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18 December 2011
• Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Referee: P. Dowd
• Attendance: 47303
That's a wrap from our LIVE! commentary. Manchester City fans, congratulations on a magnificent attacking performance that was only lacking in a bagful of goals. But Arsenal fans, your side put in a sturdy shift in the noth west - a stark contrast to their showing at Old Trafford at the beginning of the season. Thanks for reading everyone, make sure you come back for the midweek round of Premier League matches!
A last word from Goal.com's reporter at the match, Jonathan Birchall: "The size of the cheer that greeted the full-time whistle speaks volumes for just how nervous the City fans were getting towards the end but Mancini's men have held on and move back to the Premier League summit in time for Christmas - not that Arsenal gifted it to them."
90' + 4'
Manchester City win the Premier League match 1-0 at home to a resilient Arsenal. The Blues go back to top of the league courtesy of a David Silva goal. In all honesty, Roberto Mancini's men were the more dominant side for the majority of the match and should have scored one or two more goals on the day. Arsenal will feel a little unlucky not leave Etihad Stadium with a point but were outclassed overall despite a few quality counter attacks.
90' + 3'
The Gunners continue to press but to no avail. One minute remaining on the clock as Vermaelen finesses a 30-yard shot just wide of Joe Hart's right upright.
Vermaelen nearly makes Arsenal fans' Christmas wishes come true with a header from a free-kick but the City goalkeeper - who has performed admirably all match, saves the high header excellently.
Is it just me or has Arshavin looked truly rubbish this season whenever he has pulled on an Arsenal shirt? The Russian drags his shot in front of goal wide of Hart's right post. Arsenal are attacking now though: can they maybe, just maybe, get an equaliser?
This will be the Gunners first loss for Arsenal in the Premier League since their defeat against Tottenham ten games ago.
Nigel De Jong
The game is a lot less chaotic than it was in the aftermath of the only goal of the match so far, but chances are still coming. Richard bombards down the right flank and is put through on goal, sliding a low cross across the face of goal. The ball eventually ends up at Silva's feet at the left-side of the pitch, but his cross back across goal cannot be turned in by Richards at the far post. A full-back's finish, some might say.
Final substitute of the match from Wenger and it is an attacking one: Mertesacker off for Marouane Chamakh.
Aguero forces a save from Szczesny at the Arsenal end after he is put through inside the penalty area on the right-hand side.
10 minutes to play - can Arsenal fashion an equaliser or - for the optimistic Gunners fan - two goals to salvage something from the game?
Shouts of handball against City's Micah Richards from the away fans are proved in replays to be valid. But the referee, who has a clear view of the incident, must have seen it as ball to hand as he does not blow his whistle for an Arsenal penalty.
Jonathan Birchall, Goal.com's man at the Etihad Stadium, reveals: "The nerves are jangling a little here with the home fans desperate for a second goal to wrap it up, while all the eyes of the press box are on the Arsenal bench, where Theo Walcott is thought to be less than happy with being substituted."
City are certainly the more offensive and dominating of the two teams but Arsenal have been counter attacking with prowess and it would be foolish to rule them out of the match just yet.
Yellow Card Mikel Arteta
Arteta booked after a tussle near the halfway line with Yaya Toure. The yellow card is probably more because of his petulant reaction than the foul itself.
Yellow Card Sergio Agüero
Balotelli is taken off by Mancini for James Milner. The Italian does not throw a strop as some might have hoped.
Arshavin's first impact on the match is to put in an absolutely awful cross from the left wing when Van Persie and Ramsey are open by the back post.
Another offside decision and this one's a little more debatable. Walcott sends a cross in from the left corner of the box but Van Persie is deemed marginally offside by the linesman. Walcott is swiftly withdrawn not long after for Andrey Arshavin by manager Arsene Wenger.
Straight away at the other end Zabaleta is not closed down quickly enough and fires against Arsenal's right post.
Gervinho makes some space on the right for the Gunners as Van Persie makes a run in the box, which the Ivorian sees; however, the Netherlands forward sees his low shot just to Joe Hart's left saved by the City keeper and Arsenal remain behind.
It is quite literally attack after attack for City at Etihad Stadium now. Nasri is through and goal and opts to pass instead of shoot - a decision Balotelli had not expected and his ball from the right edge of the six-yard box dribbles wide harmlessly. Chance squandered for the home side to go 2-0 up.
Aguero goes inches away from opening his goalscoring account for the day. His left footed shot is hit very low and very hard wide of Szczesny's right post.
A block prevents Yaya Toure powering a shot home from 25 yards after a deft ball from his left from Balotelli. The Italy international has been impressively unselfish today and City are reaping rewards from his display.
