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Arsenal 1 City 0.

A match that will inevitably overshadowed by the penalty-farce between Robert Pires and Thierry Henry which has caused much debate from players, managers and media alike.
Was it disrepectful towards us, a show of arrogance or just something that was a complete and utter balls-up?
Sylvain Distin was certainly unhappy with his post match comments, accusing Arsenal of being 'disrepectful' and 'ungentlemanly'. Pires apologies by stating "I shouldn't have done it.
It was the wrong game in which to try it, and I have apologised to the manager and the other players". But Henry claimed "It was not a lack of respect - maybe we should not have done it, but football is a game and it is entertainment."
Arsene Wenger claimed it was done because Pires was so 'scared' of missing the penalty - if that was the case why didn't Henry take it in the first place? Stuart Pearce was again sitting on the fence with his post match comments - which is becoming an annoying habit in truth, and said Arsenal should not be criticised for their 'innovation'. adopted a very strong take on Arsenal's tactics on the penalty, but I wouldn't necessarily agree to that extent. I don't believe it was disrespectful as such (although Danny Mills certainly thought so - clearly seen calling Pires 'a French c*nt' immediately afterwards!), but showed a definite arrogance which backfired tremendously and by doing it at 1-0 could (should?) have cost them dearly later in the game.
One last point on the penatly farce - it would be interesting to see how much the media would have been salivating over Henry and Pires if they had actually scored?
Oh, there was actually a game played around the penalty incident and in truth it was a bit of a messy affair resulting in a 1-0 defeat. Late injury withdrawals from Onouha and Cole led to recalls for Sommeil and Sibierski, and from seeing the highlights on Football First on Sky it looked like Cole's withdrawal definitely altered the mindset of the players and their approach. There was plenty of huff and puff from City but it seemed that we lacked a bit of belief or conviction in our approach, which Pearce alluded to in his post match comments likening the display to that at Newcastle.
The first half was fairly dull and scrappy with Arsenal also looking pedestrian and unable to shake off their recent poor form. At 0-0 though, we always had a chance and a point would have definitely been a good return. On cue though right on the hour mark was Mike Riley with a dubious decision to award Arsenal a penalty following a James challenge on Henry. Taking the blue-tinted specs off for a moment I am inclined to think this was a penalty as James made contact with Henry and got nothing of the ball. However, there is no doubt that James made a genuine attempt for the ball and the Henry's direction was away from goal and arguably the ball was travelling out for a goal kick, so maybe a harsh one although I think we would have disappointed if it hadn't been given at the other end.
This time the penalty was taken properly and slotted home by Pires. Riley, obviously not convinced he may have done enough to make the highlights then awarded Arsenal a second penalty after Bergkamp cleverly collided with two City defenders. Riley - perhaps for the cameras, then displaying a really grating smile as he waved away protests like he was dismissing naughty schoolchildren.
The game threatened to get a little nasty and a few tasty challenges began to fly about but still we pressed on and Pearce introduced Micah Richards for his Premiership debut. And with ten minutes left, Barton sent in a peach of a cross from deep and Vassell rose above the Arsenal defence to head past the static Lehmann to square the game. Or maybe not. Despite not a single protest or arm raised (where are you Adams and Bould?) from the Arsenal defenders, the referees assistant raised his flag for off-side and the goal didn't stand. Replays indicated that Vassell's big toe was in an off-side position when the cross was delivered meaning the goal was harshly ruled out. Compare with United's goal yesterday when the header that Robinson spilled was made. Two players in far more off-side positions than Vassell yet the goal stands. Also, from that game I've yet to see the clamour for Robinson to be hung, drawn and quartered after gifting United the opening goal - wonder if James would have escaped such criticism?
So, disappointing all in all and I definitely feel we were good value for a point although we need to get out of this lack of conviction we have when Cole is missing from the side. Perhaps, the players are under instruction from Pearce just to keep it tight at 0-0 and try and nick the game, but you wouldn't think so from his post-game comments.
Just a couple of final points from the game:
I'd much rather Barton was moved back into the centre along with Ireland with Reyna (or Croft) back out on the right as we certainly lose his presence when he moved out wide. I don't really see what value he brings out wide?
Distin continues to impress more and more as a player and importantly as a captain. He initially struggled in the role, but has grown into it and it was good to see him first around Riley when decisions when against us, and backing team-mates up when they got involved with Arsenal players. Show me a better French centre-half. Boumsoung, Silvestre? Yeah right.
The game featured an old-style drop ball yesterday for the first time in donkeys years (have they been reintroduced?!). Shame it was the biggest mismatch you could have got in Mills v Pires.