Arsenal beat City 3-0 to go top of the Mini-League

Match Reports

Zonal Marking — red card holds back City, but Arsenal impress in important win

ESPNSoccernet — Gunners claim valuable City scalp

Quote of the Day

Even if they were 15 and we were 11 we would still go and win. We always want to go forward and create chances but the way we played today, we were very difficult to stop. I think we were fantastic.

Cesc Fabregas

Man of the Match

I don’t want to take anything away from Nasri, who nabbed the opener in a perfectly Arsenal manner and then went on to set up Bendtner for the third which put City to bed. Nasri provided Arsenal much needed width, pace, and attacking prowess, and also did a great job defending. So, I’m not taking anything from Nasri by saying this, it’s just that Fabianski was slightly more critical to the win.

In the first 10 minutes, Arsenal were sort of coasting; Arshavin was not tracking back and the midfield of Song (3 of Song’s 4 misplaced passes came in the first half) and Denilson looked like they were having a nightmare. So, while the rest of the team looked like they were daydreaming about nodding off  in Fields of the Nephilim, Fabianski was clear and alert. His save off Silva’s shot was top class and he went on to make several others very early in the game.

Giving his defense early confidence was crucial to the win. Think about how many times Djourou had a poor showing but the team rallied to clear the cross or shut down the attack, that comes directly from your number one making good saves.

More importantly, I think the team kept the clean sheet for Fabianski at the end of the game in order to reward him for his solid performance.  Every time they cleared, he saved or made a strong high claim (the one over everyone game me chills), each feeding the other and making each other better. I even saw Arshavin make a tackle in the Arsenal half.

He wasn’t perfect. Most notably when Adebayor had a wide open header and he was left flapping but just like every other player keepers are going to make mistakes. I guarantee between now and the end of the season he will even make a mistake that costs us a goal, but then so too will Cesc, Song, Denilson,  Bendtner, Chamakh or whomever else you want to point at if you are going to be honest.

It’s his third solid performance in a row and even better he showed up in a title-challenging match. The facts are that Fabianski is playing at a high level right now and we should support him by retiring the “flappyhandski” insult.

So, even without the emotion of me wanting to stick it to his detractors it was a man of the match performance.

Top of the Table, baby!

(Tottenham included to 1. make United 5th and 2. show what a farce the whole idea is. I probably should have used West Brom)

Most of the top four teams are only two games in and Man U is conspicuous in the absence of matches but since Arsenal and Chelsea are level on points and goal differential, based on goals scored, Arsenal’s win against City takes them to the top of the mini-league.

For those of you who don’t know what the mini-league is, it’s basically been a bat that reporters can beat Arsenal with. They’ll say “sure Arsenal beat the small teams, but look at their record against the other top four and you’ll see why Arsenal haven’t won the League in so long.”

Never mind that total points are what actually determine League position on the final whistle of the 38th game. Nor pay any attention to the fact that plenty of teams have won the League without winning the so-called mini League. Forget all that, it’s the mini-League that counts.

So, it’s a running gag here on 7amkickoff and one that I will gleefully continue to highlight. Because as it stands Arsenal are in 2nd in the real League table, but 1st in the mini-League. Clearly, this means we are the strongest team in England.

On a serious note, the mini-league does show us that while Arsenal lost to Chelsea 2-0, Chelsea lost to City 1-0, and of course, City lost to us 3-0. All of the real title challengers have won one and lost one to each other. If that continues, it won’t be the games between us that count but the games against the lower teams.

And… uhhh… Arsenal lost one of those… at home… against West Brom.*

Arsenal most fouled, most fouling.

Arsenal picked up 4 yellow cards yesterday and now with a total of 18 yellow cards and 3 red cards, Arsenal are tied with Bolton for the 2nd worst disciplinary record in the League. The Gooners are now averaging a crazy 2 yellow cards a game and a red card every 3 games — up from last season’s 1.47 YPG and 1 total red card. Collectively, our opponents this season are just above Arsenal in the disciplinary table with 15 yellow cards and now four (!) red cards. But strangely, in what’s nearly a reversal Arsenal’s opponents are getting a mere 1.67 YPG where they averaged 2.13 last season.

