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Positives Taken from Arsenal’s Defeat Against Manchester City

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As a thoroughbred Arsenal fan, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly times at the club but the game against Manchester City was a reminder that a lot of work has to be done if Arsene Wenger’s men are going to achieve success come May.

Despite the rather embarrassing and disappointing defeat, there were a few positives taken from the game.

Arsenal is Still on Top of the Premier League

Arsenal are at the top because they deserve to be there. The Gunners began the campaign with a stinging home defeat to Aston Villa but they responded with a plethora of successive victories before dropping points against a tough West Brom side. The Gunners picked up another winning run culminated with clean sheets but a Robin van Persie strike at Old Trafford was enough to put a dent in their impregnable record.

The Gunners made the Manchester United defeat look like a blip as they went back to winning ways with victories over Southampton, Hull and Cardiff before sharing the spoils with a resurgent Everton side. In a weekend where Chelsea and Liverpool gained maximum points, they’re still trailing behind the Gunners despite their heavy defeat to the Manchester City.

It’s Arsenal’s hardwork that has seen them lead the chasing pack and despite the defeat this weekend, the Gunners are still on top of the Premier League.

The Team’s Attitude of Never Giving Up 

Laurent Koscielny was caught ball watching as Sergio Aguero crept away to fire in a fantastic opening strike. Theo Walcott responded with an equalizer but the Gunners were the masters of their own destruction as more individual errors led to two Manchester City goals to make it 3-1.

Instead of sulking and resigning themselves to a ‘routine defeat’, the Gunners launched waves and waves of attacking football that saw Olivier Giroud miss two great chances before Walcott stepped up the plate with a finish Thierry Henry would have been proud of.

Nacho Monreal’s disastrous showing on the left was on display as David Silva’s goal took the wind off Arsenal’s sails and Fernandinho’s second strike put the game beyond doubt but Walcott continued to push hard causing Costel Pantilimon to make some smart saves to deny him a hat-trick. Right at the death, Bacary Sagna lofted a cross that was headed home by Per Mertesacker to give the Gunners a consolation goal, but Yaya Toure’s penalty was the final nail in Arsenal’s coffin.

Despite the resounding defeat, the Gunners pushed themselves to the limit and their never-say-die attitude saw them score three goals at the Etihad, a ground where the hosts had conceded just two goals prior to Arsenal’s visit.

Theo Walcott’s Breathtaking Performance

It took him a while to get off the mark this season but Theo Walcott’s technically adept finish against Olympique Marseille gave the fans a glimpse of what he’s made of but at the start of the game against Stoke, Walcott suffered an abdominal injury and it was revealed that he needed surgery to mitigate the issue.

In his absence, Serge Gnabry had a brief stint in the games against Stoke, Swansea and Crystal Palace but Arsene Wenger also handed starts to Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere on the right flank. Like Walcott, Gnabry offered some width and directness on the right, but attacking midfielders like Ramsey and Wilshere preferred to cut in, offering a different dimension to Arsenal’s attack.

After three months out, Walcott made his first start against Manchester City and he was the shining light in a relatively dark day for his team. With the 30 touches Walcott had in the game, he made 11 passes with a 91% accuracy and took five shots, four of which hit the target and two that hit the back of the net.

Arsenal's Theo Walcott shoots and scores his 2nd goal during their English Premier League soccer match against Manchester City at the Etihad stadium in Manchester

He also attempted six crosses with only two reaching its intended target and he had two offsides that were wrongly called by the officials that were very poor all game long. Pablo Zabaleta used his hand to block Walcott’s shot but the ref gave a deaf ear to Arsenal’s appeals for a penalty.

In what was a very disappointing game for Arsenal, Walcott’s performance stood out by a far mile and he proved how indispensable he is to his team.

Notwithstanding, the Gunners have to take some time out, watch the videos of this game and learn from the mistakes made in the game before hosting Chelsea, a team which the Gunners have an appalling record against.

At least, they have an entire week to right all the wrongs.

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Sayonara.

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Manchester City 6 Arsenal 3: Post-Match Thoughts and Player Ratings

Game, set and match: The scoreboard shows the emphatic nature of City's victory

Despite coming into the Etihad with arguably the best defensive record in the Premier League, Arsenal were bamboozled with a superior wave of attacking football that saw them concede a whooping six goals. Arsene Wenger made some changes from the side that performed so poorly against Napoli with Bacary Sagna, Nacho Monreal, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott returning to the side.

