It was a case of déjà vu for Roberto Mancini as he saw his side thoroughly dominated by a feisty and efficient Arsenal side only to steal a goal and then let the lead slip through some poor play right across the pitch. Shades of Madrid.
City went into the lead in the 40th minute through a Joleon Lescott bullet header from a superbly weighted corner from Spanish International David Silva. The goal was against the run of play as Arsenal had thoroughly dominated City as the Blues struggled to cope with the passing and pace of the visiting side.
City began the second half with more determination, but it was the visitors who doggedly battled back into the game and scored a late equaliser through Laurent Koscielny who wouldn`t even have been playing had it not been for Thomas Vermaelan coming down with sickness.
Before the game kicked off there was a minute`s applause for Police Officer Fiona Bone and Nichola Hughes, brutally murdered earlier in the week. Both teams sported black armbands as a mark of respect.
With Aguero back from injury and boosting the City attack, Tevez was relegated to the bench and Mancini opted for the height of Dzeko to partner the skilful Argentinian. Aguero though had to wait until the 14th minute for his first shot of the game which was easily stopped by Arsenal keeper Mannone.
The visiting side dominated the first half of the game. Not quite to the extent that Madrid had earlier in the week, but, had it not been for poor control from Gervinho after he had been put through by the excellent Ramsey they would most likely had been in front. Yet, despite all this domination it was City who led at half time and could have been two up after a brilliant curling dipping shot from Dzeko was tipped over the bar by Mannone.
Mancini to his credit made changes at half time in a bid to shore up his midfield which was doing its best to get described as colander like. Yaya went walkabout, Silva couldn`t pass and Garcia was off the pace and Sinclair almost non-existent. Off came Sinclair to be replaced with the more robust Rodwell.
The change produced dividends for City as they immediately looked more solid and had more pace and athleticism about their play. The Blues tested Mannone`s goal through Aguero and were unlucky not to get a penalty when Aguero was clattered by Koscielny. The Argentinian was too honest and stayed on his feet, when he could have probably forced the ref`s hand if he had gone down.
A number of substitutions then followed as firstly Tevez replaced the tiring Dzeko and Arsenal replaced Podolski and Diaby with Walcott and Giroud.
The game then changed for the worse from a City attack and is the crux of Mancini`s dilemma in midfield. Yaya Went on a surging trademark run and fed a great ball through to Aguero who was unlucky not to beat Mannone. However, the visitors` keeper quickly released the ball and Arsenal streamed forward as Yaya turned like a steamboat and slowly jogged toward the play. Lacking men to defend Cazorla was allowed to unleash a wicked shot toward goal that Hart only managed to tip round his post.
From the ensuing corner, mayhem broke loose in the City box and Lescott deigned to pass to Koscielny rather than clear it and the Arsenal defender didn`t need any prompting to bury the ball into the back of the City net to give the visitors a late and deserved goal. They could have taken all three points in the dying moments had Gervinho once again shown why he needs to improve his first touch.
So the game finished one apiece. Mancini must be frustrated at his side`s inability to finish teams off and also the sudden inability to defend at important moments. Something is not right in his midfield tactics as they are not helping out the defence as they did last season and playing the extra striker does not seem to be reaping the dividend of goals he must have hoped for. City are now 7th in the league 4 point s behind Chelsea and defending their title is not proving easy for them.
Hart – 7
Great save from Cazorla and not at fault for goal.
Zabaleta – 8
The best of a bad bunch today. Showed grit and covered every blade of grass.
Kompany – 6
Looked uncertain in his passing and caught out of position more than once.
Lescott – 7
Might not have pace but reads the game well. Should have done better with the corner for Arsenal’s goal but scored a great header.
Clichy – 6
Beaten for pace too many times and no threat going forward.
Yaya – 6
Good going forward, awful going back. Broke into a slow trot in the phase of play before Arsenal’s goal. Poor.
Garcia – 6
Off the pace, keeps getting booked but kept possession when he was asked to pass.
Silva – 6
Would have been 5 but for his tackling back. His decision making and passing were poor today. Gave away possession way too much.
Sinclair – 5
Almost non existent despite proving he had the pace to get past his fullback. Needs to up his game.
Dzeko – 6
Made a nuisance of himself and had one great shot.
Aguero – 6
Had a couple of good shots and a shout for a penalty, but not one of his best games by any standard.
Rodwell – 6
Strengthened the midfield but didn’t offer much of an offensive threat.
Tevez – 6
Chased and harried.
Mancini – got the tactics wrong today, was brave to change things but needs to sort out the dilemma that is Yaya.
Ref Watch – Mike Dean
Should have given a penalty for the foul on Aguero and made one or two iffy decisions but on the whole not too bad.