The way I see it - Arsenal v Manchester City

Last updated : 30 January 2004 By Jason Hogan

Having lost to Middlesbrough in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final I was in no mood to entertain any thoughts of Boro repeating the dose as I walked down to the stadium with my old mucker, Gary.

Now we come to the nostalgic bit. The tickets we had were for the North Bank. The last time I so much as walked through the entrance gates to the North Bank to watch the Arsenal was way back in 1989 (I defected to the Clock End with some other ex-North Bankers after that). Though I have been back to Highbury a few times lately it was only when I walked in and under the North Bank stand when it really hit home to me how much things had really changed off the pitch at the Arsenal as well as on it.

As for the game itself, well, I was really pleased with how the boys approached the game and we went a fair way to quashing the myth that we cannot score goals without a certain Thierry Henry. Freddie did a sterling job up front and it was great to see Dennis get on the scoresheet as well yet for all that, the man that deserves a special mention for his performance on Saturday was Ray Parlour. The lad had a great game and was a real driving force all afternoon. To think that we were on the verge of selling this lad once upon a time…

Saturday also proved to be the day when one of our much- vaunted youngsters came of age. Judging by his rather natty hairstyle, David Bentley certainly gives off the impression that he doesn't do too many things by halves and, having come on late in the day on Saturday for his idol Dennis Bergkamp, he treated us all to the kind of sublime skill that would have done the Dutchman proud in scoring our fourth goal.

Bentley's strike was definitely the piece de resistance on what was a satisfying afternoon all round for the Arsenal though I got the impression that Boro boss Steve McLaren didn't find it all that funny.

In his post match assessment, McLaren claimed that Boro were fantastic in the first half and bemoaned the fact that his team give away bad goals in the second. All I can say to McLaren, by way of advice, is that he really should steer clear of the old magic mushrooms or drugs that make you hallucinate.

In fact if I didn't know better, I would have thought he was in the dugout watching another game on a hand held TV and confused that with what was actually going out in front of him!!

Perhaps the only downside to the game was that Pires had a goal disallowed early on. Having had the gumption to ignore the skinny odds that were on offer at Ladbrokes in the stadium, my mate Gary phoned his own bookie and placed a bet on Pires to score the first goal. The dreaded offside flag that went up after Pires had nodded the ball home unmarked effectively cost him close on £200. Better luck next time, mate!

Our reward for seeing off Boro was to be paired up yet again with Chelsea. Talk about bad smells that just seem to come back time and time again!!! Seriously though, I wouldn't have it any other way and the motivation for us when we play them will be no different to that we had playing Boro on Saturday.

Our next league assignment comes around on Sunday when Manchester City hit town and I can honestly say hand on heart that this match is nothing short of fascinating for me. If you were asked to use one word to describe Manchester City Football Club it would probably this - enigma.

Even to those like me that are on the outside bothering to look in they never cease to amaze with their ability to lurch constantly from the sublime and the ridiculous or even between the good, the bad and the downright awful.

City's cup-tie with the Totts was a classic example of what they are all about. City had the Totts pretty much at sixes and sevens in the first half and should have gone in at half time three-nil up at least.

As it was, they still went into the break with a 1-0 lead yet come the second half, it looked as though a set of impostors had replaced those who played for City in the first half.

In the first thirty minutes of the second half City not only contrived to give their lead away, they looked punch drunk and on the verge of being knocked out of the cup. Then in a late twist to the plot, City, inspired largely by sub Shaun Wright-Phillips, got their act back together again with ten minutes or so to go and had a couple of golden opportunities to actually win the game in the end - but, surprise, surprise, they missed them.

It's precious little wonder that they have failed to win a single league match since November given their erratic tendencies but the beauty of Manchester City has always been that they are capable of pulling off the odd spectacular champagne result just when people least expect it.

There, in a nutshell, lies the danger for the Arsenal. They do have talent in their ranks do City. Aside from seeing us getting reacquainted with our old "mate" Nicolas Anelka, no Arsenal fan should need reminding of the damage the likes of Fowler and McManaman have inflicted on us in the past for a start. Claudio Reyna is a chap that shouldn't be underestimated and, as I have already hinted at, Shaun Wright-Phillips is another.

There are two scenarios that hit me straight between the eyes looking at this game. City, being City, will either come to Highbury and pull off a shock win or find themselves on the wrong end of a good hiding. There are no prizes for guessing what scenario appeals to me the most out of the two.