Manchester City 1 Arsenal 2: Not pretty at City, but 3 more points

Last updated : 06 September 2003 By Brian Dawes

It’s a very decent, good looking ground as it happens. Offering good views from our seats as you would expect, exterior ramps similar to the San Siro, plenty of leg room, well signed externally and internally. Entrance tickets are different as well in that you swipe a credit card sized cardboard ticket to gain entry. It’s also full of local fans rather than hoards of day trippers from Woking or Tokyo which is the case elsewhere in Manchester.

On the down side I found the sound system to be almost incoherent from my seat, there was no visible clock and no giant replay screens. Once inside I found the bars to be good, adverts for Ladbrook’s were evident but there was no betting booth in the away section. The toilets were totally overcrowded at half time. The pre-match speakers in the concourse area were deafening. Getting away from the ground was a problem with the police closing roads but not telling us about it before hand. All of which are minor complaints really which will hopefully be rectified with time and experience, it’s a great venue and one I’d be delighted to revisit.

Pre-match entertainment centred around the news that Beattie, bless his little cotton socks, had clinched a winner against Manure. This meant that the pending City v Arsenal game was now a top of the table clash. With the two sets of fans sharing a common hatred there were 46,436 people enjoying themselves before a ball had even been kicked. ‘Only one James Beattie’ ‘When the Saints go marching in’ ‘Who the feck are Man United’. All sung to the players warm up routine on a grey day. ‘Say WE are top of the League’

The players came out wearing yellow and blue whereas John, Marion and myself to name but three found ourselves wearing the wrong colours. Last year we were in red and white against City, so why the change? I love the new away kit but quite when did red and pale blue become a colour clash?

‘Have you ever seen City win the League?’ The match started with City attacking towards the travelling Gooners who were located in the lower west section of the South Stand, although in reality an oval stadium can really only have one stand, but you know what I mean. With Graham ‘Inane grin’ Poll as referee the match wouldn’t have been complete with at least one controversial moment. Poll hates Vieira and not only treats him like shit but also allows opponents to do so Bosvelt hauled down Pat, then stuck a leg out to trip Pat, fouled Pat again and then fouled him badly twice in quick succession and all within the first half hour. Five fouls on Vieira by Bosvelt, so a yellow card for continuous foul play against one player then? Of course not, this was the Chelski fan Poll watching Vieira get the treatment so Bosvelt was spoken to and remained card free for his 79 minutes on the pitch. But this wasn’t the controversial incident to which I referred, that happened when Lauren miss controlled a ball that he subsequently shanked it off his shin past Lehmann for an own goal. Granted it was poor play by Lauren but a hefty shove in the back by Sinclair was the principle reason he beat our keeper. Did Poll see it? Of course not. 1-0 City.

Cole was booked for dissent just after Poll had let off Bosvelt with his 5th foul on Pat. If such a detestable wind up merchant of a ref didn’t exist you’d be hard pressed to invent him. He’s got to be the only ref I know who has his own song! Throughout the first half Sylvain was caught offside, all of them appeared to be quite marginal but it’s an easily cured habit which any top forward should be able to combat. Staying onside isn’t rocket science and the frequent sight of the offside flag is an annoying aspect of Wiltord’s game but that said I thought he played well and certainly didn’t deserve to be subbed, but just as in previous matches he eventually was.

Up until about ten minutes before half time City looked much the better side, Anelka’s hold up play, distribution and running were very good despite him playing solo up front with just occasional support from Sibierski. City played a longer ball than usual although in the main Kolo and Martin dealt with most things thrown their way. Shaun Wright-Phillips (son of) gave Ashley a seriously torrid time although in fairness these roles were reversed after the break. Tarnat was occasionally at it with Freddie and we didn’t hit our usual rythmn. Both teams were guilty of losing possession too easily, while goal chances were restricted. A harmless long shot from Tel, a Pires effort straight at their keeper, (whoever that might have been), a wild shot by Wright-Phillips, a shot on the turn by Sibierski that was easy for Jens, a fine shot by Anelka that was very well saved by Lehmann. Dave saved from Freddie and again from a low shot by Wiltord.

Half time and I figured Arsene had 15 minutes to sort it out, whereas the team had another 45 minutes to get a result. As at Boro the previous Sunday there were sprinklers on the pitch during the break. Can anyone explain the reasoning behind this? A blow up doll is the latest novelty item taken to away games and was bounced around over the heads in our section.

After the break we upped the tempo a little but still didn’t reach that peak of flowing football that we all know we can attain. With less than three minutes played however Pires found Cole who’d been lost by Wright-Phillips so had time to pick out the unmarked Wiltord who rammed home from close range. 1-1. Henry Winter in Monday’s Daily Telegraph claimed that when Wiltord beat Seaman he was the first Arsenal man to beat Dave since Siggi Jonsson scored against him in his days at Queen’s Park Rangers some 14 years ago. Top research Mr Winter but not quite true, surely you must recall Lee Dixon and a number of other players in red and white scoring some classic own goals during his time at Highbury.

