Manchester City’s 2-1 win at Arsenal has really ruffled a few feathers. The blues moved eleven points clear at the top of the table following Rodri’s injury time winner to deal the Gunners a hard to swallow loss, particularly when they, as Pep Guardiola admitted, were the better team.
Unfortunately, winners in football are not always the better side on the day. City will testify to that. How many times over the years have the blues been much the better side and lost? Ultimately, Arsenal failed to take some of their chances, and, for once, City didn’t fail to take theirs.
As they say, it is what champions do.
Liverpool did it in the 80’s, United and Arsenal themselves in the 90’s and 00’s, while Chelsea joined the party in the first half of the new millennium. The thing is, it was okay for those teams to do that, because that’s what the top teams did. But, somehow, it’s not okay for City to do the same. How strange!
Arsenal fans point to two occasions on the use of VAR, however, listening to Ian Wright’s explanation shows the referee and VAR got the decisions absolutely correct.
How VAR Was Right
VAR was brought in to, amongst other reasons, rectify ‘clear and obvious errors’ by the referee. So, not giving a penalty when they should, giving a penalty when they shouldn’t have, missing a red card, that sort of thing. Arsenal were aggrieved that the referee didn’t check the pitchside monitor following Ederson’s challenge on Martin Odegaard. However, as Wright explained, it wasn’t a clear and obvious error from the referee. Numerous angles were looked at, yet no one could decide whether it was a foul or not.
From one angle, Ederson looks to have got the ball, from another, the man. It was such a difficult decision that even VAR couldn’t work it out, so it was left to the referee’s original decision.
The second was a bit clearer. Xhaka looked to have made contact with Bernardo Silva’s leg and grabbed his shirt as the midfielder was going to ground. It looked like and error on the referee’s part and that was the sole reason he was asked to review it. On closer inspection, it was a penalty.
The arguments will rage on, and some in the Arsenal camp have been very vocal about VAR’s use. However, VAR has finally been used for the exact purpose it was brought in for.
Were Arsenal Robbed?
Following a disastrous start to the season where the Gunners briefly found themselves bottom of the table, Mikel Arteta has guided his side to a top four spot. It’s a remarkable turnaround and for long periods in Saturday’s game, Arsenal looked like they could beat the blues. They had the belief, and they were strong going forward. The City defence were concerned, and there was fear at the back, typified by Aymeric Laporte’s attempt to emulate Jamie Pollock. Under pressure, the Spanish international headed the ball over Ederson and only a brilliant clearance from Nathan Ake prevented a repeat of that embarrassing 1998 moment.
The follow up fell kindly for Gabriel Martinelli, but, with the goal at his mercy, somehow hit the woodwork and wide for a goal kick. That was the moment Arsenal lost the match. Gabriel was sent off moments later and Arsenal lost their heads. They were clearly still rattled by the penalty decision, and when they needed to calm, they couldn’t find it.
City continued to play, continued to press and played to the whistle. It wasn’t City’s fault Arsenal switched off right at the end, so to say the Gunners were robbed is not exactly correct. They were the architects of their own downfall.
City Find a Way
The blues struggled against the Gunners for periods in the game, and maybe three matches in six days took its toll a little. Arsenal had a longer rest and maybe that played a part in the blues performance. They were not their fluid self and had far too many misplaced passes. Yet they still found a way to win.
As mentioned earlier, this is what top teams do, and it was almost bitter-sweet to do it against Arsenal. Over the years, the Gunners have dominated the blues home and away, and City have been on the end of some questionable refereeing decisions. So, it was nice to see some decisions going City’s way.
And snatching a late win is always nice, especially at a top team.
While the result will give the blues a huge boost in the title race, it was extremely harsh on the Gunners, who had gone toe to toe with the blues and pushed them all the way. On another day, and without Gabriel’s stupidity, Arsenal could have won the match, and no one would have denied them the three points.
But this sort of thing happens in football. It has always happened and will continue to do so. Like City fans have had to do in the past, Gunner’s supporters just have to suck it up and accept it. If not, then maybe football just isn’t for them.