In the wake of the Gunners debacle against Manchester City, listed below are Gooner Daily’s ratings for Arsenal’s disappointing lot;

Wojciech Szczesny: Some would say that he was blameless for the hatful of goals he conceded but receiving six goals is a testament of how poorly Arsenal’s defending fared as he wasn’t offered any protection from his rearguard. 5/10

Bacary Sagna: The French defender did well to pass his fitness test to play the game but besides his assist for Per Mertesacker, Sagna had a bad day in the office like his fellow Arsenal defenders. 5/10

Nacho Monreal: His performance reminded me of Armand Troare’s appalling outing in the 8-2 humiliating loss to Manchester United. This was his worst performance in Arsenal colors and probably his worst in his fledgling football career. He proved why he and Kieran Gibbs are classes apart. 2/10

Laurent Koscielny: Kos the Boss made a vital interception with his head early in the game but he lost out to Alvaro Negredo in the build up to the second goal Arsenal conceded. He also suffered a knee injury that required him to be stretched off the pitch. 5/10

Per Mertesacker: The BFG has had some dominant performances in the past and his outing in the Etihad last season was awesome as he made a host of tackles, clearances and merteceptions. This time out, Mertesacker had a torrid time dealing with the pace of the Man City attack and seeing him sent to the cleaners for Fernandinho’s second goal was a damn horrifying sight. 5/10

Mathieu Flamini: The Flamster was one of Arsenal’s finer performers in the recent debacle away to Napoli but he was outclassed, outgunned and outnumbered in midfield as the imperial Yaya Toure stamped his influence on the game. 5/10

Aaron Ramsey: His attacking prowess was on show as he did well to create an assist for Walcott but Ramsey was a peripheral figure in the game and he failed to protect his back four alongside Flamini. 6/10

Mesut Ozil: Arsenal’s big-money signing was a disgruntled and lost figure on the pitch but he still managed to get an assist in the game. His aberration of a pass to Flamini played a role in Man City’s third goal. 5/10

German bust up: Per Mertesacker has a world with Mesut Ozil as they make their way off the pitch

Jack Wilshere: Arsenal’s poster boy was rested against Napoli for this clash and as expected, he played out of position, a familiar sight this season. Wilshere put up a poor performance and his ‘gesture’ to the home crowd at the end of the match could get him into hot soup. 4/10

Theo Walcott: According to Arseblog News, Walcott had 30 touches, 11 passes, two successful crosses and four shots on target with a 50% shooting accuracy, as he scored two well-taken goals. Good to have him back!! 8/10

Level: Theo Walcott curls a shot into the bottom corner to equalise for Arsenal

Olivier Giroud: Strikers are judged on goals and Giroud has been found wanting yet again. He was an isolated figure up front but his teammates still managed to try their best to fashion chances for him but as expected, he missed his chances and looked to the sky in anguish. I can forgive him for that header that glanced wide but launching Wilshere’s cross into orbit really exasperated me. 4/10

Thomas Vermaelen: Koscielny’s injury handed the Verminator another chance to stake a claim for a first-team berth but his arrival coincided with four extra goals and he didn’t work well with the BFG, that had probably become used to play alongside Koscielny. 5/10

Nicklas Bendtner: The self-acclaimed World Best striker showcased his dominant aerial ability with a goal with was adjudged to have been offside and he created a chance for Walcott that was saved by Costel Pantillimon. 6/10

Serge Gnabry: I was quite puzzled with his introduction as the manager had the likes of Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky to summon but the young German’s rustiness was on show and he was culpable for losing the ball that led to the penalty. 5/10

Do you agree or disagree with Gooner Daily’s post match thoughts and match ratings?

Feel free to share them with your comments below.

Sayonara.

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Manchester City Preview: A Marker for the Season Ahead

Another target missed

This was certainly not the summer that Arsenal fans had anticipated.

It began with doubts over the futures of club captain, Thomas Vermaelen, and a Bacary Sagna that was linked heavily with moves to France but they pledged their allegiance to the Gunners which was received graciously by the fans. Then there was the curious case of the deadwoods and Arsenal took a very, I repeat, very ruthless approach on them, flushing them out like shit in a toilet.

With Arsenal clearly having some loopholes in several position that needed to be addressed the media vultures did their own bit to link Arsenal with various players in different positions.

