This was the kind of game where both teams fully merited a point. It was an exceptionally played match by two technically astute sides, characterized by tight marking in the midfield and short, crisp passing. In the first half, Arsenal's tight passing was particularly impressive; probably the best we've seen so far this season. Unfortunately, they don't give points for quality of passing; you've got to put the ball into the net and Arsenal just couldn't manage that feat. Despite the loss, this game proved no less than Arsenal's earlier wins that the Gunners will be a team in contention for silverware this season.
Arsenal arguably was the better side in the first half. More than once they carved open the Man City defense on the counterattack, but failed to score. Gervinho, in particular, was a bit clumsy one or two key touches, especially when Ramsey had played him in clear on goal. When City scored in the 40th minute, one couldn't say it was against the run of play, but it did mark a somewhat surprising let down in Arsenal's otherwise taut defending. The Gunners lined up to defend the corner along the 6-yard line, which gave Man City's big men a free run towards the goal to meet the ball. Manone came out to punch the corner away but he was beaten to the ball by Joleon Lescott, who headed it simply into the net.
The second half started with the same end-to-end, free-flowing football that characterized the first half. Both teams created decent scoring chances within the first few minutes, but Arsenal seemed to have a little less possession and a bit more trouble coping with Man City's tight midfield marking. As the half wore on, Arsenal seemed to run out of ideas. When they got the ball in the final third, they just couldn't seem to find the right pass to create a real threat on Man City's goal. It was the kind of half where you could be excused for wondering whether Robin van Persie might have made a difference with a moment of individual brilliance.
But then, as the game moved into the final quarter hour, Man City started to cede more and more of the possession to Arsenal, looking mainly for chances to counterattack. And Arsenal eventually made them pay with about 10 minutes left, when Koscielny put the ball in the net following a deflected corner kick. It was no less than the Gunners deserved for all their hard work and skillful play.
Just about everyone on the Gunners played well today. But I'd like to pick out for special commendation three defenders. First, Carl Jenkinson, who looks increasingly comfortable on the right side of the defensive and confident in the attacking third. Second, central defender Per Mertesacker read the game really well, and broke up several incipient Man City attacks with smart positional play. Third, Laurent Koscielny made a few brilliant defensive plays in the final 15 minutes of the match, before scoring the all-important game-tying goal.
Finally, as a matter of strategy, I'm unsold on Gervinho playing as lead striker. He often looks dangerous when he's running at the defense (like a good winger), but he's not strong enough to hold the ball with his back to goal, and he is too often wasteful with his touches, passing, and shots. Other options for the central attacking role included, of course, Giroud, who was signed to play that position but hasn't managed to hit is stride yet in Arsenal colors, or Podolski.