Arsenal 0-0 Manchester City: Arsenal dominate but are frustrated in front of goal
Arsenal had all the best moments but failed to get the breakthrough.
Arsene Wenger played the same side as in the recent 3-0 victory over Chelsea, which meant no place for Marouane Chamakh or Andrei Arshavin.
Roberto Mancini made five changes, including three of his back four. He also left out Adam Johnson, instead playing Jo on the left.
Arsenal started the match at a very high tempo when in possession, and should have gone ahead in the first couple of minutes when Jack Wilshere’s cross-shot wasn’t reached by Robin van Persie.
Arsenal stand off
Out of possession, however, they were surprisingly calm. In the win over Chelsea they pressed Chelsea’s back four relentlessly, but here van Persie and Fabregas dropped back towards the halfway line and focused on not letting City play through the centre of the pitch. This gave City’s centre-backs time on the ball, and the away side were able to have spells calming the tempo by keeping possession.
It was rarely possession in dangerous areas, though, as they seemed to miss David Silva drifting in off the flank to provide a link between Carlos Tevez and the rest of the side. Yaya Toure played as the midfielder with more license to make contact with Tevez, but he often wandered back into the congested midfield zone to pick up the ball.
Tevez drops deep
In a sense this suited Arsenal quite well – with Alex Song playing higher up than last year as part of a double pivot, rather than as the lone holding player, he was comfortable moving up the pitch to close Toure down, and the resulting large gap between defence and midfield was not exploited by any City midfielder, with James Milner and Jo staying wide.
It did mean, however, that Carlos Tevez had space to drop into, and he dragged Laurent Koscielny out of the back and frequently evaded the Frenchman’s tackles. This looked like City’s best way of creating a chance in the first half.
Arsenal fail to score
At the other end, Arsenal were dominant. They struck the woodwork on more than one occasion and seemed to find it very easy to play through City in the centre of the pitch early on, despite Mancini setting out a narrow side to make this difficult for Arsenal. Nigel de Jong’s booking was a blow for City – until then he’d been dominant in the centre of the park but much of the rest of the game ducking out of challenges for fear of picking up a second yellow.
Arsenal’s passing was excellent but they simply couldn’t find the way through. Tactically, there was nothing wrong with their display, and credit should go to Kolo Toure and Vincent Kompany for dominant displays at the back for City.
The second period continued in a very similar fashion to the first. City sat back even deeper with Yaya Toure pulled back in a more solid midfield five, which gave City extra protection ahead of their back four. Adam Johnson was brought on for Jo but influenced the game little.
Arsene Wenger had to make substitutions to try and change the game and force the issue, but Andrei Arshavin’s flicks failed to come off, whilst Nicklas Bendtner is rarely effective when playing in a wide role. From that point of view, it was disappointing Wenger didn’t go with two men upfront to provide more of a physical threat in the box, but then considering Arsenal were completely dominant, it’s hard to blame him for not wanting to change the shape of the side.
Maybe the defining feature of the game was how little effort City made to win the game. They barely threw men forward, leaving much of the attacking play to Tevez, who played a very difficult role extremely well. Even when they had a couple of promising moments and Arsenal won the ball, City always had their back four in place, with at least two of their central midfielders ahead, and Arsenal were rarely able to open City up on the counter-attack.
There’s no doubt City played for a 0-0, something they’ve done in successive games at the Emirates and in the home game with Manchester United, but even so, to not manage a shot on target in the 90 minutes is poor form for a side going for the title.
It’s difficult to fault Arsene Wenger – his side played excellently as a whole. They didn’t have problems at the back, they passed the ball well in midfield, they created chances but simply failed to convert them, something Wenger couldn’t have helped. Had Wilshere’s pass in the opening stages found van Persie, it would have been a completely different game and quite possibly a big Arsenal win.
Mancini got what he came for with a dogged defensive display. City had to withstand an early Arsenal siege, in a similar way to the opening day 0-0 at Spurs, but were much more comfortable in the second half, although there still has to be an improvement in turning defence into attack – too often City simply had no forward pass from the back.Arsenal 0-0 Manchester City: Arsenal dominate but are frustrated in front of goal