Arsenal 1-1 Manchester City: Could Have Been A Lot Worse

This result is a bit of a weird one - disappointing in the sense that an outstanding second half could have seen us win it and go within kicking distance of Chelsea at the top of the league, but also heartening in the sense that we played a top team and fought back to a draw when we so easily could have went to pieces. Again.

The best news coming into it was that Mathieu Flamini was in the starting 11. The last few reverses against the bigger sides have come without our most combative player on the pitch, for reasons that frankly elude me. His influence was felt right from the off, with not only his tackles flying in from all sides but our shape was also held thanks to his timely shouts.

Still, Arsenal survived a nervy opening ten minutes, with City dominating early. Had their play been a bit more direct, we may have been blown away before we got our bearings. Sergio Aguero was definitely a big miss for them, that's for sure.

Slowly, our boys did get back into it. Had anyone been refereeing this match other than that odious fucking troll Mike Dean (I mean, he has has much business referring matches of this magnitude as I do presenting papers on advanced nuclear physics), we may have taken the lead soon after. Flamini played Tomas Rosicky into the box with a beautiful through-ball, only for the Czech man to be crudely hacked down by Pablo Zabaleta. It was an absolute stonewall penalty, but we were never going to get that with Dean in the middle. Bastard.

Naturally, City scored almost immediately afterward.

There were several at fault, not least of which was Lukas Podolski, He lost possession cheaply at midfield, and the Sky Blues were away. David Silva threaded a wonderful pass to Edin Dzeko on the left side of the area. His shot was tipped onto the bar by Wojciech Szczesny, and unfortunately bounced back into the center rather than out to the side. Still, Thomas Vermaelen was badly beaten by Silva to the rebound, leaving their man the easiest of tap-ins to put them into the lead.

I must be honest with you - once that went in, I assumed that City would go on to hammer us. Thankfully, Arsenal had a lot more fight on the day than that. Even though you could say the visitors got much the better of the opening stanza, it wasn't to the same extent that Chelsea did. It wasn't that Arsenal were being outplayed, per se. Actually, it was heartening to see the men in red contest every loose ball, getting stuck in on the 50/50s, just plain fighting their asses off. No one typified that more for me than little Santi Cazorla, who had a storming game on the defensive side of the ball. His passing was not so great on the day, but he came up with a litany of timely interceptions and tackles in midfield to break up attacks.

I know, I thought it was weird, too. But, how vital it proved to be on the day.

Arsenal kept plugging away, and we even had the ball in their net through Flamini though it was rightly pulled back for offside. Still they kept coming though, and back-to-back bookings for Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany showed that we were getting to them a bit.

Dean struck again though, again giving our more moneyed opponents the benefit of the doubt for no discernible reason. Mikel Arteta played a long ball upfield, but was taken out immediately after by a late and violent kick from Silva. The City man absolutely should have walked - it was as clear of a red card as you'll ever seen. Odious Fucking Troll did wave a card, but it was emphatically the wrong color.

I hate Mike Dean so much.

Arsenal did well in the opening exchanges of the second half, but there was a bit of a let-off when Szczesny parried Jesus Navas' cross onto the shins of Edin Dzeko. The way things have been going, you'd have expected that to dribble into the far corner of our net. Thankfully, it ended up the right side of the post from our point of view.

Sure enough, we went straight down the other end and got the equalizer. Podolski, making up for his poor giveaway leading to their goal, did great work down the left and whipped in a nice cross. The City defense were all over the place, allowing Flamini to sneak in and guide a low effort past Joe Hart and into the far corner. As you might imagine, the pub went berserk in a mixture of joy and relief.

From that point on, I never thought we'd lose it. City retreated into a bit of a shell, content to take the point and get out of London alive For our part, we battered them with everything we had, but just couldn't find that little bit of magic to get the winner. Podolski had the best chance to do so shortly after the tying goal, but Hart brilliantly saved with his legs to knock it out for a corner. Maybe Poldi could have done a bit better there, but you have to tip your cap to the England No. 1 there.

City mostly stood in their shell, but they did attempt to counter at times. When they did, the Arsenal defense largely held, none better than Kieran Gibbs. He was fantastic on the day. On the other end of the spectrum though, Arteta was absolutely awful on both sides of the ball. He was utterly lightweight when called upon defensively, and he often wasted possession with awful passes when we had it. Dreadful, dreadful, dreadful. For me, he absolutely should not be an automatic first choice at this point.

Still, this was a point that might just do us the world of good. We have a generous run-in, with the caveat that the Swansea result should hopefully prevent our guys from getting too complacent. The rest of the big teams all still have to play each other, so who knows? It seems utterly bizarre that we're still in with a shout for this thing despite getting embarrassed at City, Chelsea and Liverpool. Stranger things have happened, though.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 7, Gibbs 8, Vermaelen 6, Mertesacker 7, Sagna 7, Arteta 5, Flamini 8, Podolski 7 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 7), Rosicky 7, Cazorla 8, Giroud 7 (Sanogo N/A)

Man of the Match: Flamini got the goal, but for me Santi Cazorla was our best player overall. He gave absolutely everything in an all-action performance.