Even stranger is that Arsenal have now won 4 penalties in the League (City, Birmingham, Sunderland, and Blackpool) and only given up one (Albion). In all competitions, Arsenal have won 9 penalties in 13 games and our opponents have chipped in with 3 of their own. That’s 12 penalties in 13 games and combined with the 8 red cards that Arsenal games have seen it’s pretty clear that refs are being very tight with fouls in our games.

I think that partially, this is not last year’s Arsenal team. If you need any further encouragement about the turn around this team has made, Zonal Marking pointed out in the end of their post (linked above) that last season Arsenal got zero points from the 4 away games to Blackburn, Sunderland, Chelsea, and Man City and this year we are 2-1-1 with 7 points to the positive.

We are more combative, we are less willing to give up (the WBA match aside) and we are earning more yellow cards (2 per match) because our games are under scrutiny.

Some folks wrongly think that the number of yellow cards shows that we have more grit but I just think we are being more scrutinized. I don’t see much difference between Song’s tackling last year and this. Last year he had 10 yellows and this year he’s on either one or three: it depends on how you count cards, do the two yellows that made a red = 1 red or 2 yellows?

But he’s also much more mature than last year. Listening to the twitterverse (and including myself) Song should have been subbed at half time against City on Sunday because we all thought he was going to pick up a second yellow. But he was very mature in the second half and between him and Denilson they were solid without playing over the top. We all know that Clattenburg wanted to send one of our boys off, but he couldn’t because we didn’t give him a reason.

So, my feeling is that the stats prove we are stronger, less willing to take tackles, and more willing to dish out. I don’t like that we are in the same disciplinary category as Bolton, but if you look at the fact that our opponents are even more indisciplined (at least in red cards for foul play) then I think we are showing strength under scrutiny.


I often highlight Crapenburg as one of the worst officials in the League and while I think he got several calls right, it was clear he held his cards back on several occasions to the benefit of City.

All I want is consistency and while I understand that the home team has an advantage with the refs I have to wonder if Djourou gets a yellow for his foul how the hell de Jong escaped a yellow for his various hard fouls? Or how does Kompany not get a yellow for several fouls which were given but not booked?

De Jong was the worst of the bunch and several of his tackles, which notably went unpunished, even left the announcers exclaiming “I guess I don’t know how to tackle any more.”

So, while Crapenburg was sort of brave to give the red in the 4th minute, he really had a nightmare after that and showed that he still has no clue what a foul is much less a yellow card.

“Just go out and play our game”

And finally, when Arsene Wenger says that Arsenal can win any match as long as we “just go out and play our game” he means “play like we did against City on Sunday.”

The stats show that we were a little nervous in the first half.** Song had a shaky start misplacing 3 passes and collectively Arsenal only completed 86% of their passes.

The players have said that during the halftime talk Arsene told them they weren’t playing their game and that they needed to go out and play Arsenal football. Boy did they respond!

In the second half, Song misplaced just one pass and the team as a whole passed for 347/396 (92%) a 101 pass increase over the first half. Moreover, they attempted more tackles in the second half (13) and had more interceptions (15) than the first (6). All total the boys had a season high 549 passes, blowing away the previous season high of 486 that we notched against Blackpool.

And for the detractors who complain about the number of shots that Arsenal take, despite the fact that City played so defensively that they had only Tevez and Silva up front, Arsenal still managed to have 15 shots, 7 on goal, and score 3.

All of this is directly attributable to Alex Song and Denilson. Song moved into 5th overall place yesterday in the completed passes department and has now scored 3 goals already this season, which is just 1 goal shy of all his previous seasons combined. Both players got forward in a prudent manner and had a couple of shots on goal (Song scored) and both players tracked back and took the yellow card when the team needed it. It was a mature display from Arsenal’s midfield duo.

Oh and just to give you some perspective on what it is this position does when it’s playing at its best: the top two passers in the League are Essien and Mikel for Chelsea. There’s work to be done to get at that level but between Diaby, Denilson, Song, and now Wilshere Arsenal have the makings of something very special in our midfield.

