With United being gifted victories left right and centre by incompetent referees, it really was win or bust for Manchester City as they travelled to a resurgent Arsenal who in the form of Robin Van Persie, posses the best striker in the league.
In the event not only did Mancini’s side bust they did so whilst being outfought, outthought and outplayed. At the same time the Mario Balotelli circus act kept on rolling and sadly for his manager the critics are mounting with every passing week.
Since my first visit in 2007 I have always considered the Emirates to be the best ground in the country, subsequent trips to Wembley have done little to change my opinion, it’s a cracking stadium that much like the Arsenal team, makes up in style for what it usually lacks in atmosphere and bite.
Considering everything connected with the two clubs, they couldn’t be more different. One prides itself on developing youth, keeping spending to a minimum whilst holding a fan base largely made up on gentile middle class gentlemen. The other is revered across the land for lavish spending sprees on top notch talent, supported by a unique bunch, who seldom fail to create an interesting atmosphere.
Balotelli was playing like a ticking time bomb likely to explode at any given moment
However to an onlooker yesterday it would have appeared that The Gunners were the big spenders, maybe it was because both Arsenal’s supporters and team were on a revenge mission to undermine the club who season after season seem fixated upon stealing Wenger’s crown jewels.
Whether that was the reason or not it was a different Arsenal yesterday, a harrying side that mixed their usual stylish passing game with robust challenges whilst being backed by an unusually vociferous home crowd all accumulating to create incessant waves of Arsenal pressure, and sadly City’s all-stars could not cope.
It was strange to see a Wenger side that competed for every second ball, not letting the opposition settle for an instant and creating the kind of high-tempo edge-of-your-seat energy that demonstrated two qualities not synonymous with Arsenal over the last 5 years or so, spirit and determination. This was reflected in the opening 15 minutes, City just did not get a foot on the ball, their usual passing game was not allowed to take shape and when after half an hour we had only had 25% of the possession, I feared the worst.
Luckily it was the first time in weeks that City could call upon their first choice centre back pairing with the colossal Joleon Lescott returning alongside the leader Vincent Kompany, and after the first half it was apparent that they had both been sorely missed with the defensive unit looking far more solid than it had done in recent weeks.
Arsenal threw cross after cross into the area but the pair were unshakeable, confidently clearing anything that came their way. But aside from the duo and perhaps Joe Hart the rest of the team were dreadful. Up front Aguero was non-existent following his return from his mystery injury, though it would be harsh to blame the Argentine given his lack of service and his partner in crime Balotelli who was playing like a ticking time bomb likely to explode at any given moment.
So it seems we will be saying Arrivederci to mad Mario, and unless results improve Mancini may receive the same treatment
Oh Mario, the marmite of football, 2 years into his City career and I still can’t decide whether I love him or hate him. The mohawked madman had a disastrous afternoon, firstly hacking down Alex Song with a potential leg breaking tackle then missing City’s best chance from a clever corner. At half time he rolled around on the floor feigning injury before eventually getting his marching orders in the second period for a stupid tackle at the death. Sounds like an eventful afternoon on paper, however sadly the Italian’s antics have led us to expect as much.
After somehow managing to survive the first half onslaught and go in at half time level, surely the Blues would step up their game and come out fighting. The second period did start better, well marginally better; whilst Arsenal struggled to maintain the frantic pace set in the first half, City began to impose themselves a little bit more, they even managed to create a chance on goal but Zabaleta inadvertently shoulder charged Aguero when he had the goal at his mercy.
That was that in terms of chances, hardly surprising considering David ‘Merlin’ Silva was rested. His recent form suggests that he has not just misplaced but completely lost the use of his magic wand, and without him City have no creativity whatsoever. With Nasri seemingly content to pass the buck and not shoulder the creative responsibility that left City’s workhorses Gareth Barry and James Milner to produce a defence spitting through ball, which never came.
Although deserved, Arteta’s late wonder strike was a bitter pill to swallow and hammered the final nail into our title bid. This is now the worst run City have been on under Bobby’s tenure with no wins in three games sadly we have hit a blip at the worst possible time. The naysayers seem to be revelling in our demise, constantly pointing out Mancini’s failings at any given opportunity, mainly in Mario and sadly they seem to be correct.
The usually unruffled manger seemed on edge as he admitted the faith he has shown to Balotelli was misplaced declaring that his £24 million signing would ‘probably’ never play for the club again. So it seems we will be saying Arrivederci to mad Mario, and unless results improve Mancini may receive the same treatment.
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