but I thought much of the criticism today was overblown. Needless to say, he needs a goal to quiet the mobs.
Jack Wilshere – 8.5/10 – Wilshere scored a stunning goal to tie the game, brilliantly chipping Joe Hart after a couple of pristine touches next to goal. It was a goal worthy of the occasion. And his header towards Sanchez for the assist was timely. It was telling that Wilshere was involved on both goals, as he was particularly lively in the second half. His tackling was good as well.
Mathieu Flamini – 5.5/10 – Flamini was caught on his front foot too many times today. He needed to stay back to halt all counters and he didn’t do that. He might have been unlucky that his tackle deflected to Jesus Navas for the first goal, but the simple fact is that Flamini didn’t do his job. He did very little to halt City’s attack all day.
Nacho Monreal – 7/10 – Monreal was nowhere to be seen on the City goal, but for the majority of the match, he was solid on the left. He was stronger in the air than he normally is, and bombed down the left on a few occasions. I was impressed by Monreal today.
Laurent Koscielny – 6.5/10 – Koscielny had an up and down day, making a couple of key tackles and clearances up the field, but also falling asleep once or twice. He and Mertesacker haven’t looked as strong a pairing this year, and that is a bit worrying.
Per Mertesacker – 5.5/10 – Mertesacker’s lack of pace was evident today, as City badly exposed him. He lost his men in the box, and wasn’t able to stay with the pacey forwards. He had no chance with Edin Dzeko in stoppage time, and was fortunate a few more times too. He needs to be better.
Mathieu Debuchy – 6.5/10 – Debuchy was good on the right today. He didn’t get forward too often, but he did his job defensively. I liked seeing the fight he showed when he tackled James Milner after Milner had taken him out a minute before. The injury Debuchy suffered at the end of the match looks to be significant, which would be a real shame.
Wojciech Szczesny – 7.5/10 – Szczesny made a couple of key saves that kept Arsenal in the match when they were down a goal. He also made a save in stoppage time that saved Arsenal from an embarrassing defeat. He stepped up today when he needed to. He didn’t have much of a chance on the two goals.
Calum Chambers (79th) – 6/10 – The Arsenal player of the month for August had one timely header, but he didn’t get to Alexandr Kolarov in time a few minutes later, and Kolarov hit the post. From the looks of the Debuchy injury, Chambers will be the right back for the foreseeable future.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (88th) – N/A – The late substitute made no impact.
Mikel Arteta (95th) – N/A – Good to see him step on the step. Literally didn’t see anything else.