Wenger’s stuttering side slipped further off the pace with another disappointing performance, even allowing for the extra man advantage we gifted City so early on.
The main talking point of this match was Koscielny’s tenth minute sending off and whether it was warranted, so let’s clear that one up straight away. As Koscielny wrapped his arms around Dzeko’s waist and dragged him down, Carlos Tevez — who was further from the ball than Dzeko — still managed to beat Szczesny to the ball, so there is little doubt Dzeko would’ve got there before Szczesny too. Therefore the correct decision was a red card even if it did spoil the game. Whether you agree with the rule or not, Mike Dean had no option but to implement it.
So any anger from Arsenal fans should not be directed at the ref, but at Koscielny for losing concentration and getting the wrong side of his man. He knew fouling him meant risking a penalty and a sending off but he took the chance anyway and got caught.
As it turned out Dzeko fluffed the spot kick and when Szczesny grabbed the ball off the line a huge roar went up from the home crowd. I expected a surge of adrenaline and aggression from the Arsenal players as they’d unexpectedly been given something to hold on to. The old adage of ten men being harder to beat than eleven was never more true than when the likes of Adams, Keown and Vieira wore the red and white, but the fact we conceded two soft goals within 20 minutes tells you all you need to know about the resolve of this current side.
We went to pieces defensively, no strong characters stood up to be counted (except Wilshere as usual) and there was a lack of leadership and organisation as we vainly chased City players for the rest of the half. In truth we were beaten as soon as Koscielny left the field.
I’m not saying we should’ve won this game and of course it was going to be hard against City with eleven men, never mind ten. But we needed to at least give ourselves a chance by staying focused and solid whilst trying to hit them on the counter. We were neither and the goals illustrated that perfectly.For the first one, some of our players actually had their backs turned as play was restarted with a quick free kick. Milner made a run into the box and when the ball was played to him, Vermaelen looked shocked to see him and went to close him down far too late. That’s not taking anything away from the strike though, which was sensational.
On the half hour mark Podolski lost possession cheaply near the sideline and Zabaleta contested a 50-50 with far more aggression and desire than Gibbs, leaving us totally exposed on the left flank. Milner played in a perfect cross for Tevez which was well saved by Szczesny, but Dzeko was on hand to tap in the rebound.
Yes we were down to ten men, but that’s not why those two goals were conceded. It’s not as if the sacrificed Oxlade-Chamberlain would’ve been there to clear the ball, he’d have been midway inside his own half helplessly watching our poor defending. The red card can’t excuse how meekly we’d surrendered the game by the 30th minute.
There was a small reaction from Arsenal after the break, but it was too late and had just as much to do with City easing down through the gears. A more focused Tevez would’ve scored his one on one chance for example.
On 75 minutes Kompany gave Dean the chance to even up the card count which he gratefully took, but it didn’t really affect the match. Walcott had a shot cleared off the line after a good pass from substitute Ramsey, but that apart we never looked like scoring.
Ramsey had replaced Diaby, who was deputising for the injured Arteta. To say the Frenchman looked rustier than the Titanic would be an understatement and I can’t believe Wenger threw him straight back into first team action after four months out against Man City of all teams. He should’ve started with Ramsey or even Coquelin, who at least would’ve been able to win the ball back on a few occasions. Never have we missed Song more than yesterday and to hear Arteta will now miss three weeks is a huge blow. Who will screen the defence from Arteta, Hazard and Lampard when we visit Stamford Bridge next weekend? I fear a pasting from the chavs, I really do.
Before that we have the small matter of Swansea in the cup replay. It’s our only chance of silverware, but I am concerned with the number of games Wilshere and Cazorla are playing and Jack especially needs a rest at some point. Ideally both players would be rotated on Wednesday having played eight games in five weeks, but Wenger knows our squad players aren’t good enough so he may keep playing them and run them into the ground like he did with Wilshere two years ago. He needs to replace them with Ramsey and Coquelin on Wednesday which will seriously hamper our chances, but we can’t afford to lose Wilshere and/or Cazorla to injury as well as Arteta.
So our poor January continues and we desperately need some reinforcements. I don’t believe we will sign anybody though as Wenger is too blind and stubborn to address the deficiencies in his squad. After all, this is the man who just eleven months ago gave Djourou a three year contract extension for £50,000 a week and last week sent him to Hannover on loan. Nice one Arsene, keep up the good work.