Manchester City 1 Arsenal 5: Welcome to 'Planet Arsenal'

Last updated : 23 February 2003 By Brian Dawes

Martin Keown stops Eyal Berkovic in his tracks
Being exposed to the elements it was also somewhat draughty. Looking into the sun meant a peaked cap was essential gear for today's match but even so reading white numbers on light blue shirts meant for most of the match I hadn't a clue who was playing for City.

Ashley was out injured so Gio stepped in as the obvious replacement while Martin returned to our back four at the expense of Cygan. The rest of the line-up was very predictable once you realised Freddie, Oleg, Dave and Kanu were all out injured. Arsenal kicked towards the travelling Gooners who launched into a new little ditty to the tune of 'Robin Hood riding through the glen' which went something like this:

'Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs missed an open goal
Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs missed an open goal
How did he miss?
Arsenal took the piss
Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs'

No doubt you will hear it again in the very near future, and probably for the remainder of the season, and why not it's a winner!

We'd had a good move involving a great Wiltord turn and had seen City break before Dennis opened the scoring. A low cross from Lauren came in from the right and slid past defenders and forwards alike before reaching Bergkamp in space coming in from the left. It was an easy goal and a great start 0-1 Arsenal. Four minutes gone.

City had a crap shot following a good move and also won a corner before we saw Anelka resuming his offside habit. Henry almost put Gio away before Martin blocked a cross to concede another corner. Dennis and Sylv managed to get offside in a two on one break before another neat move appeared to break down, but a Henry interception went left and then saw the great man skin Dunne, skip down the goal line before cutting back the perfect ball for Pires to net with his left. A well executed goal and 0-2 after only twelve minutes.'We shall not be moved' 'Who the feck are Man United?' Anelka caught offside again, some things never change but to be fair he looked a class above his team mates, except perhaps Berkovic who tried hard to pull the strings but was totally eclipsed by a fine Arsenal performance.

So there we were, game over at two up, in total control, knocking it about and slicing through a defence that looked as if London buses could drive through it at will. A long ball over the top of a square defence from deep inside our own half saw a rampant Henry control it with ease with the outside of his boot before his pinpoint left footed shot was drilled into the far bottom corner Nash's net. 0-3 and we'd only played a quarter of an hour. Life just keeps getting better.

Patrick Vieira net his second of the season
A great Gio cross at one end was followed by Anekla blasting over at the other. 'Go home, you might as well go home' We were attacking at will and knocking it about like a group of adults playing against their kids. Henry won a corner with another attack and took it himself. It was an in-swinger that Sol who rose high, headed down powerfully past Nash to make it 0-4. Nineteen minutes played and City fans were leaving. No joke, we actually saw some leave the ground at this point from our high vantage. More offsides from City and Henry went on a solo that almost saw him wriggle all the way through. 'Boring boring Arsenal'. Even Keown was dribbling in their half. 'Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio' as more City fans left, not in great numbers but enough to notice. 'Are you Tottenham in disguise?' A three on three break ended with a poor ball from Thierry and for the remainder of the half we stroked it around and only beat ourselves with over ambitious killer passes. Lauren got in a cross that ricocheted to Henry who
looked as though he should have scored.

Vieira had the freedom of Main Road bestowed upon him and powered forward whenever he felt like it. The rest often just stood and watched as a couple of Arsenal forwards tried to take on whatever remnants of the City defence happened to be around. Needless to say we eased off. Keegan didn't think so in his post match radio interview but then what does he know about anything, especially defending? Kevin my old mate, I can tell you with my hand on my heart that had we needed another ten goals to win the Championship today we would have got them all.

Taylor was required to make a save from Fowler and then Sun fired over the follow up. A City fan came over to moon at the Gooners, in view of the temperature it was quite possibly a 'blue moon' but the poor sap was taken away by coppers as the Arsenal fans shouted that the best punishment would be to make him watch the rest of the match. It was too easy. Great ball from Sylv to Henry but Nash was out well. Wiltord beat his man and got round the keeper but only found a blue shirt as he tried to set up Dennis. At the other end Taylor saved really well before their follow up was fired wide. Half time and the expectations were that we'd go to sleep totally and City might even get a couple back because by now it was a total stroll and most of the team had no need to break sweat.

Number five for Arsenal and Paddy's over the moon
Wright-Phillips on for Dunne who had been slaughtered in the first half, usually by Henry. Anelka missed a sitter and received the sort of treatment you'd expect 'You're just a greedy bar steward' Thierry hit in a nice diagonal ball for Dennis who had his shot saved. Dennis to Rob to Thierry who appeared to miss another fairly easy chance. Another break, another run by Vieira, this time he played a long one-two with Bergkamp that sliced open their defence and Pat was on the end of this one to slip it past the keeper. 0-5 'Same old Arsenal, taking the piss'. 'He comes from Senegal, he plays for Arsenal'

I tried counting our passes and gave up. We were different class, had this taken place in a boxing ring it would have been stopped after twenty minutes. Our passing was slick, we found space without appearing to try and were always looking for a killer ball. Even when they got into our box we'd play it out with about three slick passes then build again. 'Stand up for the Champions' 'Stand up if you hate Manu' something that's never ignored at Main Road. What a way to say goodbye to their stadium this was for Gooners!

Sun cut in and fired over. Gio found Dennis with a long ball but Wright-Phillips got back well, he's as enthusiastic as his old man. Henry was fouled on a fast break and hurt, it wasn't given and this was about the only mistake that Durkin made in a match that must have been easy to ref. It was all about football and not a single booking for either team. Parlour on for Dennis, who was probably driving straight to Amsterdam and wanted to miss the traffic. Wiltord moved up front, Ray went right side. Even he was hitting 50 yard balls to Henry's feet. Some brilliant Henry trickery and another 20+ passing move. We are SO spoiled by this stuff week in and week out. 'Boring, boring Arsenal' followed by 'We're shit and we know we are' from the home fans.

We got lazy and just soaked up the pressure which enabled us to hit them on the break. Lauren broke up one of their better attacks and strode out with the ball down the left back channel. Brilliant save from Taylor to wake us up from a low shot by Anelka. Another poor final ball from Arsenal followed by another great Taylor save, this time from Wright-Phillips. Edu on for Rob. Francis on for Sylvain. We had another fast break on the right through Parlour. Henry offside, must have been close. Another great save by Taylor who had a blinding second half 'England, England's number one, England's number one'. He tipped over anther shot from Berkovic to rapturous applause. Jeffers nearly found Edu at the other end.

City finally made the score sheet when Anelka tapped home from a move on the right where Fowler looked a tad offside to me, but then again I was hoping for a clean sheet, as no doubt was Arsene. 1-5 and City deserved a goal if only for keeping Stuart warm in the second half. Comprehensive, emphatic, easy, controlled and fecking brilliant are the words that spring to mind. Two trips to Manchester in a week and seven goals to show for it. How bad is that?