A tense tight affair that, whilst keeping you on the edge of your seat with your heart in your mouth, was strangely enjoyable. It was only fair that a simple, solitary goal separated the two excellent sides in what was possibly the best game of the season so far.
Defeat is not so nice to take. We all hate losing. Especially when we played so well. Especially when we lose to a team with unrivalled resources with many of their players in the form of their lives. We can take positives from today though.
City we definitely first out the blocks and attacked Arsenal from all sides with pace, power with intricate movement. Aguero and Balotelli could have easily scored after a couple of excellent moves, but their finishing was not at it's best, whilst Szczesny continued his marvellous form this season with a couple of world class saves.
Arsenal definitely started slowly, and our passing game was not able to dominate due to the pressure that City plied on us. On numerous occasions Djourou and Walcott gave the ball away quite cheaply, whilst Song was guilty of a few too many cynical fouls and picked up a yellow card that will rule him out of the Villa game.
We slowly grew into the game, and Gervinho was very threatening, with excellent movement across the forward line, whilst Ramsey also troubled Hart before the break after a teasing shot from a short corner. However it was still goalless at half-time, and seemed perfectly poised as we went into the second half. Van Persie was starting to impose himself on the game more and more, Gervinho was having one of his most promising games so far and the makeshift back four was holding up reasonably well.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first. As the Sky Sports panel pointed out after the match, it seemed to have everything; the power and pace of the Premier League along with a continental twist with perfect passing patterns. But as ever with Arsenal, injuries dissipated our already makeshift back four and Djourou made way for the young Ignasi Miquel. That meant Vermaelen moved to CB, whilst the yellow carded Koscielny went to right back.
He was immediately attacked, and City delivered a knock-out blow. There were no massive errors by the Arsenal defence, but a series of small mistakes were punished by City's world-class millionaire strike force. Koscielny was out of position as a through ball found Balotelli in space. The Italian cut inside Alex Song, maybe slightly too easily, and delivered a powerful shot which was only parried by Szczesny before Aguero, and then Silva pounced on the rebound and slotted into the empty net.
You could argue that Arteta or Miquel should have been closer to Silva, but its hard to "blame" any of them out right, and Koscielny, Song and even Szczesny all could have done better.
We did react positively to their goal, and our heads didn't drop as they possibly would have in recent years. The Arsenal approach was probably too gung-ho, considering there was aver a third of the match remaining, and City probably should have had a second with Arsenal committing players forward at will.
The attacking approach did cause City problems and you had a feeling we could knick something. After-all, City aren't the best at keeping clean sheets. Arshavin skewed an effort wide, that an in form Arshavin probably would have slotted in with ease, but when was the last time we saw an in form Arshavin? Towards the end Vermaelen and Van Persie showed their desire to rescue a point, and the Belgian defender threatened with two brilliant efforts form outside the box, which genuinely frightened Hart in the City goal.
However, Wenger just doesn't have the quality on the bench that his counterpart Mancini has. Arshavin entered the fray for the disappointing Walcott, and later on Chamakh replaced Mertesacker. But both of them have done nothing this season to warrant a place in the Arsenal line up. Chamberlain would have offered pace, and a bit of the unknown factor, but he wasn't even on the bench.
In comparison, City brought on Milner, Dzeko and De Jong, who are proven quality players who cost a combined total of nearly 70 million pounds. They didn't even have to bring on Johnson or Lescott - both players who would walk into most Premier League line ups.
The players ratings were:
Szczesny 7 Vermaelen 8 Koscielny 6 Mertesacker 6 Djourou 6 Arteta 8 Song 6 Ramsey 6.5 Gervinho 7 Van Persie 7 Walcott 5
Subs: Miquel 6 Arshavin 5 Chamakh 5.5
Overall, whilst it was disappointing to lose, compounded by the fact that all the teams around us picked up some points. But considering the last time we went up to Manchester we lost 8-2, we don't need to show how much we have improved since.
People may go on about the ref having a poor game. But the Richards penalty decision could have gone either way to be honest, and whilst he is not a ref that I usually rate, I have to admit he had a decent game today, using his experience to calm the game down and retain 22 players on the pitch.
the main change since the United debacle in August is that our passing game is back. And today was supported expertly by the excellent Arteta who seemed to continuously remain calm and retain possession. He has been a quality signing by Wenger and was definitely unlucky to be on the losing side today.
Just like the other game against Manchester City, one goal was enough to do the damage and you could say we were unlucky in both games. Today's encounter could have ended in any scoreline by the end, with both sides taking turns to attack and the result was probably fair, even if it's hard to take.
We definitely need to strengthen in attacking areas, especially with Chamakh and Gervinho off to the African Nations Cup. After the match Arsene said:
"We have numbers in midfield, but with Gervinho + Chamakh going to ACN, we are short upfront."
Hopefully that means a return to the transfer market in January, and the names of Jovetic, Reus, Podolski and even Dempsey are players I would like to see. Henry remains a likely candidate but is only short term.
We need to go on another unbeaten run like we've just enjoyed if we have any dreams of finishing in the Top Four or above. The response starts against Villa and even with our squad starting to look frail we need to get all we can from the busy Christmas period.