We can hear again from Jonathan Birchall at Etihad Stadium: "And there's that goal I was talking about and the noisy neighbours are finally making a bit of a racket after a strike that will potentially see them move back to the top of the table. "The fans have joined in unison to direct some rather untoward chanting in the direction of ex-Manchester United captain and current TV pundit Gary Neville. Amusing, but not very Christmassy I must say."
The Gunners have the ball buried in the City net but Van Persie is deemed offside and the goal will not count. In all fairness it is superb decision from the linesman, who correctly rules the Dutchman as beyond the last man beyond his delicate chip over the on-rushing Hart.
At the other end Walcott tests Hart by blasting a shot high and goalwards but the shot-stopper palms the testing, high effort over his bar. Good response from Arsenal.
Assist Sergio Agüero
Goal David Silva
Goal to Manchester City! City breakaway through Nasri, who splits the ball down the left to an unmarked Balotelli. The Italian pauses momentarily when confronted on the edge of the box by Koscielny he cuts inside and shoots with his right and to Szczesny's left. The Polish keeper cannot keep hold of the ball and David Silva capitalises and scores the first goal of the game from only a few yards out, much to the home fans' delight. Man City 1-0 Arsenal.
A quick post-half-time word from Jonathan Birchall, our reporter at Eastlands: "We're back underway here in Arctic Manchester but the atmosphere is equally frosty. Could do with a goal pretty sharpish at the Etihad."
Yaya Toure spreads the ball excellently to the left towards Samir Nasri but his cross was over-hit past the far post. Miquel looked nervous, however, and bumbled the ball out for a City corner under no pressure from Blue shirts.
Arsenals's Song goes down from a side-on challenge from Barry, but looks unharmed. Ignasi Miquel has come on early in the second-half for the (presumably) injured Johan Djourou. Koscielny will be shifted to right-back and the young Spanish defender Miquel will play at centre-back.
And the final 45 minutes have kicked off at the Etihad Stadium.
Who do you think have not turned up tonight? Theo Walcott has been worryingly non-existent for Wenger's men, but you would not put it past him to have an impact in the latter 45 minutes. For City I think Aguero must take some of the blame for the Blues not sitting comfortably in the lead. The former Atletico Madrid striker has looked incredibly good on the ball but he has been profligate in front of goal for the home side.
Many figured before the match that City would runaway with the game and credit has to be given to the oft-derided Gunners defence for withstanding heavy pressure at times. On the other hand, Barry and Nasri have put in great performances for Mancini in the first half.
So how do you see this game ending? The game is certainly hanging in the balnce. If City can start to score from their exquisite build-up play then it will be hard to see them coming away from the game without a victory. However, Arsenal are showing their ability on the attack and - although he has not been prominent this afternoon - Van Persie has the potential the win the match for Arsenal as he did in their 5-3 win against Chelsea earlier in the season.
A half-time update from Goal.com's man at the match Jonathan Birchall: "It's been a little quiet at the Etihad so far this afternoon, with the main talking point over whether Alex Song should've been punished for bringing down Richards early on. The referee played the advantage and the Cameroon international was reprieved, but some City fans certainly aren't pleased with Phil Dowd."
45' + 2'
The half-time whistle is blown by the referee and a vibrant first half ends 0-0 at the Etihad Stadium. Both keepers were forced into making super saves to keep the game goalless, while Sergio Aguero will rue missing a couple of golden opportunities for Manchester City. Arsenal will feel pleased will their showing and Gunners manager Arsene Wenger will definitely be the more satisfied of the head coaches in the dressing rooms right now.
45' + 1'
Into injury time and it looks like the scores will stay level after 45 minutes. Gervinho shoots his attempt just inside the box on the left wildly wide of the far post.
Yellow Card Laurent Koscielny
Arsenal with a free-kick on their right flank after Zabaleta comes in from behind Van Persie to bring the Dutchman tumbling to the floor. After the free-kick is cleared by City, Laurent Koscielny effectively rigby tackles Aguero on the halfway line and is promptly yellow carded for his misdemeanour.
Aguero goes close again. This time he does a quick one-two with Silva before sprinting across the rim of the box to the left edge of the goal and powering a shot with his left foot, which Szczesny gets down well to save.
Yellow Card Gareth Barry
A minute or two little happening. City must be careful not to let the game slip out of their reach after a bright start like they did last Monday away to Chelsea. They were far superior to the hosts on the night for the first third of the match but were poor in the second-half, and a result deserved their loss to Andre Villas-Boas' men arguably.
A counter-attack from the Gunners tests the City defence: Van Persie drives towards goal and opts to shoot instead of pass to one of a number of players around him. The left-footed shot deflects into the box and towards Ramsey's feet but he is unable to fashion a shot from the scramble and the City keeper smothers the ball.
