The way I see it - Arsenal v Manchester City

Last updated : 24 August 2007 By Jason Hogan
I admit that when first I saw Arsene's post match interview and witness him droning on about how "violent" Blackburn were I looked up at my living room ceiling, sighed and though to myself "Here we go again".

Let's have this right. Even before that infamous FA Cup semi final back in 2005, when amongst other things Andy Todd quite literally tried to knock van Persie into the following week, Blackburn had become the kind of side that had players that would kick and punch their own grandmothers and if anything their Neanderthal like tendencies have increased since Mark Hughes took charge.

Hughes had a distinguished career as a player and whilst he did genuinely serve up the odd slice or two of brilliance, the fact is his playing style was akin to that of a licensed thug. It's precious little wonder that thuggish, cynical tactics are the rule at Blackburn these days not the exception and in Robbie Savage they have a guy who symbolises it all.

I mean, what is the world coming to when a guy like Savage can earn a highly lucrative living passing himself off as a footballer when in reality all he has ever done of note on a football pitch is to simply kick, maim, con and cheat people. Talk about nice work if you can get it.

Having said all that, the fact is that Arsene has been in this country long enough not to be as shocked and as affronted as he appeared to be in his post match musings on Sunday. There simply isn't any value to be gained by carping on incessantly about things people already know.

It's time to give it a rest, Arsene, my old china. People are not interested in tired old clichés. He shouldn't give other people the satisfaction of becoming one himself. He's a much better person than that.

In fact, now I come to think of it Arsene may have missed a trick on Sunday. Instead of giving people the conviction that the Arsenal still don't like it up 'em, should have come out and told it as it actually was, namely a physical game where we gave as good as we got in the physical battle.

Because after watching extended highlights of the game Ewood on Sky the other day I felt that there was more evidence of the Arsenal evolving. Sometimes we haven't always been prepared to fight fire with fire in the recent past away from home but it was great in funny kind of way to see us getting stuck in to a few of the Blackburn players.

I certainly didn't see extended highlights of a match that saw the Arsenal being dominated "from start to finish" as Hughes claimed though I will concede that they did have us under pressure at times in the second half. Even so, it wasn't as if Lehmann was flying from side to side across his goal making world class saves every five minutes.

If Arsene does want to send a message out to other teams in the Premier League via his players, it is one that says that the days when teams think they can kick us from pillar to post and intimidate out of football matches is over. That, amongst other things, is what the Arsenal should be striving for.

All in all I thought that we got decent point up at Ewood but we were left with a sense of "if only". We had chances to put clear daylight between ourselves and Rovers before their second half revival and but for Mad Jens having another brainstorm, we would have had all three points.

The fact that Lehmann picked up an injury whilst playing for the Germans at Wembley has saved me from venting my spleen over whether the boy should be dropped by Arsene for the weekend though I will freely admit that the phrase "Blessing in disguise" does instantly spring to mind.

All week long there has been rumblings that Arsene is about to sign a new deal in the very near future. It's not a done deal yet it's true. But then, given that fans of our poorer relations up the road have rejoiced in telling us Gooners that Arsene was on his way out, that a road to oblivion was being mapped out before us and that the revolution that was supposedly happening in N17 would sweep us right down that road in a whirlwind of dust and debris, it's great for us to say that we will are at least on the verge of acquiring a little bit of stability.

Meanwhile, there are rumours of trouble in the paradise that is Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (never has my tongue been more firmly placed in my cheek by the way). Having been given a reprieve almost by default because Juande Ramos wasn't stupid enough to entertain the idea of working with such a madcap regime, Martin Jol has effectively become a dead man walking.

The Tiny Totts chairman Daniel Levy has effectively put a gun to Jol's head and told him it's the top 4 or else. Levy may have come out on the club's little website and said that Jol has his total support. But I get the feeling that the Dutchman will be playing his own personal game of Russian roulette in the very near future. The trouble is there will probably be more than just one bullet in the chamber when he gets to play it. The odds on him being at White Hart Lane in the long term are that stacked against him.

