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Arsenal 0 - 0 Manchester City

arsenal review
arsenal review

In some ways it was a disappointing performance. Not because of the tactical approach adopted but it lacked the fluency, movemement and creativity seen over the past month or so. Recent wins have gone hand in hand with some excellent football bringing plenty of goals, and hinted that the long draught at Arsenal could be ended.

Roberto Mancini has made no apologies for the approach though. The side had played three games in quick succession over the Christmas and New Year period (winning all three in the process), resulting in a side that was surely tired in both body and mind and was without both Mario Balotelli and David Silva for the trip.

It was the loss of Silva that was most felt. Shorn of the playmaker in the side, the real creative force with an ability to control the play. The three key tenets that the side has been built upon: ball retention, controlling possession and territory and restricting space for the opposition were in no way evident.

There has been much talk linking both this and the United performance together, yet for anyone who has watched the side regularly would know that those performances have been in isolation. Of late, both results and displays have been positive yet this was missing in the first-half in particular. Jo, in the side ahead of Adam Johnson, was expected to provide the outlet for Joe Hart that he managed at Fulham was inept. Time and time again City ceded possession to Arsenal and remained pinned in their half.

Arsenal's fast start maybe surprised the side and it put them on the back foot from the word go and they struggled to recover from it. It was amazing that they failed to get on the scoresheet, but maybe questions should be asked of their finishing as opposed to focussing solely on City's approach.

The second-half was a more composed performance from City. Yes, they were happy to retreat and allow Arsenal to attack (it was surely as deep was we have seen Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure this season), yet the defending was more accomplished. Arsenal were allowed fewer opportunities, and the one excellent save from Joe Hart aside, he was not tested nearly as often as Arsenal would have wanted for the possession and territory they enjoyed.

What the game did tell us was that this side can defend. In Vincent Kompany, City has a defender who allies ability on the ball with more 'traditional' defensive abilities; there surely hasn't been a better performer in his position this season. Mention must be made of Kolo Toure too. Back in the side after an absence, he too was impressive and their partnership this season has been excellent. The side have only conceded 16 goals in 22 games (a league best) with five of these coming in two games that they were not paired together. As David McConnell in The Mirror pointed out this morning, this was neither a performance nor a result that a Mark Hughes-led side would have achieved.

The point gained on the night also importantly extended the lead the side has over both Chelsea and Tottenham, whilst keeping Arsenal at bay at the same time. It is clear that Roberto Mancini has a particular ethos, a plan in place that will achieve objectives over the course of the whole season, not focussing solely on the short term.

After missing out by such a close margin on the Champions League in 2009/10 points such as this could be so vital come the end of the season, and after a short break in League action, if Wolves are beaten a week on Saturday then it will look an even better point gained.