Queens Park Rangers goalie, Julio Cesar, had a great Confederations Cup tournament but Arsene Wenger folded his arms as the Brazilian moved to Fiorentina which clearly shows that he’s placing his fate in his Polish lot. Swansea’s Ashley Williams was linked all summer but Wenger mitigated the need for any potential defensive signing when he deployed Sagna as a make-shift center back in preseason and to be fair, the Bac Man has done a sturdy job there.

In midfield, the Gunners made a bid for Bayer Leverkusen’s Lars Bender that was rejected and there was a period when there was so much buzz surrounding Marouane Fellaini’s release clause but the Arsenal hierarchy has taken the silent approach, which ultimately means that Arsene Wenger wants to build on the Aaron Ramsey – Mikel Arteta double pivote partnership that worked wonders in the tail end of last season.

In attack, Arsenal has been on the spotlight in their pursuit of Liverpool’s star forward, Luis Suarez, but the Gunners had previously missed out on two targets, Stevan Jovetic that joined today’s opponents, Manchester City, and Gonzalo Higuain that joined SSC Napoli. All Arsenal’s eggs are in a Suarez basket and if they miss out on him, the fans will be utterly disappointed to say the least.

With Arsenal just a week away from playing their Premier League curtain raiser against Aston Villa, there are no signings to look forward to and the Champions League draws are out as well with the Gunners gearing up to play Fenerbahce. This game will definitely serve as a marker for the season ahead as the debacle at the Emirates Cup showed that there’s so much work to be done.

To team news, Arsene Wenger has hinted that he intends to field a strong side for today’s game.

I’d expect Wojciech Szczesny to continue in goal after conceding two goals to the scourge of Arsenal, Didier Drogba. With Laurent Koscielny missing out on the defeat against Galatasaray, he would partner Per Mertesacker in defense while the likes of Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna would play at the fullback positions.

In midfield, I’d expect Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey to play behind Jack Wilshere, as the manager has stated that Tomas Rosicky might not be available for today’s game. Finally in attack, I’d expect Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott to provide support to Olivier Giroud.

This was the team that went on that amazing run of eight wins and two draws in the last 10 Premier League games of the season but their cause wasn’t helped when Giroud earned a three-match ban from his red card against Fulham.

With Arsenal’s XI more or less sorted out, we have to hope that the second tier squad from the bench do well when they are summoned. With no imminent signings any time soon, we have to make do with what we have, and we have a friendly against Manchester City in Helsinki.

Let’s hope for a good game of football.

Sayonara.

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Thoughts on Arsenal’s Disappointing Loss to Manchester City

When I think about the inconsistency of Arsenal’s performances this season, I tend to wonder what went really wrong for Arsene Wenger and his team. The club’s fixture list shows that the Gunners are set to play Swansea, Chelsea, Brighton (potentially), Liverpool, Stoke, Sunderland and Bayern Munich in the space of a month.

The writing has been on the wall for quite some time that the core first team players are getting fatigued and an aging Mikel Arteta’s body couldn’t take it any more, as he’s set to be out for three weeks with a calf strain. Prior to the injury that sidelined the Spanish maestro, he had featured in 25 games already and he usually plays for 90 minutes unlike Le Substituteur, Lukas Podolski.

Unfortunately, even the most optimistic Arsenal fans know that Arsene Wenger isn’t going to delve into the market to sign a holding midfielder because of the likes of Francis Coquelin and Abou Diaby.

Wenger has shown the world how he can actually catch a grenade for Diaby. When Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna returned from their lengthy lay-offs, Wenger made them play a host of Under-21 fixtures and closed door friendlies to give them the much-needed match fitness before they returned to the first team.

In Diaby’s case, only an hour of an Under-21 fixture was more than enough for Wenger to hand him a start against the defending champions, Manchester City. Wenger had the option of fielding a fit and eager-to-impress Coquelin but he chose Diaby.

As expected, the boss was quick to defend the Lanky Frenchman while the player remains optimistic after getting an hour under his belt.

With Arteta out of the fray, the Frenchman clearly struggled and gifted the opposition the ball a couple of times. He showed his attacking prowess when he combined superbly with Podolski but his performance plummeted into mediocrity afterwards.

I’m really a fan of Abou Diaby and I acknowledge his massive talent and potential, but he’s not ready for some first-team football right now. He still needs more games to get a hang of things and the Under-21s league offers the right platform.

While it was quite obvious that Laurent Koscielny deserved a red card, the booking brandished to Vincent Kompany was somewhat fictitious and his club, Manchester City, has lodged an appeal to the FA to probably reverse the decision.

