If there’s a way to describe the relationship between Arsenal and their fans, it is self-inflicted torture.
Yet another home defeat, though on the face of it, it came against the reigning league champion. Yet the circumstances that surround the defeat are more worrying than the actual defeat.
Arsene Wenger said in midweek that he has a complete squad in his hand. Sadly on the basis of this defeat and what we’ve seen this season, we are nowhere near complete.
The early sending off of Laurent Koscielny turned out to be the telling point of the match but we’ve already conceded ascendency to Manchester City before then. They started out from the blocks quicker and with much more panache than us. Perhaps the earlier Manchester United win has given them a little more encouragement and that little bit more desire than us. Mike Dean’s not my favourite referee but he got the decision spot on (as he did from his view of the Vincent Kompany’s red). Edin Dzeko was clearly wrestled to the ground by Koscielny.
Last season in the crucial Champions League qualifier at Udine, Wojciech Szczesny saved from the spot and that inspired the rest of the team to fight just that little bit harder. Perhaps an even more accurate comparison would be the final in the same competition back in 2006. Jens Lehmann sent off very early on but the team responded by keeping their heads together and doing that 10% more. Yesterday, even a Szczesny penalty save couldn’t inspire his team mates bar one.
The one was the immaculate and mercurial Jack Wilshere.
Lion-heart and huge desire from a player not many would consider the most physically imposing. Yet, he shone like no other. He took up the fight almost single-handedly and will have the bruises to show for it as City players took turns to have a kick at him. Carrying the ball into space and trying to drive the team on, it’s such a shame that his desire didn’t rub off the other players. He’s head and shoulders above everyone else in red and white.
For the others, their heads collectively dropped after the sending off. That offered an insight into the fragile state of mentality the team possess, when there’s still 80 plus minutes to be played.
Concentration went to pieces and City capitalised on that. A quickly taken free kick saw James Milner score the opening goal and an ill-advised challenge on the left hand side saw us concede further. Both goals could have been avoided with better defending and some form of leadership at the back. A defect that isn’t only limited to this match in particular.
Tactically, whatever Wenger had in mind before the match, went out the window the moment Koscielny was forced to go off for an early bath. Abou Diaby was never meant to play the full game and that meant we had one change taken away. Thankfully the Frenchman looked to have come off unscathed but Francis Coquelin might be questioning his worth to the team if even in the absence of Mikel Arteta, he still couldn’t get playing time. Diaby did his defensive duties well but perhaps was mindful of his return and didn’t break too much of a sweat pushing forward to go on one of his famous driving runs.
That said, we improved as a team in the second half and managed to create chances but ultimately, the effort counted for nothing.
City’s performance showed what it takes to be at the top level of the game, you need to take your chances. A match as tight as this, as it is between any two top sides, clear cut chances will be few and far between.
Had we been more clinical in front of goal, we would have managed to peg City back level. Fine margins in football, it always has been.