Arsenal Take it to the Champions

Man City 1 Arsenal 1

Arsenal went to the home of the current Premier League Champions yesterday and showed them just how hard it is going to be to hold on to that title.

Manchester City’s squillion dollar squad have not been beaten at home in 32 matches, but came very, very close yesterday to losing that record. But for some poor finishing by Gervinho, they would have gone down 3-1. Arsenal dominated the first half and should have gone in two goals up at half time. But instead a poor attempted clearance by goalkeeper Vito Mannone allowed Joleon Lescott to head in David Silva‘s corner, five minutes before the break. City were more influential in the second half, but a late strike by returning centre back Laurent Koscielny ensured that Arsenal did not leave the north west empty handed.

The presence of Robin Van Persie may have ensured a win for the Gunners, but since his departure and the appointment of Steve Bould as assistant manager, Arsenal have become a much more rounded side than in recent seasons. Santi Cazorla is undoubtedly the most creative midfielder in the Premier League so far this season. Arteta is solidly consistent and Diaby is showing some of his old attacking form. Podolski always looks dangerous and Gervinho has already scored three goals, one short of his entire bag last season. Unfortunately Gervinho slipped back into his old ways against City on Sunday, busy and quick, but largely ineffective. Maybe he loses confidence against the larger sides. Aaron Ramsey, starting his first game of the new campaign, had his best outing in an Arsenalshirt for some time. Then we get on to the defence. They are now showing some of the miserliness of the Arsenal defence of old. They have conceded only 3 goals in 6 matches so far, two of them down to goalkeeping mistakes and the other was an iffy penalty.

Despite the loss of inspirational captain, Thomas Vermaelen, before the start, Laurent Koscielnycame in and ably deputised, although there was one very dodgy attempted clearance just after he scored the equaliser. GibbsMertesacker and Jenkinson have improved almost beyond recognition and the biggest compliment I can pay the latter is that Sagna will struggle to regain his place when he is back to fitness.

Neither of the Arsenal goalkeepers are perfect, but both have great potential and despite being at fault for City’s goal yesterday, Mannone has actually been the more effective in his appearances so far.

Once they add SagnaWilshire and Rosicky to the side that was fielded yesterday, Arsenal really have a squad more than capable of picking up the missing silverware from the last 6 years.

In other matches over the weekend, Manchester United and Chelsea both secured narrow wins, over Liverpool and Stoke respectively, to hold onto the first two positions in the table. Fulham had an away win and Wigan look like they will be spending another season in the danger zone. Southampton picked up their first points of the season with a 4-1 win over Aston Villa. Some commentators have been forecasting doom and gloom for the newly promoted side, but they did face the first, second and third placed sides of last season in their first four matches and were very competitive in two of them. Spurs secured their first home win over the entirely revamped QPR.

Despite Swansea’s good start to the season, they were given a football lesson by Everton at their own ground on Saturday, going down 3-0. Although I am not keen to see Welsh sides in the English Premier League, I think both of these honest clubs are worth two of the poaching ChelseaMan City and United’s of this world. Buying and selling players has always been part of the game, but when these clubs turn the great game of football into a game of Monopoly, something has to change.

This week sees the third round of the Capital One Cup (League Cup) and you can expect to see many of the senior clubs fielding youth or reserve players. But the Premier League will resume on Saturday with some big matches, featuring Arsenal against ChelseaManchester United against Spurs and Fulham against Man City should be interesting too.

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