Resilience is a wonderful trait to have; it is a joy to watch when your team refuses to lie down. My feeling after the game yesterday was one of pride and slight disappointment that we didn’t leave the Etihad stadium with all three points. This really was the first real test for Arsene Wenger’s team this season and they did not disappoint. Yes, we may have conceded a soft goal but the thing that sets this Arsenal team apart from some of the past is the refusal to be ruffled by it, we did not lose our shape rushing forward for an equalizer only to succumb to the dreaded breakaway counter attack goal. No, we kept playing our game and got our just rewards from Laurent Koscielny’s equaliser.
This is a different arsenal, an arsenal full of confidence which as the away team outplayed Manchester City for the majority of the match. To say the goal we conceded came against the run of play would be an understatement. We were playing some beautiful football and but for some profligate composure in attacking situations we should really have been in front long before we conceded. Plaudits could be spread throughout the team for their performances as we stood up to the big test in front of us and dare I say it showcased our potential to contest for domestic honours.
In the lead up to the game rumours filtered through that our skipper could potentially be absent from the squad. That was confirmed when the team was announced and Vermaelen was nowhere to be seen. It was revealed that he had not travelled with the squad due to Flu. Not the most confidence inducing news to hear, the loss of our skipper is a big miss in any game however given the strength of our squad his replacement Koscielny is quality enough to fill the gap.
The change in the centre back position was a forced change but Arsene had a surprise up his sleeve when he chose Aaron Ramsey to occupy one of the front three positions ahead of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott. You could hear the grumbles across the country when that news came out. Aaron is still working on repairing his reputation which was slightly tarnished last season due to some mixed performances. The jury is still out in some Arsenal fans eyes however yesterday the Welshman produced one of his best performances in an Arsenal shirt to reassure fans of what he brings to the arsenal midfield. He may not have the box of tricks of skill of the Ox or the raw pace of Theo but what he does bring is quality on the ball, quality in the pass and excellent ball retention. This was a characteristic that was definitely required against Man city to ensure our control of the game and Arsene deserves praise for taking such a bold step.
One of the potential negatives from the game was the disappearance of Gervinho’s shooting boots. He definitely had the lion’s share of attempts for us in the game but nothing came off for him. In some people’s eyes it may seem the same old same old with the Ivorian. However I could see a difference in the forwards play and attitude. Yes he missed chances but the Gervinho of old would not have even attempted to make some of the shots he tried. Clearly buoyed by his recent rich vein of goal scoring form he was clearly more direct in his play and seemed hungry to get on the score sheet. It didn’t come off for him yesterday on another day he’s scoring goals like he did last week against Southampton. I encourage the new hungry Gervinho, although it was a source of frustration for Arsenal fans yesterday I feel if he keeps at it his the confidence will continue to grow and those chances will be converted more often. Apart from that I cannot defend that shocking piece of control by Gervinho when put through by Ramsey. Seriously he showed the kind of touch I have only experienced when playing pro evolution or FIFA and the ball is played on to a player with a rating lower than 50, 40 even.
Arsene Wenger gave his take on our performance and the chances that went amiss when he said:
“We refuse to lose the game today and came back. We are happy with the team performance but a little frustrated because we had chances with Gervinho when we could have won the game. Gervinho was a danger but he was nervous in his finishing.”
I’m sure the manager will keep working on his finishing in training but again I believe with growing confidence it will improve.
At the back the Steve Bould factor was again evident as the whole back four put in a great defensive performance, they were protected well by Arteta and the rest of the midfield but held their own when called upon. I lost count of the number of interceptions on potentially dangerous through balls; in the past those kinds of balls were getting through.
Per Mertesacker has come on leaps and bounds this season and is now receiving the plaudits from the press who were so quick to write him off last season. The fact he was voted man of the match says it all, the big German has really shown he has what it takes at premiership level and shown up all those who seem to think defending is all about pace. Another player who seems to be showing improvement from last season is Carl Jenkinson. This young guy as we know is arsenal through and through which is always a nice trait to have in a player. Though being a super fan isn’t the only requirement to play for arsenal, you need the quality to become a regular. Although the unfortunate injury to Bacary Sagna has elevated Carl to first team duty he has taken his opportunity with both hands and he is doing enough to prove he deserves to be starting for Arsenal.
What we forget is when Jenkinson came into the team last season we were in complete turmoil because of the departures of some big players; He had to hit the ground running despite the lack of experience at the top level. The past season clearly allowed the defender to learn and work on his weaknesses. He almost seems a completely different player but this is just testament to a growing confidence in the player, no turmoil in preparation for this season and now feeling part of the set up. Much like Gervinho and Mertesacker his confidence has grown this season due to learning from last and it is clear to see.
Whereas last season I may have questioned his longevity as an arsenal player of the future I can now see the signs that he has potential to become an important player for us. Still plenty for him to learn and Sagna still owns the right back position but Jenkinson is definitely doing his chances no harm.
Overall it was a great performance all round, even excusing Vito Mannone’s flap at the corner in which we conceded the goal; he pulled off some important saves to make up for the misjudgment. Our midfield were as majestic as ever and overshadowed the likes of Yaya Toure and David Silva. The Arsenal post Robin Van Persie have announced themselves and intend to play a huge part in the premiership this year.
enjoy your day people
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