Flamini pops up to score crucial equaliser as Pellegrini’s men miss the chance to leapfrog Chelsea
Arsenal re-discovered their dignity on Saturday evening while Manchester City set their sights on the Premier League title. That is the trajectory and the ultimate ambition for these clubs’ respective seasons.
You might have been a deal more generous to Arsenal, who were excellent in the second half, manfully led by Mathieu Flamini, had they have won only two of their last eight Premier League games, just as the business end of the season approached.
It is no good demonstrating your desire when the fight is over. Like a beaten boxer threatening his victorious opponent as he parades around the ring, Arsenal’s pluck is always too little, too late.
City, though, are the genuine article. They did not win but then, having seen Chelsea fall at Crystal Palace earlier in the day, perhaps they did not need to. They are well placed with something in reserve for the final sprint
Vital: He turned in Lukas Podolski’s cross midway through the second half to make it 1-1
Emotion: The point may be crucial to Arsenal’s hopes of finishing in a Champions League position
Elation! David Silva roars with delight after putting Manchester City ahead in the first half
Right place, right time: Silva manages to find the back of the net as the ball cannoned off the post
One up: Dzeko had the first shot and Silva was on hand to poke the ball home
Champions in waiting? City team-mates congratulate Silva as they take the early lead
Arsenal: Szczesny 5.5; Sagna 6.5, Mertesacker 6.5, Vermaelen 7, Gibbs 6; Arteta 7, Flamini 7.5, Rosicky 7; Cazorla 7.5, Podolski 6 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 78); Giroud 5.5 (Sanogo 84).
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Kallstrom, Bellerin, Gnabry.
Goal: Flamini 53
Man City: Hart 6; Zabaleta 7, Kompany 7, Demichelis 6, Clichy 6; Toure 7, Fernandinho 7, Navas 7.5 (Milner 64, 6), Silva 8, Nasri 6.5 (Garcia 80); Dzeko 6 (Negredo 84).
Subs: Lescott, Kolarov, Pantilimon, Jovetic.
Booked: Kompany, Toure, Silva, Javi Garcia
Goal: Silva 18
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral) 6.
Manuel Pellegrini pronounced himself happy. ‘It is a good week,’ he said. ‘Four points against Manchester United and Arsenal away from home is good for us. Of course we would be happier if we had won today and we had the chances to do, it especially in the first half.’
Their visit to Liverpool in two weeks looks increasingly like the game to decide the destiny of this title. It remains a considerable hurdle but City are of course favourites now.
For Arsenal, there was a degree of recovered pride. ‘We were a bit nervy at the start insecure in our attitude after our last two results,’ said Wenger. ‘But at 1-0 you could see the team was ready for a fight.’
But there was a prickliness to Wenger when pressed on Arsenal’s inconsistency – he claimed the very opposite for his team. ‘With the players we have out, what we have done today, I think it’s remarkable,’ he said.
‘I would like to see Toure, Silva and Kompany out and play the same game again. I think the team has been remarkably consistent – but we have gone through a nightmare last week. You could see after the 2-2 against Swansea that the team was on the floor and hugely disappointed. But they responded well today.’
Spot kick? Tomas Rosicky wanted a penalty when he went over the leg of Pablo Zabaleta
Clash of legs: Referee Mike Dean didn’t give it despite the protests of all the Arsenal players
Grounded: Rosicky thought he had a goalscoring opportunity before he was brought to a stop
Unhappy: City keeper Joe Hart wags his finger at the midfielder in what he thought was a dive
And when Flamini was praised, he sensed the criticism of his omission last weekend. ‘We played 1-1 at Bayern with the team that played against Chelsea,’ was his initial response before praising his tenacious midfielder.
‘I like Flamini, because I signed him to the surprise of everybody. I think he did extremely well tonight and gives us balance but we have played some good games with him and some without him.’
There were signs of improvement from Arsenal. They pressed more aggressively and their most optimistic early moment came directly as a result of Lukas Podolski chasing down a lost cause to produce a chance for Tomas Rosicky in the box on 12 minutes. He tangled with Pablo Zabaleta, contact was made and Rosicky fell: no penalty, ruled Mike Dean.
Yet there was also that famed fragility, with Pablo Zabaleta and Samir Nasri cutting inside down the right hand side early on. And Arsenal are never more of a danger to themselves than when in possession, as last weekend demonstrated.
On 19 minutes Podolski hesitated well inside City’s half and Jesus Navas nicked the ball to Yaya Toure, who found David Silva. His pace with the ball was far too much for Arsenal’s midfield. He dashed half the length of the pitch, feeding Edin Dzeko, whose shot crashed off the post. But Silva had continued his run and finished off from the rebound at close range.
Capitulation beckoned. Those gaps in midfield, the vulnerability to pace, the weakness when counter attacked; it all looked awfully familiar. But for once Arsenal made a decision not to fold. Flamini came to the fore, matching Yaya Toure in midfield.
Long shot: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain goes for a spectacular overhead kick as he tries to get a late winner
Courage: Zabaleta gets to the ball ahead of Olivier Giroud as the Arsenal striker looks to control it
Unlucky: The ball dribbles wide a City have a chance to take the lead for a second time
Brazilian flair: Fernandinho turns away from Mathieu Flamini in the centre of the midfield
Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta took up the challenge alongside him and City were beginning to chase the game. Indeed when David Silva lifted his foot and studded Arteta on 42 minutes he was fortunate to stay on the pitch.
Not that Arsenal were without their shaky moments , none more so than when Per Mertesacker deflected Navas’ cross just past the post with Dzeko lurking ominously on 52 minutes.
But in not giving up, Arsenal stumbled upon something much more significant: a foot hold in the game. On 53 minutes, moving the ball from one side to the other, they suddenly discovered space for Podolski to cross for Flamini. From the edge of the area, they Frenchman turned it past Joe Hart.
The Emirates erupted with something like relief mixed with euphoria. After so many setbacks, simply to be competitive seemed a cause for celebration. Rarely does this stadium reverberate with noise but in those minutes after that goal it truly did.
Powerhouse: Yaya Toure bursts clear of Santi Cazorla during an action-filled first half
Tussle: Rosicky and Martin Demichelis get into a scuffle after the Arsenal man made a challenge on Gael Clichy
Handbags: Rosicky shoved the Argentine defender with Clichy lying prostrate on the ground
When Podolski burst through on 61 minutes with just Hart to beat, it seemed as though deliverance had come until he fired at Hart’s legs. Fernandinho had a good strike from 20 yards tipped over by Szczesny on 63 minutes. Flamini would burst through and shoot just over from a tight angle and Yaya Toure almost danced through Arsenal’s defence before being denied by Szczesny.
But it was Arsenal who were on the front foot and looking likely winners and that in itself felt like a moral victory for them. Sadly, moral victories are all they seem able to secure against the best quality teams.
Caution: David Silva was later booked after a late tackle on Mikel Arteta
Frustrated: Arsene Wenger looks unhappy with his side’s showing as they went behind to an early goal
Down and out: Arsenal players look dejected after going behind against another of the title contenders
Flying: Flamini rises slightly too high on David Silva as Zabaleta watches on
Ouch! The Frenchman ended up falling head first over Silva as he as he went for the ball
Speculative: Fernandinho attempts to hammer in a shot from outside the area
Surging Frenchman: Olivier Giroud runs at Vincent Kompany as he looks to break free
Source : Daily Mail