Pundits had been queuing up to say that Manchester City were at the top of a downward spiral. The suggestion was that after going out of the UEFA Champions League, courtesy of Napoli and Bayern Munich, and then losing to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the wheels were starting to come off the great Manchester City roller coaster of 2011. Arsenal were supposed to turn up at the Etihad Stadium, score a couple of Robin Van Persie goals, and leave with a share of the points, if not all of them. Manchester City, it has been alleged, were on the way down.
Only Manchester City never paid the words any mind. Swapping Joleon Lescott, guilty for the own goal at Anfield and the penalty at Stamford Bridge, with Kolo Toure, as well as James Milner with Samir Nasri, was about as expressive as Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini decided to be. He determined that a couple of changes would be sufficient, offering enough fresh legs and impetus, to overcome the travails of the past couple of weeks and get Manchester City going again. Roberto Mancini gambled against wholesale change and called it correctly.
The sky blues won 1-0 but deserved a great margin of victory. It would not be fair to not comment on the notion that Arsenal themselves deserved a couple of goals, considering the quantity of opportunities they created, but even so, Manchester City deserved more. Samir Nasri, against his previous club, was wasteful, as were Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli, but David Silva eventually did find a way through and once Manchester City were in the lead, excusing a couple of adventurous efforts from Thomas Vermalean towards the end, Manchester City were infrequently troubled. Arsenal did create opportunities but they were never remotely close to being converted. Manchester City, on the counter attack, frequently created goalscoring chances but were wasteful with the final pass and the ultimate shot.
On reflection, considering the chances produced and then wasted, had the attacking play been a little more precise on Sunday, a more accurate scoreline would have been 4-2 to the home side. That said, Manchester City were justified winners and Arsene Wenger had few gripes after the match. Considering the last time his side had travelled to Manchester they had left Old Trafford on the wrong side of an 8-2 beating it was only natural he feels encouraged and publicly commended his players for their effort. Privately the French tactician is likely to be far more critical. Arsenal rely all too heavily on Robin Van Persie for goals – there is minimal goal threat from Theo Walcott and Gervinho at present – and the defence appears always likely to concede against the better sides in the division. Arsenal are a work in progress, as are Manchester City, but on this day Manchester City found a way and deservedly so. The blues from Manchester resumed their lead at the top of the English Premiership table.