Barton fouled Vieira, his first foul I believe, and was booked. ‘Blue Moon’ the usual City chant was countered with ‘You’ve only got one song’ and Seaman is a Gooner’ A good move ended with Freddie chipping Dave. Sommeil chopped Henry on the half way line, the argument that he’s prevented an obvious goal scoring opportunity for turbo man would be lost on Poll of course.

‘You’re the Spurs of Manchester’ cruel but true. Lauren was carded for not a lot on Anelka. Pat won a great ball but the free kick goes City’s way, for being able to win great tackles presumably. ‘ArseneWengersRedAndWhiteArmy-WeHateTottenham’ sung with gusto I think the phrase is. Cole to Wiltord but it fell just behind Pires from the cross. A fast Arsenal break after Anelka dallied on the ball. A great chance for the knackered looking Sibierski was hit limply at Jens, who then had to make a good save from Anelka. Great cross by Cole to Pires who volleyed high, wide and not very handsome. Tiatto on for Sibierski. Arsenal were having good possesion now but still lacked the killer ball. We predicted that Ray and Dennis would be on for Wiltord and Ljungberg any time now. And as you know Mr Wenger’s timing in these matters varies little from game to game.

Rob chased down on Seaman who didn’t seem to come out with 100% conviction, the ball broke to Freddie who finished with ease and then piled into the crowd to celebrate. 2-1 Arsenal, but Freddie was booked for his celebration. City went to pieces for a while in a spell where Tarnat was booked for dissent and Tiatto was booked for what looked like a reckless tackle on Gilberto. The blow up doll was really flying now, twenty foot leaps in the air. Dennis on for Sylvain, Ray on for Freddie – told you. ‘Who’s that team we call the Arsenal’ ‘Graham Poll is a ****ing ****hole’ Lehmann saved from point blank range but Fowler had already been flagged. Edu on for Pires. Sun handled the ball then kicked it away but there was no yellow, obviously the sun shines out…… Wright-Phillips and Bosvelt replaced by Fowler and Berkovic. Berkovic’s a good player but he does like to slow things up. Suits me.

Henry got himself one on one with Seaman, got round him but he could only win the corner. The flag was up as City hit our cross bar after some rare nonsense from our two centre backs. The three minutes added time saw a great tackle from Lauren, Henry hit the post from an offside position and Henry fired just wide after Pat won a great ball in midfield. Fowler also found the top of our net. Full time and all in all it was a rather scrappy three points gained at the expense of City who might have got more out of it if they’d believed in themselves.

This is now the best start to an Arsenal season in my lifetime, and if the International disruptions don’t screw us up we have every chance of carrying that run further against Portsmouth in a fortnights time. In the meantime as I said to some Sky Blues after the game ‘We do with all sincerity wish them all the very best in their quest to become the number one Club in Manchester’.

Report from FootyMad
Arsenal needed to display grit and determination as well as their usual flair to win at Manchester City and become the only team in the Premiership still with a 100 per cent record.

The Gunners, who had made their best start to a season for 56 years, were forced to battle harder than on their last two visits to City which had yielded nine goals and two resounding victories.

They eventually came from behind to make it four successive league victories courtesy of goals from Sylvain Wiltord and Freddie Ljungberg.

And with Manchester United losing the only other perfect record, Arsenal established a three-point lead at the top of the table.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes last season's disappointment of losing the title has galvanised his side.

"I feel the players are focused and determined after the frustration of last season, and it has played its part," explained Wenger.

The Arsenal manager added that not even a fire alarm, which had forced them to evacuate their hotel at 4am, had even distracted them.

Defender Martin Keown disclosed that harsh words were said at half-time with Wenger questioning the desire of his players to win back the Premiership title.

Arsenal could not have made a worse start falling behind in the tenth minute when defender Lauren put through his own goal, though the television replays suggested Trevor Sinclair shoved the player as he was about to make a clearance.

Arsenal drew level three minutes into the second half when Robert Pires and Ashley Cole combined on the left to set up Wiltord who slotted home a shot from close range.

The wining goal came 18 minutes from the end when City's Sun Jihai and goalkeeper David Seaman ought to have dealt with the danger as Pires honed in on goal.

Instead the ball bounced back off Seaman's legs to present Ljungberg with the easiest of goals.

City manager Kevin Keegan felt both goals ought to have been prevented with the danger each time cut out long before the ball reached Seaman.

Keegan said: "We caught Arsenal on not one of their best days but, though not playing at their best, they know how to win games.

"We were not good enough to win and have to learn from it. It was an opportunity lost."