Now, correct me if I am wrong wasn't it supposed to be Arsenal that were supposed to be a rudderless sinking ship? Weren't we supposed to be the club in a state of turmoil? In light of developments of late just up the Seven Sisters Road somebody got things wrong somewhere.

Of course, the best bit is that if the Tiny Totts are going to restore some pride in a week when it is has been widely agreed that they have become laughing stocks as a club yet again, they have to go to Old Trafford in order to do it. I'd liked to wish them luck. But then again, they are a top four side in all but name and they are certainly better than us according to the masses outside of North London, aren't they, my fellow Gooners? So sod that for a laugh!

Anyway, we have our own fish to fry and on Saturday we will be facing the league leaders - Manchester City!

Sven Goran Eriksson is a guy who should know a fair bit about honeymoons. He's probably been on too many to count with Nancy Dell'Ollio to make up for his various trysts with a whole gaggle of other women.

Mind you, it's the initial honeymoon period that he is having at Eastlands that the City fans will care about and so far it has been a perfect one. They certainly looked pretty impressive on the opening day at Upton Park against West Ham and they followed that up with a narrow win over Derby.

There's no doubting however that it was last weeks win over ManUre that has really got the blue half of Manchester going and suddenly, after years of turmoil and suffering, the sky seems to be the limit as far as the average City fan is concerned these days.

I must say that I personally have a soft spot for City and for all his faults I do have a soft spot for Sven as a character as well. To see City riding the crest of a wave after all these years is reward from some of the most loyal and passionate fans in the country.

The foundation for City's flying start has come from the way Eriksson seems to have fused together an influx of foreign with one or two home grown players. And the side just seems to have a younger fresher feel to it.

Of the new foreign boys, Geovanni has arguably the most obvious impact. He certainly guaranteed himself a permanent place in the affections of every City fan when he proved to be the match winner in the derby last week.

Martin Petrov is also an interesting character. He was heavily linked with a move to Shite Hart Lane but for some unknown reason the move never came off. He will definitely be a test for Sagna down the left hand side. He is very quick and very direct though he does remind me a bit of Dennis Rommedahl in that he can be inconsistent and like all true wingers he can disappear out of games.

Richard Dunne has come on leaps and bounds as a centre back in the last two years. I remember back in 2003 when I wrote an article on the eve of our trip to Man City that year when I said that I was rubbing my hands together at the thought of Henry going up against him at the time. We won 5-1 at Maine Road that day and he got torn apart by Henry in the process. But, in all credit to him that was then, this is now and he is a proper defender in every sense now.

His running buddy in central defence so far this season has been Micah Richards. Now Dunne was outstanding last week against ManUre but this kid was awesome. He may not have greatest positional sense but his powers of recovery are dare I say reminiscent of Sol Campell in his prime. Richards is technically a better all round footballer than Campbell but in terms of pace and power this boy has got it all. City, understandably are keen to tie the boy down to a new long term contract. If I were them I would make the boy an offer he can't refuse because he is definitely a star in the making. The same could be said of Nedum Onouha who is very much out of the same mould as Richards and I like Steven Ireland as a player as well.

But for me, the man Arsenal need to watch out for is Michael Johnson. The boy has profited the most from the departure of Joey Barton and I think he has a live chance of becoming a fully fledged England international in two to three years. He makes good runs from midfield and he has a decent eye for goal. He may be young but he is a dangerous customer.

Arsenal will go into the game without the spine of team with Gilberto, Gallas and Lehmann missing. And it's anyone's guess as to whether the injury prone Tomas Rosicky will be back in contention but that doesn't necessarily worry me too much.

The more pertinent issue for me is that if Arsenal are going to beat a vastly improved City side tomorrow I think it will come down to their levels of application and concentration rather than sheer technical ability.

We cannot afford to give this lot the kind of start that Fulham got and we will need to try and subdue their optimism as early as possible. City showed resilience to keep ManUre at bay last week but nobody knows how they will react to falling behind in a game. How would Sven respond in that kind of situation? Now, that would be REALLY intriguing.

One thing is for sure, I hope Sven leaves The Grove with more questions than answers when the game is over.