Both teams were involved in Champions League action during the week and both managed to get through the games and into the next round. In my preview of the game I said how I thought Manchester City would line up, and I wasn’t too far off when the teams were announced. Costel Pantilimon replaced Joe Hart from midweek with Gael Clichy and Vincent Kompany returning to the starting lineup. Pablo Zabaleta started on the bench for City on Tuesday but pretty much played the whole game after an early injury to Micah Richards.
The rest of the team was all but changed from Tuesday, which was hardly surprising as numbers were rested especially for this game. Arsenal wouldn’t be a pushover, though, with Jack Wilshire, Oliver Giroud and Mesut Ozil joined in the starting line up by Theo Walcott. There was no doubt as Blue Moon rang out across the stadium that this was the biggest game of the season so far.
City started well early on with almost constant pressure, and aside from a brief nervous spell at the other end when Wilshire swung wildly at a shot it was all Manchester City. All the pressure needs to pay off with goals, and just before the quarter of an hour mark Sergio Aguero put the home side a goal up with a fantastic strike. Demichelis flicked on a corner and the Argentinian finished with a volley.
From then on City were dominant before pressing the self destruct button on the half an hour. Yaya Toure was caught on the ball on the halfway line and Arsenal broke well and quickly. Eventually the ball came to Walcott and the Englishman finished well and low to the goalkeeper’s left. It may have taken a slight deflection, but the truth is that Pantilimon was slow to move; in fact he didn’t until the net was bulging. This is the problem with City in my opinion; with all the flair and attacking prowess they have they still have those crucial moments of defensive weakness.
Once again, just before the halftime whistle, the Manchester City attack struck as another defender Pablo Zabaleta squared the ball to Alvaro Negredo and the beast finished well. It was a double blow for Arsenal though as defender Laurent Koscielny was injured in the goal. Replays were curious as it didn’t seem as if anything untoward went on, and the defender even got up only to sit straight back down again. It could be something really serious, and he was instantly replaced with Thomas Vermaelen.
Early in the second half Manchester City had some bad news when Sergio Aguero came off two minutes after the restart holding his calf. On came Jesus Navas as Manuel Pellegrini changed the shape a little with Navas going wide and David Silva sitting just behind Negredo. Instantly City went 3-1 up as Fernandinho scored his first goal for City with a beautiful curling shot from outside the area.
The last half an hour was made nervous for City when Walcott again scored, and just like the Southampton goal a week ago it was over the head of a 6-foot-8 goalkeeper so questions need to be asked. Luckily the City attacking restored the two goal advantage when Navas squared the ball and Silva finished neatly. That is the little Spaniard’s second goal since coming back midweek and the second assist from the winger, also a Spaniard, since coming on for the injured Aguero.
Fernandinho added the icing on the cake when he capped off a fantastic performance for City. Nicklas Bendtner instantly put the ball in the net, but was deemed to have been offside. Although Arsenal did eventually score the third through Mertesacker and may have been a little unlucky with some calls you cannot deny the attacking prowess of a City side who scored the five against one of the better defenses and better away sides in the Premiership.
Late on James Milner was brought down in the area and Yaya Toure converted the penalty for a score more akin to the NFL not the EPL!