The opening stanza of Manchester City’s trip to Arsenal without doubt favoured the home side, as Arsene Wenger’s men swarmed around light blue shirts like flies on a carcass, pressuring the man in possession and forcing errors.
Four of the forward five players executed their haranguing duties superbly, with hustle and bustle not quite instilled into the game of Mesut Ozil.
Up front, Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck showed why they are the perfect buys for this team, not just for their pace and ability going forward, but their willingness to run for the team when out of possession.
Behind them, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey displayed anticipation and timing to break up many of the Citizens’ moves and, had Welbeck’s chip over the onrushing Joe Hart landed an inch to the right, Arsenal would have deserved a lead.
Instead, it was the Gunners’ one weak spot which cost them their foothold in the game. City, the league’s gold standard for soaking up pressure, flipped the momentum of the match through Sergio Aguero.
The Argentine, who has an incredible 78 goals for the 12/5 defending champions in just 126 appearances, ghosted off the back of Mathieu Flamini to convert Jesus Navas’ low cross at the near post.
That Arsenal were able to rally in the second half and overturn the deficit with two superb goals from Wilshere and Sanchez is a huge positive for the north London outfit.
But if there was ever proof that a solid midfield anchorman, who will sacrifice his involvement in the side’s attacks to properly screen his defence, is needed in January then this was it.
Flamini, nor Mikel Arteta, are adequate versions of top-flight defensive midfielders and while the high-pressing fearlessness Arsenal showed in flashes against City bodes well for their 12/1 title chances, it’s in protecting the back four they really must invest if they are to make those chances a reality.
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