Your thoughts?

Kompany was a colossus at the back and he was more than a match for Arsenal’s center forward, Theo Walcott.

There were a lot of lessons learned from the defeat, ranging from Arsene Wenger’s lineup to the performances of some players.

In goal, Wojciech Szczesny did well to save Dzeko’s penalty and he was almost blameless for both goals conceded, but the Pole’s distribution has been a major cause for concern in my honest opinion. When he receives back passes, he usually dallies on the ball before lashing it out wide with the hope that Sagna would nod the ball.

His clearances hardly pass the center circle and in worst cases, he blasts them into Row Z.

In the defense, I feel that the withdrawal of Per Mertesacker was a very wrong call by Wenger. Just like Chelsea, the boss decided to play the time bomb-esque combination of Vermsielny and it was the French defender that self-destructed this time.

The fullbacks worked really hard for their team and I must say that I was impressed with their determination, work rate and balance. Bacary Sagna has urged his teammates to keep their heads up because there’s a crunch clash against Swansea and as he believes, Arsenal isn’t far away from third place.

As stated earlier, drafting Diaby straight into the lineup was regarded as a poor piece of judgment but it was also evident that fatigue is creeping in on Santi Cazorla. It’s high time the Spaniard gets some well-deserved rest, as the Gunners have a very capable Tomas Rosicky in its ranks.

However, Jack Wilshere stood out from the crowd with another 5-star performance worth commending.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, Wilshere was a dominant force in midfield

Jackie Boy was in the thick of things all game long and he got on the end of some rash tackles but he always dusted himself up and continued playing the beautiful game. If Wilshere’s teammates were half as determined as he is, I doubt if that trophy drought cliche would have been sufficing.

You don’t need any soothsayer to tell you how Arteta was sorely missed.

Arteta is a calming presence as a deep-lying midfielder. His soft touch and intelligent decisions with the ball allow Arsenal to keep possession of the ball. He has an amazing pass completion percentage of 92.6% and he has been an inspirational leader in every sense of the word.

Arsenal’s attack was nothing to write home about with Walcott having another woeful outing as Arsenal’s center forward. It took the Englishman 90 minutes to register his first meaningful shot that beat Joe Hart but Joleon Lescott was on hand to make a vital block. Olivier Giroud on the other hand, was all over the place and he failed to capitalize on the golden chance he got from a corner kick.

Speaking of forwards, Arsenal has ruled out a move for David Villa and Wenger has stated that sealing a new contract for Walcott is more of a priority than signing players this month. The boss also went on to say that Podolski can also play as a center forward, so he’s covered in the attacking department. Sad.

The vital clash against Swansea comes up next tomorrow and I hope that the Gunners will pick themselves up and put up a performance that will be good enough to earn a Fourth Round berth against Brighton and Hove Albion.

Sayonara.

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Arsenal 0 Man City 2: Spirited Second Half Display Not Enough

I was bewildered by Podolski’s substitution

Apologies for the blogging inactivity in recent days. I was out on official duty in Warri and it came up a such short notice, that I couldn’t tell my right-hand man, dKingpin, to hold the fort while I was gone. 

Manchester United (thanks to van Persie again) had thrown down the gauntlet for the “noisy neighbors” with a victory over rivals, Liverpool, taking a commanding 10 point lead at the summit of Mount Premier ship. This ultimately meant that Manchester City had to come to the Emirates with the sole aim of getting three points, a ground that they hadn’t recorded a victory since the days Merlin was the Chief Wizard of Camelot.

Starting the game without two influential players in the forms of Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero wasn’t certainly going to help their cause but the Gunners did some chopping up in their end as well, with Thomas Vermaelen returning to the team in Per Mertesacker’s stead while Abou Diaby made his long-awaited return replacing an “unfit” Mikel Arteta.

The visitors began the game on a brighter note with David Silva firing a shot that was blocked superbly by the skipper, Vermaelen. The major controversial moment of the game arrived as early as the sixth minute, when Laurent Koscielny was adjudged to have bundled down Edin Dzeko in the box.The man with the whistle, Mike Dean, pointed to the spot and gave Koscielny his marching orders.

From there henceforth, I’d believed that Arsenal was going to struggle against a team that is renowned for their possession football but there was still the issue of the penalty to be dealt with.

