Arsenal held to frustrating draw by City
(Jack Wilshere 63, Alexis Sanchez 74)
MAN CITY 2
(Sergio Aguero 28, Martin Demichelis 83)
The Arsenal fans blinked in confusion as they filed out of the Emirates Stadium yesterday.
Was this 2-2 draw a good result? A bad result? Something to cherish or something to rue? Perhaps they should just be happy that they survived it. Stress like this cannot be healthy.
Illustrious opposition, an early kick-off, a bright start and a careless early goal conceded. So frequently, this is Arsenal's perfect storm, a combination of circumstances that always brings them to their knees.
That they were not beaten is certainly a step in the right direction. That they couldn't hold on for a famous victory will infuriate them.
Trailing to Sergio Aguero's first-half goal, Arsene Wenger's side clawed their way back into the game, first through a magnificent Jack Wilshere lob, then from an equally spectacular Alexis Sanchez volley.
But, with just seven minutes to go, Martin Demichelis headed Manchester City back into the game.
It could have been worse. As the clocked ticked down, Laurent Koscielny came close to scoring an extraordinary own-goal and City had a strike ruled out for offside deep into injury time.
Injuries to new signings Danny Welbeck and Mathieu Debuchy - the latter looking quite serious - will have tainted the afternoon for Arsenal, but a point against the champions is not to be dismissed lightly.
And there were two players whose performances were so impressive that the future looks bright
Wilshere, the target of so much criticism of late, ran the show for Arsenal, dominating the midfield and surging forward to support his teammates. Battered by the City players, perhaps in the hope that he would react and compromise his team, the Englishman only intensified his efforts.
Welbeck's display was just as positive. Rarely has a club's support fallen as hard or as fast as the Arsenal fans have for their new striker. Even Mesut Oezil's arrival didn't generate the kind of roar that met the pre-match announcer's mention of Welbeck's name.
It wasn't simply the feeling that Welbeck was a good player, it was more the feeling that he was the right player. The man who combined pace, power and intelligence and who would tie the rest of the team together.
And in the opening exchanges, that's exactly what happened. Welbeck was fighting for every ball, and he was winning.
With Yaya Toure unavailable, City gave Frank Lampard his debut in the midfield. The former Chelsea man is experienced, professional and gifted, but he is not as mobile as he once was and Arsenal's Wilshere-driven midfield quickly took the ascendency.
Lampard's touch was sublime, he helped transition so many City moves, but he couldn't keep up when the Gunners broke forward and he earned a booking midway through the first half for chopping down Aaron Ramsey. He was replaced at half-time by Samir Nasri.
Welbeck was a few centimetres away from a dream debut. Breaking through on goal in the 12th minute, he spotted the onrushing Joe Hart and gently dinked the ball over his head.
For what seemed an eternity, it arced through the air. The Arsenal fans leapt to their feet, arms aloft, Hart's head sagged, Welbeck began to wheel away.
And then the ball bounced off the bottom of the post. On the touchline, Wenger threw his head back in frustration. He was far from the only one.
Fifteen minutes later, the distinction was made between a striker on the up and a striker at the top. Jesus Navas took advantage of the wide open space down Arsenal's left flank, slipped a low ball into the box and Aguero took full advantage.
With Vincent Kompany in majestic form, it seemed as if the game would slip away from Arsenal, but instead the Gunners were able to strike back.
Wilshere's sensational lob levelled the game and Sanchez's volley was good enough to win any game, but City are not champions without reason.
Perhaps, above all else, a draw was simply the right result.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY
"It was a game of top quality and we did remarkably well to come back, but then we gave a cheap goal away. Debuchy has a bad ankle sprain. It doesn’t look too good. "
- Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger
"We had more possession and more chances than Arsenal. The referee had a very bad day. We had very difficult decisions. Both goals by Arsenal were very clear fouls. "
- Man City’s Manuel Pellegrini