Oct 25, 2010

Arsenal deserve more credit after coming of age against Manchester City

By Richard French

Arsenal went to big spending Man City yesterday and played them off the park, but today all the praise is going to Roberto Mancini’s team for their ‘battling’ performance with ten men. Arsene Wenger must be pulling his hair out.

Whenever the Gunners play one of their direct title rivals, they are criticised by the press for not showing a killer instinct, lacking a goalscorer and being tactically naïve. When they won against a City team which had beaten Chelsea not too long ago, the ‘experts’ put it down to good fortune.

A sending off in the first five minutes obviously had an impact on the final result, but the decision was a fair one when Dedryck Boyata left the referee no choice but to send him to the stands after scything down Marouane Chamakh when he was clean through on goal.

If the decision was harsh, one could understand the reaction today, but the fact that City failed to deal with a delightful Cesc Fabregas pass is not Arsenal’s or the referee’s fault. Arsenal gained a crucial advantage skilfully, not fortunately.

The so called ‘battling’ performance by City was decidedly average, whimpering to a 3-0 loss in front of their own fans. An example of true battling performance was Chelsea narrowly losing to Barcelona 2-1 at the Nou Camp five years ago, following a dreadful decision to send off Didier Drogba.

The Gunners were head and shoulders above their opponents, zipping the ball around the pitch as Samir Nasri and Fabregas made Nigel De Jong look pedestrian and Gareth Barry out of his depth (to put it politely).

Moreover, they have found themselves a real presence up front, with Chamakh bullying defenders and providing an outlet that the Londoners have lacked in years gone by.

Of course, Wenger’s men over passed the ball when a shot would have sufficed, but given time (and a fit Robin Van Persie) shots will start to pepper the goal and more and more goals will follow. Forget City as Chelsea’s main threat, a focussed and disciplined Arsenal side will trouble much better teams than Tevez and co this season.

Italian coaches are renowned for their aptitude when dealing with the tactical conundrum of 10 vs 11 on the pitch, and Mancini is certainly as tactically astute as they come. A good coach will set his team up to deal with any scenario possible, and red cards are a part of the game. It is the team’s job to adapt and cope with the pressure, and deep down the Italian will not look at the sending off as an excuse for this loss, so why are the public?

It seems fans and media alike can’t wait to write off Arsenal. They have scored the most goals of all teams in the Champions League group stages, sit second in the league and all that despite missing Fabregas and Van Persie for most of the campaign. Not to mention the fact that they were without centre back Thomas Vermaelen yesterday and still lack a top class goalkeeper.

They might not win the title this season, in fact, Chelsea look to be on cruise control to retain their crown despite injuries of their own. However, Wenger’s team are a genuine threat for the first time since the days of Thierry Henry, and only a handful of teams around the continent would be favourites to beat them this year.


Anonymous said...

I didn't see the game itself so I can't comment directly, but I often find myself tearing out my hair over Arsenal getting too much credit.

Sure, at the turn of the millenium they were playing fast, incisive football that was great to watch but for years they have been ponderous, slow (albeit with pretty touches: a lesson in how to pass the ball sideways, if you will).

Being a Chelsea fan I'm biased, naturally, but I also appreciate that it takes a few years to alter perceptions: despite scoring over 100 goals and playing some great football last season Chelsea will still be seen as "ruthless, effective, physically and mentally strong".

In the same way Arsenal are still generally seen as playing the game the way it ought to be played, even if plenty of my Arsenal-supporting friends would actually disagree. It takes time for those attitudes to change, but maybe some of the people in the game have grown tired of constantly giving Arsenal credit...

Anonymous said...

laughable argument. If you can't win by 3 clear goals with ease when you play the entire game a man up then you don't look that great to me. Coming of age, give me a break. City carved Arsenal apart a few times before the Boyata sending off.

It tells you something that the Arsenal fans voted Fabianski as their man of the match even though they were playing a man up. If Boyata doesn't make that clumsy challenge and just let the ball roll harmlessly out of bounds like it was going to City would have won comfortably.

Anonymous said...

and Arsenal playing football "the right way" is a myth. When Stoke and Blackburn come to town kicking about Arsene throws his toys out the pram. Arsenal's cynicism yesterday to City's counter-attacking was diabolical.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments guys. I am also a Chelsea fan and therefore shouldn't I be anti-Arsenal?

"Laughable argument" is somewhat laughable in itself, given that plenty of teams have struggled against ten men (think Barcelona vs. Inter in last season's Champions League).

"If you can't win by 3 clear goals with ease when you play the entire game a man up then you don't look that great to me."

Does that then mean Barcelona "don't look that great to you"?

Another point you make; "If Boyata doesn't make that clumsy challenge and just let the ball roll harmlessly out of bounds like it was going to City would have won comfortably."

Understand that he DID make that challenge and that that action was part of the Man City performance. That's a very big 'if' to put at the start of a paragraph.

Ten men can be as hard to beat as a team with eleven men, especially given that Mancini would have prepared his players for that very scenario. Perhaps Arsenal would have been beaten with 11, but the fact is that Man City were down to ten through their own mistake, not out of any injustice whatsoever.

Furthermore, I guarantee that if one asked 10,000 football fans, 90% would agree that Arsenal "played the right way" yesterday. I'm not sure which philosophy you follow, but that performance yesterday was fantastic to watch. I say that as a Chelsea supporter.

I agree that for some years they did get too much credit, but in the last few they have been hard done by, especially now the media seems to love City.

Chelsea are starting to get the credit they deserve, even if still called ruthless and effective.

Richard French

rich berry said...

Arsenal, in my eyes have always been a threat. They play ordacious attacking football which have let a lot of teams this year stand by in adjulation. City taken down to ten men was a chance to once again watch arsenal play the kind of stuff the nou camp watches week in week out.
The card was deserved and so was the result.
Mancini has done nothing Mark Hughes could not have done since his prevailing introduction to the city.its simple to any purist that Tevez's seven league goals makes Mancini look an adequate requisition.
Chelsea should start looking in their rear view mirror because wenger(all leathered up) is cranking the gears ready to wave 'goodbye.'
My Christmas wenger will be sat on top of the tree pulling all the crackers.
Have it all you Chelsea fans.