Up stepped Dzeko to take the spot kick but Wojciech Szczesny fixed his eyes firmly on the ball and guessed the right way to make a good save with his legs. The ball crept slowly and hit the post before coming back to Szczesny’s path but the goalie stretched to smother the ball to safety, sending the Emirates into raptures.

Szczesny’s save

Wit the need for a replacement center back a necessity, Arsenal had to sacrifice Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Mertesacker.

Jack Wilshere swung in a corner kick that was headed to safety by the Manchester City defense but it came straight to Walcott’s path and with the kind of form the Englishman is in, you would have expected Joe Hart to be tested to say the least. The forward swiped at the ball and it went wide off the mark.

As the game progressed, Manchester City’s numerical advantage began to capitalize as they ran Arsenal ragged with their passing play. It wasn’t surprising when they took the lead from a ferocious goal from James Milner. The midfielder slammed in a piledriver after receiving a pass from Carlos Tevez with Arsenal’s defense going to sleep. A pretty familiar feeling.

Abou Diaby’s rustiness was showing as the game continued and he handed the opposition a chance to counter with one of his vast array of sloppy passes. David Silva wasted no time in teeing up Tevez but his drive merely stung Szczesny’s palms and the goalie had the shot under control.

Lukas Podolski had a surge on the left hand and executed a neat one-two with Diaby before getting clattered by a wall of Man City bodies. With the likes of Vermaelen and Mertesacker running 90 yards upfield to attack the free kick, Walcott came up with one of his atrocious set pieces and that half chance went with the wind.

Yes, I know that Walcott is an important player and we all want him to sign da fucking ting. But the idea of the forward playing free kicks continuously is a worrying trend for me, bearing in mind that we have better dead ball specialists in the team.

While Arsenal messed up with the half chance they got, Man City went two up courtesy of some good combination play on the right with Kieran Gibbs’ defensive frailties exposed yet again. Pablo Zabaleta and Milner work in tandem before the Englishman drilled his cross into the heart of Arsenal’s defense. As expected, Tevez reacted quicker than Mertesacker with a toe poke that was parried by Szczesny to Dzeko’s path, who slotted the ball into an unguarded net.

Edin Dzeko

Now what the fuck does that mean?

Late on, Podolski fired a shot that was saved by Hart.

Arsenal didn’t let themselves down in the start of the second half and continued to push on for that vital goal that would have offered them a glimmer of hope. They continued to push on with the 4-4-1 line up but the introduction of Olivier Giroud was needed but Wenger removed Podolski for the French striker.

In as much as I wanted Giroud on the pitch, taking out Podolski, one of Arsenal’s bright sparks all game long, was a poor piece of judgment by the boss. With Diaby struggling, he would have been the ideal player to take out, which would have allowed the fatigued Santi Cazorla to drift into the middle alongside Wilshere, with Walcott sent to the right.

Shortly afterwards, the manager brought on Aaron Ramsey for the Frenchman and Arsenal adopted an adventurous 4-3-2 approach with Wenger going for broke. Amazingly, the Gunners were on the ascendancy with Gibbs and Sagna playing as wing backs, offering width to the Gunners attack.

Arsenal almost scored when Cazorla curled Sagna’s cutback over the bar. With Arsenal’s gung ho approach, there were always going to be some loopholes in the back and Man City almost went three up when Tevez was one on one with Szczesny. Many had expected the Argentine Dracula to place the ball past the keeper but he wanted to take the ball round the goalie, forcing the big Pole to make a superb stop.

Arsenal won a free kick on the edge of the area which was taken by Cazorla. From point blank range, an unmarked Giroud nodded the ball over. Replays showed that the ball hit the striker’s shoulder. Shame.

Another moment of controversy arrived when Wilshere was making one of his slalom runs in midfield before he was impeded by Vincent Kompany. Even though the Belgian powerhouse won the ball, his feet were off the ground and the way Wilshere tumbled was quite scary to say the least, leaving Mike Dean no choice but to brandish a red card.

Right at the death, Walcott fired a shot past Hart but the ball was blocked off the line by Kompany’s replacement, Joleon Lescott.

In Wenger’s post-match interview, he spoke about Koscielny’s red card, the performance and he also disclosed the extent of Arteta’s injury.

As it stands, the Gunners are falling further behind the leading pack and are currently six points behind Tottenham that dropped points away to QPR as well. Wednesday’s FA Cup Third Round replay against Swansea is undoubtedly one of the games of the season.

I hoped that we won’t be Michu-fied again.

Sayonara.

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