Sunday, August 26, 2007

Arsenal scrape win as City continue to show promise...

Last weekend Man City got what they didn't deserve, after being totally outclassed for 75 minutes they somehow managed to hang on for a narrow Manchester derby win, it wasn't deserved and the result was a total travesty.

One week on and I decided to take a closer look at this new City side, because going off the derby there was nothing to suggest that this much talked about rejuvenated side amounted to anything more than a side who have been punching above their weight in the early exchanges of the new season, as often happens in the Premier League.

Courtesy of Sky I took in the whole 90 minutes on Saturday night and I have to admit it wasn't a bad game. City actually managed to surprise me, as their performance from an attacking sense was much better than in the Manchester derby a week ago. In that game United had snuffed out Elano the Blues play-maker in-chief early doors and so the Brazilian barely figured, as a result, save for 15 minutes in the opening period City did not function going forward at all that day.

On Saturday at the Emirates stadium Arsenal allowed the visitors to play and for large chunks of both half's City took full advantage, often counter-attacking in numbers, but for Elano's poor decision making midway through the opening period City would have surely taken the lead. Instead of passing to either of the two Blue shirted players in better positions, the Brazilian elected to shoot from twenty yards outside the Gunners penalty area, it was a defining moment in the game and a missed opportunity to take the lead as his effort came to nought.

Much is being rightly made of the remarkable progress of Micah Richards, who has been switched to the centre of City's back four to play alongside Richard Dunne. With young players like Richards there's always a danger of building up expectations too soon, but without doubt, this lad is real potential, the hype is justified.

Against Arsenal both defences were pretty much in control, but after the half time break, Robin van Persie and Adebayor started to get on top. Arsenal's young Dutch striker started dropping a bit deeper and Richards didn't follow him and this led to the home team opening up City. On one such occasion only a last ditch lunging tackle by Richards denied van Persie a clear strike on goal. Despite the best efforts of the young England defender the Arsenal striker cut back onto his left foot, but fired over the bar in doing so. That effort was a warning of what was to follow later, but then just as it looked as though Arsenal might start to unravel City's resolute defence the visitors took over with their own brand of counter-attacking football.

At the heart of everything which is good about City's attacks is another youngster in Michael Johnson, who for me, was the man of the match, his link up play was first class as he made himself available all game alongside City's elder statesman Hamann.

City's engine room continued to find both Elano and Petrov on the wing and as an attacking unit the Englishman, the Brazilian, the German and the Bulgarian linked up well. City had Stephen Ireland on the right, but barely anything goes down their right flank and the Blues do not look that convincing down this channel. Behind Ireland, right-back Corlucka played his full part again, though was again there was a penalty appeal against him, but this time it was nowhere near as clear-cut as the one City got away with in the derby when he hacked down Evra late on in the opening period.

Once City's attacking spell had abated, Arsenal started to probe the visitors back-line again and on 65 minutes the Gunners were awarded a penalty for another last ditch lunging Richards challenge, this time on Hleb. There was no argument about the decision, though the City youngster appear to briefly have a go at the referee Chris Foy.

However, the visitors were rescued by Kasper Schmeichel in goal who did a fairly decent impersonation of his old man when performed the ritual of jumping up and down on the line prior to van Persie taking his spot-kick. Schmeichel's antics worked a treat as the Dutchman's effort amounted to little more than a back-pass, which was easily dealt with by the young City keeper.

The visitors resistance was finally broken when ten minutes from time Fabregas was found lurking by the edge of the Blues six yard box and he blasted his effort past Richards and through the arms of Schmeichel who had no time to react.

Going off the evidence of the Arsenal defeat, which was a game in which City once again got something that they didn't deserve, this time a defeat, the Blues could mount a serious challenge to get into Europe. City have moved from the third to the second tier of Premier League clubs and there's talk of capturing a new striker, which is an area of weakness in their squad.

As for Arsenal, they were not totally convincing on the day and if they have serious ambitions of pushing the likes of United, Liverpool and Chelsea they will have to play a lot better than they did against City.

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