Manchester City triumphed over Arsenal this evening with a 1-0 home victory, ending Arsenal’s amazing run and replacing Man United at the summit of the table, after the Red Devils were momentarily top.
Arsenal started the game with the same defensive line up as they did against Everton, which saw Thomas Vermaelen at left back once again. City, meanwhile played Pablo Zabaleta at left back instead of Clichy, who was suspended for this game.
The game assumed greater importance for City as Manchester United had earlier in the day placed themselves at the top of the Premier League, while Arsenal were hoping to re-establish their credentials as title hopefuls with a victory over the runaway league leaders.
The first half was an entertaining affair, with both teams probing dangerously, albeit with a slight air of caution. Sergio Aguero had a great chance within the first 10 minutes when he found himself one-on-one with Szczesny only to embarrassingly blaze his shot over the bar.
Arsenal tested Hart near the 20 minute mark when Gervinho blasted a shot at the Man City goalkeeper, only for the England number one to parry it nervously wide. Minutes later, Balotelli forced an amazing save from Szczesny, with the Italian finding the ball in the box, only for the Polish goalkeeper to quickly douse the pressure.
Both teams appeared comfortable on counter attack but there was an obvious hint of cautious play. Arsenal appeared to be struggling with City’s physical approach in closing down. However, the Gunners fashioned an excellent chance on 34 minutes following a surging counter attack, when Aaron Ramsey found himself ready to poke home in the box, but for a tremendous tackle from Kolo Toure.
City’s sheer physicality in their closing down was exemplified by Gareth Barry’s heavy foul on Arteta on 38 minutes. However, nothing came from the resultant free kick. On 40 mins, City had another great chance when Aguero broke away from Arsenal defence as Song was too easily dispossessed, but the Argentinian stretched at his shot and it was comfortably saved.
Continuing their physical assault on Arsenal, Zabaleta’s robust tackle from behind on Van Persie on before half time saw the mercurial Dutchman writhing in agony but his frustration fell on deaf ears.
City were consistent in their physical assault, carrying it into the second half as Barry immediately thumped Song with his studs. Miquel also replaced Djourou soon after the restart, as the Swiss international found himself limping with an injury, and Thomas Vermaelen moved to the centre of defence.
With Vermaelen back in the heart of Arsenal’s defence, Man City went 1-0 up as David Silva capitalised on Szczesny’s weak clearance to guide the ball into the net just five minutes into the second half.
Arsenal were eager to immediately overturn the deficit and Walcott quickly tested Hart with a looping shot immediately after the goal, forcing a good save from the England goalkeeper.
The Gunners were unfortunate not to equalise when Van Persie put the ball in the City net on 56 minutes, but the in-form Dutchman was already flagged as being offside, much to Wenger’s dismay. With a goal and another one seemingly just around the corner, City were toying with Arsenal. On 60 minutes Aguero unleashed a shot from the edge of the box after some patient build up play, which just crept wide.
Balotelli should really have made it 2-0 a minute later when Nasri, Aguero and Balotelli all broke free of the Gunners’ defence, but Nasri’s pass across the goalmouth had too much pace for the Italian.
Arsenal hit City on the counter soon after but Van Persie’s shot was easily saved by Hart. Desperate for a goal, Arsenal’s play was a lot more frenetic than City, who were increasingly comfortable in possession, finding ample time and space for clever build up play.
On 66 minutes Zabaleta could have increased City’s lead as he read Koscielny’s pass well, sneaking in to steal the ball in midfield before smacking a shot off the post. Szczesny was stranded in the middle of his goal, counting his blessings.
The Gunners found their chances extremely limited, relying mostly on set pieces to create chances. Vermaelen struck a freekick on 69 minutes but it was dragged wide with a deflection. When the Londoners looked to their talismanic captain, Van Persie, he was ruthlessly crowded out or found to be offside. His former teammate Kolo Toure did a magnificent job marshalling City defence along with Kompany.
The frustration of Wenger’s men was becoming clear as the game wore on. Arteta displayed fiery urgency, almost in protest at receiving a yellow card on 70 minutes, which nearly saw him sent off for a second reckless foul but the referee let him off with a talking-to.
On 77 minutes, Arsenal had a handball shout against Micah Richards, but the referee dismissed the protests, judging it to be accidental. A further symptom of Arsenal’s deflated play was the deterioration of their passing evident when Aaron Ramsey squandered possession twice in quick succession as a result of unnecessary flicks.
City meanwhile, continued to attack and had an excellent set of chances on 84 minutes with Richards sending a shot wide after some great work. Arsenal attempted to flood men forward as the game came to a close, but their chances were still very much limited to set pieces.
Arteta took a slick freekick on the 90th minute laying off to Vermaelen, but the Belgian’s shot was parried over by Hart. Vermaelen had another desperate shot on the 93 minutes but sent it wide. Mancini’s men never looked like losing and held on to clinch a 1-0 victory.
Man City: Hart, Richards, Kompany, Zabaleta, K. Toure, Barry, Nasri (Dzeko 85), Silva, Y Toure (De Jong 85), Aguero, Balotelli (Milner 71)
Subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Savic, Milner, Johnson, De Jong, Dzeko
Arsenal: Szczesny, Mertesacker (Chamakh 82), Vermaelen, Koscielny, Djourou (Miquel 46), Arteta, Song, Ramsey, Walcott (Arshavin 68), Van Persie, Gervinho
Subs: Almunia, Miquel, Rosicky, Arshavin, Frimpong, Benayoun, Chamakh