Thanks to a brace from Emmanuel Adebayor, Arsenal continue on their quest to retain Champions League play for next year. With a vacuum of newsworthiness over the last weeks, at least in regard to the Premier League, speculation turned to Cesc Fabregas’ return and whether or not the Gunners were a better team without their young captain. Yes, there are papers to sell.
Arsenal were, before the international break, perhaps the best they’ve been all season, and the anticipation of Fabregas, Adebayor, and Theo Walcott returning to fitness seemed to be coming at the right time. Losing Robin van Persie and Abou Diaby to injuries picked up on international duty, and Samir Nasri to the flu, Wenger certainly hoped his returning stars could find their rhythm today.
Surely Fabregas would need time to find his form, especially that precision passing and perfectly-timed first ball. All the returning skipper was able to do was set up both of Adebayor’s goals, from perfectly-lofted kicks into City’s box for last season’s 30-goal scorer. While still short of playing at his best, today’s assists simply show how much of Fabregas’ value derives from his innate vision.
Unfortunately for Manchester City, Mark Hughes found himself using up two substitutions before the break, and was already without Stephen Ireland. Wayne Bridge and Vincent Kompany limped off early, and Robinho, due for a spell on the bench, was heard from very little throughout the match.
There was nothing unusual in Arsenal’s performance. They were dangerous in their passing style early on and throughout the game. Adebayor’s goals were finished with some magnificent class, but ultimately resulted from City’s inability to defend. While dazzling, some of the Gunners’ best play fizzled out in their opponent’s 16 yard box.
Walcott stretched the defense, and with crisp passing, it looked to be a long day for the Citizens. More surprising was how Arsenal arrived on the ball first. It’s not often this season when a Arsene Wenger can say his team were winning the majority of 50-50 balls, and really owning the midfield.
It was always a tough day for Mark Hughes and his side, a team with a horrendous away record. But if you can keep Arsenal from creating tempo and lengthy possession, you’ve always got a chance. City certainly began the game with that intent, but couldn’t seem to maintain it.
Advantage shifted straight to the home side shortly after the first goal, despite some City pressure on Manuel Alumnia. After the second, it became seemingly one-way all the way. What few chances City had were on the break, and Arsenal did well to snuff them out and resume their possession game.
Adebayor’s brace afforded Wenger the opportunity to sub him and Fabregas before a full ninety minutes, and it easily could have been more than a two-goal win for the Gunners. Like many victories for Arsenal when they are on their day, there always could have been more if not for spurned chances. Much credit is due to Mark Hughes’ side for not letting the score really get away from them.
Oh, how much good a little time in fourth place can do, which seems to be Arsenal’s motto these last few years. You could argue that City’s performance flattered them, but with players returning to fitness in a side finding it’s form, optimism has fully returned to north London.
Arsenal 2-0 Manchester City [Premier League]