A delighted Aaron Ong watched on in a hotel bar at Bangkok as Arsenal came away from the Etihad Stadium with a point, after a late equaliser against champions Manchester City.
Football fans, like most other people, love to take the occasional vacation.
These occasional vacations may end up clashing with one of our club’s games, and it was this situation (and Bangkok) that I found myself in this past weekend.
Still, that’s no excuse to miss a game, and so I found myself a seat in the hotel bar at 10pm Bangkok time as I eagerly awaited our clash against the Premier League champions.
In any public setting where a football match is being screened, it’s always easy to differentiate the casual watchers from the more fervent supporters.
The former is usually sitting back comfortably, knocking back a pint or two and breaking into laughter every now and then, and making loud opinionated comments on their choice of winning team.
The latter tend to be quieter, only emitting any sound in reaction to a major incident in the game. They are normally on the edge of their seats, especially in tightly-contested matches and boy, did this match fit that description!
I was a bunch of nerves throughout this one, and it was all I could do to shut out the chatter from the other patrons watching in the bar. At the end of the match though, those nerves had been replaced with a sense of pride and accomplishment, albeit tinged with a thought of ‘what-could-have-been’.
As with most of our other matches this season, our interplay was a delight to watch. In particular, the passing between Cazorla, Arteta, and Ramsey allowed us to dominate the midfield for large parts of the first half, which I think prompted Mancini to bring on Rodwell at the break.
However, dominance is nothing unless it is translated into goals, so I feel it’s somewhat justified to feel frustrated at our finishing on this night.
Gervinho’s poor first touch early on, his skied finish late on, and Podolski’s wayward shot in between were all ‘pull-your-hair-out’ moments. A little more composure, and we might have been celebrating a fantastic win instead.
Of course, it could very easily have been the other way around. Man City’s most dangerous outlets were Toure and Silva driving forward from midfield, as well as the impressive Aguero cutting in from the left flank.
There were times when we allowed these three players worrying amounts of space in front of our defence, so perhaps this is something our midfield needs to buck up on.
The goal we conceded wasn’t down to that though. The commentators were attributing Lescott’s opener to our preference for zonal marking, but I feel that had little to do with anything. Lescott was simply the most determined to get to that ball, and we were in big trouble the moment Mannone flapped at that cross.
A second consecutive league game with a goalkeeping error is hardly desired, but then again you can’t say our Italian goalkeeper didn’t redeem himself during the remainder of the game.
He certainly wasn’t alone in that battle against Man City’s multi-million dollar strikeforce.
The standout performances of the match were clearly from our two centrebacks Koscielny and Mertesacker. Despite our captain missing due to illness, these two were immense on the day, and I lost count of the number of times one of them thwarted a Man City attack with a timely interception.
Then you have the equaliser. I admit that I didn’t see who scored the goal in real time, but my gut feel at that moment was that such a finish had to have come from one of our attackers. With such a powerful shot in his pocket, maybe Koscielny can consider an alternative career being deployed upfront!
When that goal went in, I jumped up and celebrated, momentarily forgetting the more passive viewers around me. All they saw was an entertaining draw between two of England’s top teams, but what I saw was a massive away point earned at a ground no visiting team had won at for almost two years in the league.
It’s back home to the Emirates for Capital One Cup action against Coventry, before Chelsea come visiting on Saturday. There are very few easy games and many tough ones in a season, but if we can match the reigning champions on their turf, then surely we are more than capable of beating every other team there is.
Come on you Gunners!