Date: 24th September 2012 at 6:39pm
Written by:

A performance of low energy slovenliness cost City dear yesterday as they took on what pundits describe as one of the “top four” and by definition a candidate, perennial, for Champions League qualification.

If you are going to win the title, indeed for a second consecutive season then these are the teams you have to beat. And without being unkind to Ashburton Grove`s finest, they were up for grabs yesterday.

Conversely, Gooners in the South Stand vestiges might well have said the same about City as a game which was eagerly awaited by fans, media and neutrals alike continually failed to live up to any sort of expectations. This match had “just back from Champions League away match” written all over it from the moment the first ball was kicked as both team shyly tap-tapped without really ever threatening their adversary.

It was perhaps fitting that the first real chance fell to Gervinho, a mile offside as the linesman on the East Stand side found himself ten yards behind play and with no real chance of giving a correct decision. It is a relief that he is bobbins in front of goal, because quite how he did not convert his opportunity remains a mystery.

But at least it seemed to inject something like work into proceedings as it sparked of a couple of chances for City with the returning Aguero testing Mannone and it Sinclair had continued his run he would have reaped the rewards of the inevitable spill. Sinclair was probably the only person in the stadium who must`ve thought that either Aguero would score or Mannone would actually keep hold.

Both sides passing was all over the place. Garcia sent too many long balls back to Arsenal, but then so did Ramsey and Cazorla.

Gervinho could have done enough to put the score out of City`s reach in the first 27 minutes as he spurned chance after chance as the game threatened to fall into insignificance so it was surprise that just ahead of half time, Silva`s left footed corner was headed home Kompany-style by Lescott.

Surely now was time to get the gates open? Arsenal would have to come out and play and surely that would open it up for Aguero?… Well, actually?No.

With City a goal to the good and probably not worth it and from an unlikely source, you would have thought the dressing room would have been buzzing at half time, but it was strangely flat. So flat in fact that Mancini instructed Kiddo to go and liven it up and all before Mike Dean had to press and re-press the buzzer in his bid to get City out. Maybe they had gone to sleep?

Rodwell was sent on to try to get thing moving in midfield to no real effect, Sinclair the victim of a nothing performance that was certainly no better than anything offered by Adam Johnson at any time recent.

The second half also became a sea of errors with both teams seemingly happy to surrender possession almost all of the time. But Arsenal didn`t really look capable of scoring, but as they looked for the equaliser City seemed afraid to come out. It was if a clean sheet was more important than getting goal number two to kill off the match.

And they duly paid for it with a typical for this season piece of sloppy defending from a corner which found of all people Koscielny free a dozen yards out and he duly driiled home the leveller with eight to go.

There was enough time for Aguero to miss a good chance which would have sealed it for City in stoppage time, but the game petered out to a sad 1-1 draw.

When we started last season this was the type of match I had visions of watching time and again as City set about trying to win the title for the first time. Injury to de Jong forced a re-thing by Mancini and the partnership between Barry and Toure came to pass and set the season alight. This season Barry has been marginalised by injury and first Rodwell and then Garcia, the seasonal playthings have not really measured up to the standards the unheralded Barry set last season.

With City lining up in what looked like 4-4-2, it was once again an alien set up and one that City has not really played for years, since the Stuart Pearce non-era. With one of the midfield four playing wide and Garcia looking like he was being mentored by Yaya, it was left to Silva to bear the brunt of the midfield creativity effort solo. It just didn`t work. It has never worked, so why try it against Arsenal?

Garcia is a mountain of a man but turns like the good ship lollipop and for all the world you could almost hear Yaya saying ” Now when I`m not here this is what you do”
Hart was hardly challenged as Arsenal fired blanks and Gervinho couldn`t hit the cow`s proverbial with a banjo. The defence hardly looked in trouble, so quite why it needed both Garcia and Yaya to lie in wait when either one or none were needed escapes me.

With Silva constantly having to try to get thing moving unsupported Dzeko had one of those games where he worked his socks off without seeing the ball and I felt sorry for him. All the running and movement in the world for nothing. Aguero tried hard to get on the scoresheet but simply looked rusty after his enforced lay-off.

Mancini`s masterstroke was to drop Tevez. Can anyone explain that one. I recall last season a certain striker getting out of the traps like a house alight, then getting left out and never regaining the fire again until he scored against QPR. That was of course Dzeko, and here have a player who has scored every week, so when you need goals who better to leave out?

The faithful were no impresses as the grumbled their way along Joe Mercer way. For the second time this week they have thrown away a winning position. OK Real Madrid away would have been a real scalp, but come on City, three points should have been a gift against Arsenal.

I really can`t think who you would say was MoTM for City. A toss up between Toure and Zabaleta, maybe. And was there ructions once again between Mancini and Balotelli. I asked Arsene Wenger but “he deedn`t see eet!”
all times East Manchester

TOMORROW 25 Sep 19h45 Aston Villa, The Etihad, LC3
Sa 29 Sep 15h00 Fulham, Craven Cottage, PL
We 03 Oct 19h45 Borussia Dortmund, The Etihad, PL
Sa 06 Oct 12h45 Sunderland, The Etihad, PL
Sa 20 Oct 15h00 West Brom, The Hawthorns, PL
We 24 Oct 19h45 Ajax, Amsterdam Arena, CL
Sa 27 Oct 17h30 Swansea City, The Etihad, PL