MAN CITY v ARSENAL – Carry on conceding

Manchester City fans quite rightly rejoice, get to their feet and blast out a rendition of ‘Stand up for the Champions’ at the Etihad Stadium on match days.

Well, the City faithful will remain rooted in their seats next season if they have to suffer many more performances like this.  Mancini’s men seem to have sunk into a malaise – despite remaining unbeaten in the league since Easter Sunday – and nearly paid dearly against the Gunners.

It would be easy to offset the concern emanating from the Etihad by claiming City achieve decent results without being at their best – but they continue shipping goals with alarming frequency.

Joe Hart & Costel Pantilimon have retrieved the ball from their net a dozen times in seven games. It took 12 games for City to concede the same last season. Scoring isn’t the problem with 15 compared to 20 goals over the same period last year.

Were it not for Laurent Koscielny’s 82ndminute equalizer, City might have flattered to deceive and enhanced their incredible home record – no loss since December 2010 in the Premier League – with another win.

It would have been a travesty however if City had triumphed. Arsenal were sharper, faster and generally more accomplished throughout and were totally deserving of their point.

Even when Joleon Lescott rose to head home a 40th minute corner from David Silva there was always an unease that the visitors would hit back at some stage.

The game had come alive when Sergio Aguero – restored to the City attack having played only six minutes of first team action due to injury – was unlucky with an 18 yard strike that Arsenal stand-in keeper Mannone pushed away.

At the other end Gervinho overran the ball when clear and in on goal much to City’s relief. The Ivorian striker went closer when he shot wide after a 30 yard up field surge by Aaron Ramsey.

Referee Mike Dean was incurring the wrath of the crowd with an unusually inconsistent display that seemed to award Arsenal 95% of any perceived misdemeanors. More of that later!

City would have gone two up in the 42ndminute when Edin Dzeko – selected ahead of Tevez and Balotelli – struck a beautiful shot from the edge of the ‘D’ only for Mannone to tip over the bar.

The second half began with Jack Rodwell replacing Scott Sinclair as Mancini attempted to plug the midfield where Javi Garcia and Yaya Toure were losing out to a very industrious Arsenal unit.

Aguero fired over the bar from an acute angle at close range in the 50th minute. Seconds later the Argentine was clearly fouled by Koscielny for a stone wall penalty but paid a price for his honesty.

Latching onto a through pass from Silva, he tried to stay upright as the Arsenal centre back bundled into him. Ref Dean was having none of it and signalled a corner. At that stage a 2-0 advantage could have seen City over the line.

As it was the contest stayed alive and with just 10 minutes to go Santi Carzola unleashed a fierce swerving shot from 20 yards that Hart clawed away with a magnificent save.  

The resulting corner brought the Arsenal equalizer, with Koscielny smashing a weak headed Lescott clearance past a helpless Hart.

It was a just reward. The Gunners had dominated possession although City ended up with 15 attempts on goal to Arsenal’s 11.

Two of those attempts came with an acrobatic overhead kick from City skipper Vincent Kompany, and a subsequent Aguero shot that crept agonizingly wide in the closing stages with the game level.

Gervinho contrived to miss for the umpteenth time when well positioned and the cliffhanger concluded with the draw – the 74th time City had drawn 1-1 in the PL making it their most frequent result.

Last season City took all three points in the corresponding game, so two points dropped on the championship campaign. They can balance the books this coming weekend by besting last year’s 2-2 draw at Fulham and taking maximum points from Craven Cottage.

It’s been a momentous week for City, primarily because of their Champions League clash with European football royalty, Real Madrid. It’s led to stark comparisons with City’s plight just a few years, and a few divisions, ago.

It’s important that City never forget their past, but, if they are to have a glorious future, they must not be tempted to use it as an excuse for any perceived shortcomings in the present.

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