Verdict: Arsenal 0 Manchester City 0
City ground out a goalless draw in a game that offered little for the neutral, and less to the home support whose only satisfaction came in jeering Adebayor. Roberto Mancini and the City players appeared happy with the point following Spurs’ defeat to United.
This contentedness poses intriguing questions. Against United, we were clearly going for the win with an attacking formation and the game became stretched in the final minutes, allowing United to deliver the killer blow. Had he wanted to, Mancini could have ordered his troops to sit tight and settle for a point.
Spurs then went on to beat Chelsea, moving into a Champions League place. To be sure of finishing fourth, we now need to win our three remaining games. Had we lost against Arsenal we would still have needed to win these games. Therefore settling for a point makes little sense on the face of it. Had we gone for the win and got it, then a draw may have been enough against Spurs.
Harry Redknapp now has the advantage of knowing a point against us could be enough (providing Spurs beat Bolton). The only advantage to City of a point against Arsenal is that if we draw against Villa and win our other two games, then we could still finish above Spurs on goal difference. However, Spurs have a home game against Bolton, and Owen Coyle’s teams haven’t distinguished themselves on the road this season. The final game for Tottenham is against Burnley, and we demonstrated in 45 minutes how goal difference could be improved at Turf Moor.
Yet a point at Arsenal is not to be dismissed, even against an injury depleted Gunners side. Our defending was superb with Toure and Kompany both excelling at centre-back. A highly motivated Robin Van Persie wasn’t given an inch.
Given his good form, Nedum Onuoha must have been desperately disappointed to find himself on the bench, and then overlooked in favour of Micah Richards when Wayne Bridge hobbled off. However both Zabaleta and Richards justified their recalls with solid displays.
Nigel de Jong was once again crucial in preventing the opposition midfield breaking through. Against the stronger teams his importance grows, and he will be vital against Villa and Spurs.
The disappointment was in our attacking play, and not just because of the tactics. Tevez was horribly isolated during the first half, just as he had been at Chelsea, yet there wasn’t the energy we associate with him.
Craig Bellamy rarely received a decent pass as we focused to much on knocking the ball over the top for him to run on to – and getting this wrong. The same tactic failed against Gary Neville the previous week.
Adam Johnson seemed to expend all his energy in the first half tracking Clichy. By the time we started attacking, he looked shattered, and was ripe to be replaced by Wright-Phillips. Unfortunately we ran out of substitutes courtesy of Shay Given’s dislocated shoulder.
Neither Barry or Vieira provided any telling passes to the forwards, and this was a crucial failing for a side looking to play on the break. Given’s attempts to find Bellamy with quick kicks that ended up in touch were simply dispiriting.
The only plus point in our offensive game was the appearance of Adebayor. Not surprisingly he was up for it. The response to all the jeering was plenty of big smiles and hair in pigtails – surely a first for any City player.
With the arrival of the Togolese, City looked to take the game to Arsenal and were starting to make an impression when Given’s injury left us unsettled and reverting back to protecting our goal. Adebayor was doing well in pulling out to the flanks and holding the ball up, but wasn’t able to get into the opposition area and make the sweetest of headlines for himself.
“It was an unbelievable feeling afterwards, but when I did come on it was just so intense.
“But I’ve not played too many games, especially at this level.”
Despite eight minutes of injury time, Gunnar Nielsen remained untroubled and looked confident. Whether this proves to be a point gained or two points dropped, only time will tell. What it does ensure, is our destiny remains in our own hands. Win the next three games and we’re in the Champions League.