The way I see it - Arsenal v Manchester City

Last updated : 04 January 2005 By Jason Hogan

We have had quite a bit to celebrate over the Christmas/New Year period so far, haven't we? The win at Newcastle was nothing short of fantastic even though the game failed to pass without controversy.

It was definitely an eventful night for Ashley Cole. He was at the centre of the major talking point in the game - or least it was in the eyes of the press and the media. Sure, he was lucky to get away with not conceding a penalty when he clearly handled in the area but before that Olivier Bernard was guilty of using a hand to stop a goal bound shot from Mathieu Flamini.

Of course, when the game was over, the press and the media typically went out of their way to emphasise, highlight and condemn the fact Cole's indiscretion went unpunished only to then give precious little more than an afterthought to the indiscretion of Bernard. What was their justification for this? Cole's handling offence was considered to be more blatant. I'm sorry but, an offence is an offence; since when did it matter as to how blatant it happens to be?

The sad thing was that I did actually have a bit of sympathy for Newcastle but after I heard what was being said by some people immediately after the game that sympathy disappeared. Not because I have anything against Newcastle but because the press and the media in this country demonstrate time and time again that they are only ever interested in seeing the Arsenal fail at all costs at all times. Believe me, this only stiffens my resolve to enjoy every victory we gain, however fortunate it happens to be, and appreciate everything we have won in recent times that much more.

I thought that our game at St James's Park was probably just about the toughest we have had so far this season but our trip to the Valley wasn't exactly a picnic either.

Over the last three or four seasons The Addicks, after an indifferent start, have tended to hit a rich vein of form this time of year and this season has been no different as they went into Saturday's game with four wins and a draw from their last five games.

It was four years ago to the very day when Charlton turned the Gunners over at the Valley and four years on you can bet your life that most Addicks fans and most "neutral" observers were romantically dreaming of seeing Charlton repeat that feat.

It appeared as though the Charlton players themselves really fancied their chances and but for a smart save from Almunia, Dennis Rommedahl would have put them ahead in the very first minute.

But although we had to weather one or two minor storms over the piece, it was Freddie Ljungberg that ultimately proved to be the major difference between the two sides one the day. His second goal was an absolute peach though I can understand Alan Curbishley's annoyance at the part Robin Van Persie played in the build up to it.

Young Van Persie was definitely offside when the ball was initially played forward and I have to admit that it was the way that this passive/impassive offside was interpreted in this instance that aided our cause significantly.

Still, the way we took advantage was fantastic as Van Persie combined with Fabregas whose fabulously intuitive back heel took two defenders out to set up with Ljungberg who finished with aplomb.

Young Van Persie settled matters when he punished Charlton for some dozy defending with a cracking left foot finish and it was reward for what appeared to be a very good display by the lad from Rotterdam. He has been knocking on the door for a regular place in the team and you cannot help but think that he is getting closer and closer all the time to getting that.

The only downside was, of course, the injury to Campbell. I'm not the most squeamish of people but even I winced when I saw how he picked his ankle injury because looking at the way all his weight went came down on it, I knew straightaway that he would be out for a good couple of weeks.

Still, we shouldn't allow this to overshadow what was another excellent victory. As champions, we are THE prize scalp for other teams in this country and with people outside of Highbury constantly trying to make us look inferior in the relation to certain other teams in this league, it makes our job that much harder.

However, we have shown first at Fratton Park, St James's Park and now down at the Valley that we are not a bunch of fair weather Fancy Dans who cannot adapt when the going gets tough. Instead we have shown real character, fortitude and a steadfast refusal to buckle under the pressure that the press and the media are trying to bury us under. Dare I say, that's the stuff champions are made of?

Now let's have a look at our opponents on Tuesday night, Manchester City.

The recent form of boys from Eastlands going into the game is as patchy as ever. In their last three games they were beaten by Everton at Goodison and then, courtesy of a crazy own goal, they were held at home by West Brom.

However, they were good enough to see off Southampton at the weekend though the Saints had what seemed a legitimate goal from Kevin Phillips ruled out late on. And, when the Saints did then pull one back I am sure things got pretty twitchy at Eastlands but thankfully, they held on.

It may sound obvious but its City's unpredictability that is genuinely our biggest danger on Tuesday night. Anelka, Fowler and Shaun Wright-Phillips may carry a potential threat is both clear and present but for me the key to City when they perform well is when they perform as a unit. Indeed, they have also shown themselves to be far more resilient defensively these days as well and to be fair, it's been a while since anybody has given them a good tonking.

I'm sure that City will also take heart from the fact that Campbell will almost certainly be missing and with Cygan out with back problems it means that we will probably have to turn to young Senderos as a centre-back partner for Kolo on Tuesday.

This is the area the media will turn their spotlight on. Am I fazed personally? No, not really. I watched Senderos play against United at Old Trafford in the Worthless Cup and after a nervous start I thought his temperament shone through. He struck me as a fairly durable character did young Senderos and I would have honestly be more worried about bringing him in if we were still stuttering like we were six weeks ago.

That is not to say that we are totally out of the woods and that we are completely over our indifferent spell. There is still a lot of work to be done. I just hope that the absence of Campbell doesn't prove to be one injury absentee too many for us. City came to Highbury last year on a rain lashed evening and really made us fight all the way for victory. I have a feeling that Tuesday's game will be equally as tough as that one was.