Saturday, 24 April 2010

Arsenal 0 - 0 City

  • This morning I would have accepted our matching whatever result Spurs got at Old Trafford. So for there to be a one point swing in our favour is obviously good news. It was a dire, lifeless match - with none of the fire and storm of the 4-2 in September. But we didn't want it to be. Roberto Mancini had a very clear gameplan: to drain the tension, to kill the contest - and it worked. You might not like the tactics but there's no denying that a well-enacted gameplan is unambiguously good news. Much like the 0-0 with Liverpool the positives of the organisation and discipline outweigh any disappointment at the spectacle. We knew what we were in for when we appointed Mancini, and this was a triumph for his approach and methods.
  • I actually had vain hopes that this would be a decent game. But with us desperate for a point, and Arsenal not desperate for anything at all there was very little fizz in the game. Mancini's wise decision to bench Emmanuel Adebayor enabled this in two ways. Not only did it give us the extra man in midfield, allowing the building of a three man wall in front of the back four, it also deprived the home crowd of anything to make a noise about. Killing the atmosphere is a key part of killing the game, and this was particularly astute on Arsenal's part.
  • The first half was as dull a half of football as I have seen this season. Not only did Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry and Patrick Vieira set up camp on the fringes of our penalty area, but Craig Bellamy did a very admirable job tracking back: he spent most of the game within twenty yards of our own byline and closed down both Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna. Arsenal didn't really look like scoring. Neither did we, but that wasn't too much of a problem. Once or twice we tried to release Craig Bellamy or Adam Johnson behind their full-back but we couldn't pull it off.
  • Early in the second half Mancini removed Vieira for Adebayor, taking us back to the 4-4-1-1 shape we have seen in recent weeks. The game opened up a bit, Adebayor offered more of a focal point than Tévez had done, holding the ball and working some space for our other ideas. We never quite made a goal-scoring opportunity - the best positions came from Gareth Barry breaking down the left. But we could have played for weeks and not scored.
  • It's good, though, that we held on for the point even with the late loss of Shay Given to a dislocated shoulder. Gunnar Nielsen was never tested too hard, such was the consistency of our defensive performance. But the injury to Given damages our prospects of fourth as much as our well-earned point improves it. We couldn't have won fourth today, but it could have been taken out of our hands with a three point swing for Spurs. We'll still need to beat Tottenham, but it's still within reach.

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