Ball in by Ramsey with his left foot is perfectly placed to land on Van Persie's head but the striker cannot direct his attempt on target and it falls wide of Hart's right post.
Arsenal somehow come away unscathed after defending deep at City look feverishly for a way through their ranks. The squad certainly look better drilled at defending than they were for their 8-2 hammering at Old Trafford less than three months ago.
Another brief update from Goal.com's reporter at Eastlands, Jonathan Birchall: "Roberto Mancini is exerting all the nervous energy and angry shouting of a man who has seen his side slip off the top of the table. The Italian, so collected in recent weeks, is near apoplectic this afternoon. Jittery indeed."
City finally grapple back hold of the ball and have their turn at attacking. The move ends with a shot from Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure whose shot is blocked and drops out for a corner.
The lobbed free-kick from Van Persie is headed out and clear by club captain Vincent Kompany.
Arsenal are temporarily camped in City's half with some excellent passing play. Djourou gives away possession needlessly on the right but once the ball is won back it is more of the same from the visitors. Nasri brings down Gervinho on the right-hand edge of the penalty area, 30 yards away from goal.
First-class save from Wojcech Szczesny. A cross from right-back Micah Richards loops off Vermaelen's head and into the feet of Balotelli but the forward is thwarted by the Gunners goalkeeper who pushes the ball away and out of danger.
The game is certainly more even as we get further into the game. Gervinho is testing the City full-bakcs are one end while at the other Balotelli is constantly finding himself space along the right-hand flank.
Gervinho gets through on goal but his shot is hit straight at Joe Hart, who palms it wide for a corner to Arsenal. The England number one does well to tip the shot from Ramsey after Van Persie’s corner wide of his left post too.
Arsenal have managed to stifle to barrage of City attacks and their midfield trio of Arteta, Song and Ramsey are trying to pass the ball to feet and spread the play. No actual attacks from the visitors have been forthcoming, however, and Wenger will want more forays forward to safeguard against the high possibility of City taking the lead here.
Jonathan Birchall updates us: "Roberto Mancini cut a disconsolate figue in the City dugout shortly after Sergio Aguero's wasteful miss inside the area just then, while Arsene Wenger has been up and down like a yo-yo in the technical area, no doubt concerned by the home side's dominance in possession thus far."
City could so easily be ahead after that five minutes of attack after attack. Aguero might end up regretting that miss in front of goal.
Yellow Card Alex Song
Song booked for a poor tackle on Aguero after the referee gives the home team advantage as they continue to attack the Gunners defence. Moments later, Nasri cuts in from the left and slots in Silva whose shot is straight at Szczesny who holds it well. City dominating now.
What a chance, and what a miss from Aguero. City manager Mancini looks on disappointed at the sidelines as his Argentinian striker fires over with his right foot just inside the box after a superb ball from the left by Gaerth Barry.
The crowd remain in excellent voice but there has still been no shots from either side. City have only conceded four goals at home this season in the Premier League so this might not be the goal-fest neutrals want to see.
Arteta hacks down Balotelli carelessly after a good little run from Nasri past Song, before laying off the Italy international.. Free-kick forty yards out which is collected by Wojcech Szczesny and hoofed clear out of play with haste.
Sergio Aguero dinks through the Arsenal midfield before clattering the ball to David Silva on his right. The Spaniard glides effortlessly square to the left but his through ball to Barry down the left of the box does not come off.
Quick word from Goal.com's reporter at the stadium, Jonathan Birchall: "The match is under way. Arsenal have the early possession but no early attacks to speak of."
The match is under way. Arsenal have the early possession but no early attacks to speak of.
I briefly mentioned Mario Balotelli before, and I thought it was worth mentioning his name again. Did anyone else hear the rumour all over Twitter last night that the Italian striker was out in Manchester dressed as Santa, driving around handing money to people? Love or hate the forward, you cannot deny he is one hell of a character. He scored the only City goal in their last game after just two minutes, can he impact so immediately once more?
Another update from the Etihad Stadium from our man Jonathan Birchall: "Samir Nasri receives a torrent of abuse from the Arsenal fans after his name is announced as part of the City starting line-up. It will be the Frenchman's second game against his former club and his first at the Etihad since his summer move up north alongside Gael Clichy. The boo-boys are out in force - but it is panto season after all."
Less than 10 minutes until kick-off boys and girls. How do you see the result looking at the end of the tie? Will the scoreline be as warped as the United-Arsenal match was less than three months ago? Or are we looking at a game that we pan out in a tenser fashion between these two top teams?
