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Five Thoughts: Arsenal 2-2 Manchester City

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A Marvelous Effort Makes City's Glass Decidedly Better Than Half Full

Shaun Botterill

UPDATE: Pellegrini had harsh words for Mark Clattenburg after the match. For what it's worth, I disagree with Pellegrini and am frankly disappointed he made the comments he made.

UPDATE II: In retrospect, he might very well have kept his mouth shut about the refs except I think he was protecting and taking the side of his two best players--Aguero, who got a yellow for dissent after Arsenal goal number one--and Kompany, who was furious about being bumped on goal number two. Both players were extremely vocal on the Wilshere handball. Pelle might very well believe his team got jobbed but he's bitten his tongue too many other times before when he could've gone full metal Fergie. This time, his motive--I believe--was player support. Shrewd move, if you ask me

Part the First: Man Men of the Match

One could absolutely give a game ball to Jesus Navas who played his best overall match in a City uniform on both sides of the ball and was the catalyst for goal numero uno. One should also not ignore Sergio Aguero who was by far the best striker on the pitch, proving what City fans have known all along-when healthy, no one is better at the position. Then again, one should include Fernandinho as a candidate who, after a few dicey opening minutes, did everything a midfielder could do to disrupt the Arsenal attack while also providing his share of pinpoint passes. Just try choosing between those three, not to mention Vincent Kompany, a colossus in the back yet again; Silva who played like, well, David Silva; Gael Glichy who had his best defensive effort in recent memory (the first Arsenal goal notwithstanding); James Milner, enormously effective in various positions on the pitch; Samir Nasri whose marvelous defensive effort after coming on for the less-than-swift Frank Lampard; Demichelis, second only to the Captain in defensive effort but a goal to the good in comparison... I mean, good luck making a choice. It ain't easy.

This is all to say that, while a draw is not the preferred result, Manchester City can take solace in the fact they were absolutely the better team. Arsenal scored twice-once on a maybe/maybe not foul leading to a goal and once on a "what are you gonna do?" volley. Other than that, City was emphatically the better side-better on offense, better on defense, better on set pieces. After less than stellar efforts in the opening games and coming off a desultory effort versus Stoke, it is extremely satisfying to yours truly  that City can go into the Emirates with less than first-team talent and come away not only with a point but with the better effort. You want a Man of the Match? Tuesday's birthday boy, Manuel Pellegrini gets the nod. When a manager can get no fewer than six all-star performances out of a team which for two weeks was scattered to the four winds because of the international break, you're really doing the job.

Part the Second: On to Bayern, Yaya

And if it seems like I'm talking directly to my favorite player, let it be so. For the first time in recent memory, Yaya Toure was held out of a match entirely and the midfield did just fine without him. In fact, I'm having the devil's own time remembering when I saw a match where Toure wasn't playing and I honestly didn't miss him. Of course he would have been better than Lampard but I think Pellegrini shrewdly held the Ivorian out for two reasons:

a.       It lets the entire team know that Bayern is not a game where we'll be playing for a draw and

b.      It takes away the fatigue excuse from Yaya Toure.

Lest the last clause sound harsh, Yaya's excuse was legitimate no matter how you felt about the frankly insane comments coming from both he and his looney tunes agent. At 31, coming off his finest season where he played literally every minute of every key match down the stretch, Toure endured the loss of his brother and an exhausting World Cup. He can be forgiven for his slow start this season but he won't be so easily let off the hook if he performs poorly against Bayern. And I wouldn't be surprised if he plays a match for the ages this Wednesday. Pellegrini is a much, much better man-manager than the previous two men who held the City sideline; he knows how to get the best out of his troops and today underscored the point. Yaya Toure should be the best midfielder on the pitch in Munich.

Part the Third: Whither Mangala?

The consensus from several City sources is that Mangala is out for at least the next week. Which is fine by me-Demichelis is playing extremely competent football and the last thing we need in an exceedingly crucial week is the most expensive defender in Premier League history being thrown to the wolves before being entirely comfortable. When it comes to putting someone out there, trust the best manager we've ever had.

Part the Fourth: FIFA 15 Jumps Shark

Mesut Ozil, today's invisible man, is rated 88. That's two points higher than Yaya Toure, one point higher than David Silva. And Sergio Aguero, at 86, is two points less than Robin Van Persie. The folks who design FIFA 15 need to start a "Just Say No" program and that right soon.

Part the Fifth: Poll!

You know what to do.