Away to the champions. Our first real test of the season, and for the first half an hour we absolutely hammered them. Our passing and movement was outstanding, and we overpowered the league champions in their own backyard. Unfortunately though, lacklustre finishing and a momentary defensive lapse saw us only take a point from the Etihad when all three were definitely there for the taking.
Vermaelen missed the game through illness and was replaced by our best defender last season, Laurent Koscielny. Ramsey started his first game of the season on the right of midfield meaning that Gervinho was again played through the middle, and the two of them linked up for what should have been the opening goal, a beautifully weighted through ball played in behind Clichy by Ramsey, perfectly into the path of Gervinho, but the Ivorian’s touch was awful and the ball ended up in the grateful hands of Joe Hart.
Despite dominating the early stages we didn’t create that many chances, with the only other notable one being a Podolski shot that was smashed over the bar with his weaker foot, after great work from Jenkinson down the right. Defensively we were looking strong and were coping well with the threat posed by City’s forwards, Mertesacker in particular looked imperious and hardly put a foot wrong all game. Which made it all the more annoying when we ended up going a goal down. It came, perhaps predictably, from a set piece.
A corner that we didn’t even need to concede, someone should have given Gibbs a shout to tell him to leave the ball, instead not knowing what was behind him he put headed it out for a corner. Generally this season we’ve defended set pieces well, the zonal defending we now employ has worked well, it did not on this occasion, firstly Mannone did his best superman impression, flying out with his arm outstretched missing the ball completely and then neither Koscielny or Podolski attacked the ball as it came in, Podolski never even got off the ground to challenge for the ball leaving Lescott to run in and power the header home.
In the second half City changed things around, bringing off Sinclair, whom Jenkinson had had in his pocket all game and replacing him with Rodwell, the change certainly worked for City, they were much stronger and the midfield dominance we’d had first half had gone. We struggled at the start of the half, but as the game went on we came back into it and started creating a few chances, unfortunately they kept falling to Gervinho who, unfortunately, was having one of those games where everything he touched flew wide or over, he’s massively improved this season and continues to make good runs and gets in great positions, just lacks a bit of composure at times, leading to him slashing the ball all over the place.
Eventually, a chance fell to someone other than Gervinho, Cazorla’s driving the ball at the City goal, well saved by Hart and from the resulting corner Koscielny reacted quickest to the attempted clearance to smash the ball into the top corner, City then had a glorious chance to win the game, Kompany’s Overhead kick was saved my Mannone, who pushed it out to Koscielny, who almost went from hero to zero as he cleared it across goal straight to Aguero who surprising managed to put the ball wide when it looked easier to score.
Overall the draw was probably a fair result, had we been a bit more clinical in our finishing we could easily have won the game though. Again we looked defensively, Mertesacker was an absolute beast at the back and I lost count of the number of times the big German stretched out one of his long legs to intercept a through ball, he dealt well with the pace and movement of Aguero as well, proving that despite his own lack of pace, his good positioning and reading of the game more than make up for it.
Alongside him Koscielny also had a great game and looked solid, showing that we know have three world class centre backs to choose from. Special mention to Carl Jenkinson, who for me has been the most improved player in the league this year, clearly still young with a lot to learn, but he has come on in leaps and bounds over the summer, might not be technically the best player but he runs his arse off for the team, giving his absolute all. I’ve been impressed with him going forward, always seems willing to get up and down the line at ever opportunity and he has shown in recent weeks he can whip in a great cross too when given the chance. So, still unbeaten, only conceded two goals this season, showed we can compete with the best, things are certainly looking good.
Capital One cup up next on Wednesday, think I’d be tempted to give Giroud a start, hopefully get him his first goal so he can stop worrying about it and just relax and play his football.