Defeat for either side will be considered a huge blow. Arsenal have built up quite a head of steam since their form recovered from a woeful start to their 2011-12 campaign. Being beaten by the hosts could see them drop a place to sixth though. Roberto Mancini had successfully navigated his team to the top of the league, but their loss at Stamford Bridge cost them their leading position – temporarily, at least. A draw will be sufficient to propel them back to first but the home fans at Etihad Stadium will doubtlessly be urging their team to push for all three points.
Nasri, Van Persie & Mario Balotelli are all among the most hyped players leading up to this Premier League match, but will it in fact be a peripheral figure who steals the limelight? Wales captain Aaron Ramsey has been a rock for the north London club’s midfield in Jack Wilshere’s absence but rarely gets the attention he deserves. For the Blues, Yaya Toure has been a massive influence and his manager name checked him recently as a player who will be sorely missed when the African Cup of Nations gets underway in January.
As mentioned earlier, Samir Nasri starts on the bench in the clash with his former club. The France international left for the Citizens in the summer for an estimated £25 million when City beat rivals Manchester United to the midfielder’s signature. Unlike at Arsenal where he was a prominent figure, the former Marseille man has struggled to nail down a permanent place at his new club but has been given the opportunity to shine against his ex-teammates by Mancini.
Pundits this week have conjectured that the Blues will hit a rough patch of form in the aftermath of their defeat against Andre Villas-Boas’ side; Mancini will be adamant to prove them wrong on home turf and keep the ground full of festive cheer as Christmas approaches. Three points today will mean they return to the top of the table after being overtaken by Manchester United, who beat QPR 2-0 away from home in an earlier kick-off.
Any hope of conquering this free-scoring City side will surely rest on the shoulders of Dutch forward Robin van Persie. Superlatives have been fired left, right and centre to describe the striker’s current form, but his 19 goals this season in all competitions speaks for itself. He currently has 33 Premier League goals this calendar year – one less than the record set by Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, and just three less than Alan Shearer’s all-time record. City centre-backs Vincent Kompany and Kolo Toure will need to be at their best to keep the Netherlands international out of the headlines.
The last time Wenger’s squad travelled to Manchester they were hammered 8-2 at Old Trafford when Manchester United tore their team to pieces back in August. However, since then the French coach has rejuvenated his side and there was optimism among players and coaches that they could pull off a surprise victory in the north west today.
Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has opted to keep faith in the side which beat Everton 1-0 last weekend at the Emirates Stadium. The talismanic Robin van Persie will lead the strike force with Theo Walcott and Gervinho flanking him on the wings. Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Song will continue their fruitful midfield partnership, while in defence Thomas Vermaelen remains at left-back in the injury-induced absence of Andre Santos and Kieran Gibbs.
After losing 2-1 to Chelsea in their last Premier League fixture, City boss Roberto Mancini has made three changes to his starting line-up. Joleon Lescott, who conceded a penalty late on last Monday in their defeat, is dropped to the bench with Kolo Toure handed a start at centre-back. Also in defence, Micah Richards is handed back his place at right-back after a short spell out with injury at the expense of the suspended Gael Clichy, with Pablo Zabaleta shifted to left-back. Former Arsenal attacker Samir Nasri is given the nod in midfield ahead of James Milner.
Arsenal: Szczesny; Djourou, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen; Ramsey, Song, Arteta; Walcott, Van Persie, Gervinho. Subs: Almunia, Miquel, Frimpong, Rosicky, Benayoun, Arshavin, Chamakh.
Manchester City: Hart; Richards, Toure, Kompany, Zabaleta; Nasri, Y Toure, Barry; Silva, Balotelli, Aguero. Subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Savic, Milner, De Jong, A. Johnson, Dzeko.
The starting line-ups are coming right up folks, but first here is a quick word from Goal.com’s reporter at Eastlands today, Jonathan Birchall: “Hello and good afternoon from the Etihad Stadium where Manchester City are set to face Arsenal. The wintry weather is well and truly upon us with icy conditions in north-west and today’s hosts will be hoping not to slip up themselves after falling behind their neighbours in the league earlier this afternoon, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s champions winning 2-0 at Loftus Road. “City will be desperate to bounce back from their 2-1 defeat to Chelsea six days ago, and will be wary of an Arsenal outfit who have won seven of their last eight games in the Premier League. Today’s clash has the potential to be a huge test for Roberto Mancini’s side.”
Hello, good afternoon, and welcome to Goal.com’s LIVE! commentary of Manchester City against Arsenal. The game kicks off at 16:10 GMT (aka a little over half an hour) and I – Miles Chambers – will be bringing you all the important moments of the match. The starting line-ups are coming right up folks.
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