EPL 2006: Manchester City 1 – Arsenal 3

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
May 5th, 2006 • 8:07 am

It was a rather entertaining game. In spite of their recent poor run and the fact that, mathematically speaking, they didn’t have anything to play for, the Manchester City players were definitely committed, and the Gunners had to fight to overcome them, especially in the second half.

It was a great relief to see Sol Campbell getting back to his best form, and you can definitely see the solidarity between players in this Arsenal team. Whenever a full-back ventures forward, his flank is covered by either a mid-fielder or one of the central defenders. Even Thierry Henry continues to track and try to win the ball back in mid-field whenever he loses possession in attack. Ashley Cole still looks a bit short of match fitness, but he played the full 90 minutes, and had an encouraging performance.

The only Arsenal player who was definitely disappointing was Robin van Persie. I really like it when he has a go at it, but there is a fine line between taking chances yourself and being selfish. He definitely needs to work more both on his ability to create opportunities for other players and on controlling his temper. Otherwise, Arsène Wenger will always have second thoughts about including him in his starting line-up for high-stakes games.

Thierry Henry was a mix of frustration and brilliance, as he has been in the past few games, with his fantastic touch deserting him at times. But he was still at the centre of things and played a crucial role in two of the goals.

It was also a great relief to see both Ljunberg and Reyes back on the score sheet. They are two players who we know can score goals, but these goals have been lacking in recent times, and now is not the worst time to rediscover one’s scoring touch—except that it will give Arsène Wenger greater selection headaches, of course.

Fábregas had a big impact as soon as he came on in place of Song, who had another decent game and is starting to look like a promising player for the future. And Lehmann had yet another couple of great saves that kept Arsenal in the game at a crucial time in the second half. As has become typical in EPL games, the opposition was trying to wind him up, knowing that he has a bit of a short fuse, but fortunately Graham Poll is a referee with enough experience to keep things under control. David Sommeil did enough in the game to earn at least a yellow card, but got away with it, and even ended up on the score sheet, albeit somewhat fortuitously.

The Manchester City goal was definitely a soft goal to concede, and the Arsenal defence will have to work a little more on these set piece situations in practice. But there is no denying that it made the game more interesting for the neutrals, and provided a test of the Gunners’ nerves in the second half. The Gunners will need a lot of mental strength if they want to have a chance of winning the game on May 17, and the ability to overcome set-backs will likely be part of it.

Now the pressure is definitely on for the final games on Sunday, with Tottenham just one point ahead of Arsenal and playing away at West Ham, while the Gunners are playing their final home game against Wigan. Fourth place is still a very real possibility, even though it’s out of the Gunners’ hands. They have to count on West Ham to hold Spurs to a draw or defeat them, and then win their own Highbury farewell game.

With the last three teams already relegated and Chelsea already crowned champions, this battle for fourth place will be the last bit of suspense on Sunday! (There is still a battle for second place, although it’s hard to imagine Manchester United failing to win at home against Charlton, and one UEFA spot remains to be decided between Newcastle and Bolton, but there is no doubt that the battle for fourth place is the crucial one.)

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