Arsenal 2 (Adebayor 8, 49) Man City 0
Apologies for the lateness of the report, illness has kept me away, but with that showing no signs of disappearing, I’ve lugged myself to the keyboard anyway. This might be a short one.
Saturday was one of those days where you watched a performance and ended up with mixed feelings. On the one hand, there is disappointment that we were so abject at times, early in the season, which leads to thoughts of what might have been, but on the other, there is the sense that this side is building momentum towards the end of the season, and is on the brink of challenging for everything again next year.
And in a way, that has been Wenger’s plan all along – blood the youngsters, take the potential hit of transition, but come out the other side stronger. And that is no more apparent than in the remarkable improvement made by a couple of the players, most notably Alex Song, who seems to have woken up in the last month and turned from a player who drifts around the game to a snappy midfielder with a hitherto unseen eye for a pass.
Denilson is looking more and more like a handy holding midfielder, while the attacking trio of Arshavin, Walcott and the returning Cesc caused havoc all match. With our captain given more license to attack with two sitting behind him, it made for an interesting formation that City simply weren’t good enough to cope with. With further wide options in Nasri, Vela and the soon to return Rosicky, it is a setup that is a very realistic option in the future.
However, it does lead to reliance on a sole frontman, of which Adebayor and Bendtner are probably best suited. Eduardo is less likely to slot into the formation than a regular 4-4-2. But Ade rose to the occasion on Saturday, charging around like he used to, showing a hunger that seemed to have been missing for some time. It was good to see, and says a lot for the competitive nature of our squad that his place is no longer guaranteed.
The goals were both conjured by Cesc, who first delivered a free kick onto Ade’s head, City’s dreadful defending meaning he didn’t even have to get off the ground to head in. The second was a delightful chip over the retreating Dunne, which Ade ran on to before rounding Given and calmly slotting home.
There were plenty of other chances too, but in the first half City had a few of their own, and had they been taken, it could’ve been a different story, although you always felt we had plenty more gears if needed. But Almunia must take credit for a couple of excellent saves to preserve our early lead.
With Villa losing again on Sunday, our lead over them is now six points, but they’ve now had the worst of their fixtures, while we still have to play the top three. As I’ve said before, we could really do with United regaining their lead and ending the league season early, so that we play weakened sides in those games while they all concentrate on the Champions League. But that is another debate for another day.
Today, it is all about how strong our squad is beginning to look, and how we are looking the complete opposite of this time last year, when we were fading badly. Now, there are fresh faces and players in form. It looks good.