Regular readers (yeah, right...) might remember the last time Arsenal welcomed a team from Manchester to North London, I made tenuous analogy about a circus halls of mirrors and how perception differs depending on the position you happen to be in at any given moment. Much the same applies following this 1-1 draw against Manchester City. On one hand, a poor quality game with an outcome that doesn't necessarily help our fight to cling on in the title race, nor really our fight to even retain our position in the top four. On the other hand, following recent setbacks, to be able to hold the best team in the country to a draw is not to be sniffed at and players and fans alike can feel a sense of pride at the fact that, for the first time in what seems like a long time, there was something resembling resilience against a top side.
Given our current position, celebrating a mere point would be over the top (we'll leave that sort of behaviour to them up the road) but to salvage a draw after a first half when we barely looked in the game, can of course been seen as a major positive considering all that transpired in the preceding eight days.
Our goal-scorer on the day was a revitalised Matthiu Flamini who got on the end of a Lukas Podolski low cross (see!) to hit home a well-deserved equaliser. Our tenacious Frenchman went some way to making amends after his gut-wrenching late own goal last Tuesday, not simply by scoring, but an-round action man like performance in the middle of the park. So much so, City's in-form and usually terrifying midfield beast Yaya Toure was uncharacteristically subdued. Seemingly taking it upon himself to play in a slightly more advanced role, Flamini helped Arsenal gain a foothold on a game that was in danger of running away from them before the break. Having already found himself in the box to score a rightly disallowed offside goal in the first half, he then encapsulated what was a far braver team approach after the interval and ultimately, it was this endevour that paid dividends. Although, if I am to be unduly harsh, salvaging just a single point on this occasion having cost us two in midweek means he's still actually in arrears...
Sitting on Defence
There was certainly a marked improvement on the defensive side of things for Arsenal on Saturday. After the horror show at Stamford Bridge, it was clear that efforts were made to contain City far better than they had Chelsea. Gone was the ridiculous high line and with the abovementioned Flamini back in the starting line up ahead of Oxlade-Chamberlain, there for far more solidity in the middle of the park. There is still a little concern regarding the full backs getting caught up the pitch/out of position – as evidenced by their goal when Dzeko was able to drift wide and find himself unmarked - but overall, City's chances were at a premium as Arsenal made sure to keep things much, much tighter. Lessons perhaps learned from last week and of course, the corresponding fixture at the Etihad.
Despite what has generally been a poor record against the better sides in the league this season, Arsenal will end the season unbeaten at home against Chelsea, City, Liverpool, Spurs, Everton and United. While these matches haven't all necessarily translated into wins or even good performances, there is certainly something to take from the fact that even the best teams cant expect have things their own way on our turf. One would hope this is an indication that Arsenal are turning the Emirates into something of a Fortress and our home record this year should provide a platform as we look to continuing to challenge in the future.
Arsenal are now unbeaten in the last 5 matches in which he has taken charge so can we please, please, PLEASE put this silly paranoid conspiracy theory to bed, now? It is quite tiresome to listen to fans moan every time he is appointed to referee one of our matches. He had maybe one big decision to make against City and that was the correct non-award of a penalty after Rosicky took a tumble. Some might even say our man was lucky not be booked for diving.
Point to Prove
As I said, a draw does us few favours as far as our ambitions in the league are concerned. An After Chelsea's shock defeat, an opportunity was lost to chase down both them and City at the top. Liverpool's subsequent hammering of Spurs means that hopes of even third place might be drifting away. Equally concerning is the fact their city rivals Everton are breathing down our necks in the (sigh...) 'race for fourth' following their dispatching of Fulham, and now, the single point we earned this week looks insufficient. That said, by managing to avoid defeat and showing character against such formidable opponents, there is certainly reason for encouragement to dig us out of our recent funk. The aim now is surely to finish the season as strongly and as high as possible. Use this point as a catalyst to spark a good run and then see where we are once the season is over.