Arsenal and Manchester City played out an uninspiring 0-0 draw at the Emirates Stadium yesterday to finally put Arsenal’s title challenge for 2010 mathematically to bed.
In a match shorn of goal-scoring opportunities, the most notable moments in the match were Emmanuel Adebayor’s introduction to the game to a chorus of boos, and an injury suffered to Manchester City goalkeeper Shay Given.
The Republic of Ireland international was stretched off with a suspected dislocated shoulder, and is expected to miss the remainder of the season. The injury was a result of falling awkwardly when saving Abou Diaby’s low drive from outside the area, one of the few decent goal-attempts in an otherwise drab game.
City ‘keeper Given requires oxygen as he leaves the field following his injury.
In an especially poor first half, Given was only called into action once, as Robin van Persie, back in the Arsenal starting line-up for the first time since his long-lay off through an ankle injury, fed Samir Nasri, whose shot from a tight angle was easily saved by the Irishman. This was one more save than Arsenal keeper Lukasz Fabianski had to make in the first half however.
Carlos Tevez was left isolated, with any balls up towards the Argentine being easily dealt with by the excellent Sol Campbell, rolling back the years to put in a solid display, including making a brilliant last-ditch challenge to deny ex-gunner captain Patrick Vieira a goal on his return to North London.
Kolo Toure, another ex-Arsenal player, marshalled the City defence brilliantly as captain, frustrating the Arsenal forward line who couldn’t break through the stubborn defence despite dominating possession.
City’s only other moment came in the second half, when Toure’s low cross was put behind his own goal by Sol Campbell, seemingly off the Arsenal player’s arm, but the awarding of a penalty would have been a very harsh decision by referee Mike Dean.
The one time Arsenal did manage to get in-behind the City defence, Samir Nasri was incorrectly ruled offside from van Persie’s excellent through ball.
Such was City’s ineptitude going forward, that manager Roberto Mancini turned to Adebayor just 6 minutes into the second half. He came on for Vieira, who left the field to a standing ovation, while Adebayor’s arrival was greeted with a chorus of boos ringing around the Emirates.
Cheer for Vieira, boos for Adebayor
The Togolese striker had little impact on the game however, as in the second half it was still the home side who looked most likely to break the dead-lock, although van Persie’s free kick just missed the angle of post and bar, and substitute Nicklas Bendtner fired straight at Faroe Islands keeper Gunnar Nielsen, who came on for his City debut to replace in injured Given.
The match highlighted City main falling-down in their chase for the final Champions League place; their overly cautious nature led to a spectacle in which they never looked likely to get the win they needed to put themselves above Tottenham Hotspur in the league, and now sit a point behind.
It also showed Arsenal’s inability to break down stubborn defences who are just content to sit, and their poor form of April which manager Arsène Wenger believed lost his side the title, with defeats at Wigan, Tottenham, and also the defeat in the Camp Nou to Barcelona ended their hopes for both the Premier League and Champions League.
The game was summed up during the 8 minutes of injury time; such an amount was played due to the lengthy break because of the injury to Given. In such a game as this, where both sides need a win, City most direly, as Arsenal’s title challenge had all but gone anyway, such little ambition was shown by the side from the North West, whereas 8 minutes of stoppage time should have been a frenetic time, where the ball was being pinged from end to end as both sides desperately tried to find the crucial winning goal.
It was indicative of the match, however, that this didn’t materialise. Arsenal will have to wait another year to end their long wait for a trophy.
Team: Fabianski, Sagna, Campbell, Silvestre, Clichy, Diaby, Rosicky (Eboue 68), Nasri, Walcott (Bendtner 68), Song, van Persie
Unused Subs: Mannone, Traore, Eastmond, Vela, Eduardo
Booked: Diaby, van Persie, Silvestre, Song
MANCHESTER CITY 0
Team: Given (Nielson 73), Bridge (Richards 27), Zabaleta, Toure, Kompany, Johnson, Barry, Vieira (Adebayor 52), De Jong, Tevez, Bellamy
Unused Subs: Onuoha, Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Santa Cruz
Booked: Zabaleta, Bellamy