A sellout crowd welcomed Mancini's line-up of football mercenaries and it was strange to see the names Toure and Nasri among those listed on the "Away" roster. The Professor elected to field a youthful side, as is his custom in this tournament and the Arsenal youngsters would outshine them all by the game's finish. This was a big game and the both sides tested each other early on. Within ten minutes, Arsenal had what would be one of their best opportunities of the game. Chamakh worked wide and played on Coquelin whose low cross was met by Park at the far post. The Korean ratcheted a good shot but the keeper managed to claw it away in the nick of time. Right at thirty minutes, the Ox delivered a fine shot towards the top corner and again Man City's GK was somehow equal to the task. The first half became a showcase of attacking football, but the break left both sides goalless. Forced to chose between the two, perhaps the Gunners produced a more convincing display.
The second half picked where the first left off; the teams exchanged shots but the scoreline was unaffected. Halfway through, Gervinho was brought on for Park, shifting Benayoun to a more central role. Arsenal immediately gained the advantage. Chamakh had another go and Frimpong was beastly in his midfield play. His dogged possession and grit allowed you to forget that Nasri was his midfield oppostion. Gervinho closed in on goal only to be squeezed out by Toure. Vermalen was brought on with ten minutes remaining. Someone had to win the contest, it might as well have been Arsenal! With everyone thrown forward, Djourou's misallocated cross came at precisely the wrong time. Once the Citeh' regained the ball, their counterattack developed in a flash. The opponent surged forward, easily slipping through a threadbare defense. It was a heartless goal. The home crowd lifted their team, knowing it was hardly a fair result. With moments remaining, Gervinho sent in a perfect cross. However, Chamakh failed to commit and the chance went begging. Loss in the Cup, and at the hands of Man City...certainly a tough pill to swallow. But our boys can hold their heads high; this was a job well done.
Implications: it was certainly a fine show by a young Arsenal squad. They looked better than their opponents and there's comfort in knowing what is effectively your second string outplayed the most expensive lineup in the Premier League. In about two weeks, Arsenal face City in the League...what could we see here?? Arsenal's current League form is incredible and if they hold pace, should give City a good run for their money. The missing element of the Carling Cup loss was a lack of killer instinct in the final third. But here's the thing: Man City can't front a much stronger line-up, Arsenal sure as heck can!! So, its a trip to Wigan over the weekend. This one's not in the bag, but Arsenal should expect all three points from a team battling relegation. Greece and Olympiacos at midweek; Arsenal has already locked top of the group, even with a loss here. That'll be a good opportunity to rest some starters, good experience for the fringe players, and then...a rematch! Let's see how those moneybags hold up in two week's time!! Oooh To Be a Gooner!!!!