Manchester City 1 Arsenal 0

Arsenal’s eight game unbeaten Premiership run came to a crashing halt the Etihad with David Silva’s solitary strike settling this high intensity affair. Silva struck eight minutes after the break as a makeshift Arsenal defence failed to deal with a Mario Balotelli cross, that Sergio Aguero was allowed to head on. But the cruel nature of conceding was to be trumped by an offside decision that beggared belief. Three minutes after the opener, Robin Van Persie’s cool finish was ruled offside, when replays suggested that the linesman had got that decision horribly wrong.

 

Wenger reflects on an intense game that could've gone either way

 

The loss puts the Gunners twelve points behind City, a gap that is not entirely insurmountable, but in this form and with this amount of money, the Premiership leaders will take some catching. At the final whistle, Arsene Wenger described it as ” a game we could not lose,” and in true attacking style, Arsenal took the game to City. Samir Nasri was booed at every touch, but even towards the end of the game when the France midfielder was mischievously named as man of the match, the huge north London travelling contingent had piped down their boos of the former Gunner.

At half time I thought we would win the game. I think we were a bit unlucky today ” – Arsene Wenger

Wenger now has further injury worries, and in an already depleted defence, the Arsenal manager revealed that Johan Djourou picked up groin injury and could be sidelined for up to three weeks. Just at a time when the luck was turning for Wenger, another trip to the north has come to derail the Arsenal juggernaut.

City were content to fight fire with fire. Aguero, Silva and Nasri were instrumental in City’s front play, as was Balotelli and Micah Richards. The latter two were getting into advanced positions on their left and without recognised defensive cover, the alarm bells began to ring early on. It was from that position that City took the lead. Wojciech Szczesny had another fine game, making a series of excellent saves from Silva and Balotelli. Aguero had already sent a shot skywards when clear, but the Gunners rearguard still held firm.

Not to be outdone, City ‘keeper Joe Hart showed again why he is England’s number one. As Gervinho latched onto Alex Song’s pass, Hart spread to save with his legs from the Ivory Coast forward. From the resultant corner, Aaron Ramsey’s shot clipped Theo Walcott and the ball was diverting into the net, until Hart again saved with his legs.

Gervinho was enjoying attacking the City defence, and after a strong run on the left, Van Persie headed Ramsey’s cross, but without real power or direction, City escaped again. There was never an edge to the game, but Pablo Zabaleta should have seen yellow for taking out Van Persie’s as City broke. Kolo Toure enjoyed a relatively tame reception compared to that for Nasri, and it was his block on Ramsey that saved City after Van Persie and Koscielny could not get a clean hit on the ball on 35 minutes.

Even after conceding, Arsenal showed great spirit and fight in search of a leveller. Just past the hour mark, and in the knowledge that a solitary goal may not be enough, City went close through Aguero and Zabaleta hit the post, robbing Koscielny who was trying to break.

Leading the Premiership race for the Golden Boot, Van Persie went close to notching his 16th Premiership strike, but Hart held firm after Gervinho beat Richards to feed his captain on 64 minutes. Hart denied Van Persie’s header, which again was given offside when replays showed to the contrary. You just felt it was not to be Arsenal’s day when Richards clearly handled Koscielny’s cross, but the penalty was not given.

Having been forced to bring on Ignasi Miquel for Djourou, Wenger threw on Marouane Chamakh and Andrey Arshavin for Walcott and Per Mertersacker. However, and now with a four pronged attack, it was Thomas Vermaelen who went close to levelling for the Gunners on 90 minutes. Firstly from a well worked free-kick, Arteta fed the Belgium defender and his powerful shot seemed to be going in, until once again Hart intervened with another fine save. In time added on, Vermaelen tried again. Van Persie found his vice captain, who curled a beauty of an effort that had the beating of Hart, but agonisingly for the Gunners, it flew just past the upright too.

Despite the loss, the Arsenal fans applauded their players for their spirit and never say die attitude. It was apt and appropriate that Van Persie went over to show their thanks for the support. More fighting performances of this nature and Arsenal will re-group for another run of substance.