That’s Arsenal football.

*No offense to the three Baggies fans who read this but you know that a top 6 finish would be a dream. Hell, even the greatest English manager in English history, Sam Allardyce, only got a team as high as 6th. What hope do you have?

**All stats from Guardian Chalkboard

35 thoughts on “Arsenal beat City 3-0 to go top of the Mini-League

  1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1carlos

    I love your stat inspired posts. They seem like a guilty pleasure because I’m just not used to seeing reports highlight intricate statistics over a series of games. I know that a common assumption about American sports is that a lot of comment is generated from stats – is this your inspiration for these types of posts? Do you follow stats for your teams in other sports? It’s a great line of attack to make your blog different to all the others. Cheers.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

        @eoin, actually, no they haven’t. They have played Arsenal and Chelsea and no one else. Tottenham isn’t a top 4 team despite their lucky inclusion last year.

        I said it was a joke in the post, I amended the post to explain the joke for the thick, and the fact is it remains a joke.

        The idea that Tottenham are a top four team is a joke. Should I have included West Brom’s games this season? They were in the top four.

        The top four teams this year are Chelsea, Arsenal, Mancity, and Man U, Tottenham will be lucky to finish in the top 6 — they don’t have the depth or talent to compete with Arsenal or City.

        It’s a joke, son, get over it.

  2. Vote -1 Vote +1fourstar

    Interesting on Crapenburg, I wonder do you read Untold Arsenal? Their view of the ref was a little different:

    I think perhaps he wasn’t as bad as you make out, nor as good as they say on UA, but De Jong certainly got away with some extremely poor challenges and perhaps Clattenburg was scared to show another red card for either team, despite the crowd baying for it.

    Anyway, a Very Important Result indeed…

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1Brahmabull

    Man, I watched the game here in Canada on Setanta, and I almost threw my noon-time coffee through the TV set when the commentators started speculating on how the game may have gone had Boyata not gone off, and if Song had gotten a yellow card for his first hard tackle… like a bunch of kids with Tourettes’s Syndrome or something, the English punditry just cannot help themselves from opening their mouths and speculating on the legitimacy of any Arsenal victory. Maddening.

    I thought de Jong deliberately went in with his elbow on Fabregas’ hip in the first half. What a cunt that guy is turning out to be.

    And for everyone who thought we should sign get Balotelli; I know he’s not fit yet, but what you saw yesterday is not a far cry from what you’ll see from a fit Balotelli… nothing.

    Great job boys, let’s get those Newcastle assholes on Wednesday now.

  4. Vote -1 Vote +1TxGun

    Fabregas’ quote shows one thing that has been missing for a long time, Swagger. I hate the word myself, but it truley is what we have been missing. The idea that our team went to Man City, who embarrassed us twice last year and went on a spending spree this summer, and spanked them on their own ground is amazing. it’s not just the three points that were needed, but it gave the team the believe that they can bet the big teams of league. And for Fabregas to come out with that type of swagger that you haven’t really seen since Henry is perfect. the younger players will take his lead and it’s only going to grow. Keep it up boys, and run West Ham into the ground. Let’s go!

  5. Vote -1 Vote +1Charybdis1966

    Basking in the afterglow of an unexpected win yesterday – the feeling was that we would be glad to get a point out of the game.
    Tim, regarding your podcast post yesterday, I’m quite happy to sign up for it if anyone wants to hear from me although I can’t guarantee sensible comment.

  6. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Senor Adam

    sorry to point out yr mistake but City should have 4 points as they drew with Spurs and beat Chelsea

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1Akash

    I hope we don’t get too complacent after this victory. We need to take the Newcastle game seriously and win there. I hope the team realizes that it is important to keep the run going.

  8. +1 Vote -1 Vote +11886 - inthenorthwestuk

    For the past year or so I have been reading your blog and a couple of other arsenal related ones but i dont leave comments. regardless, if i agree or disagree with the usual blogsphere web’logues. Just thougth i’d say I AGREE WITH YOU, dont get me wrong i thought nasri was super – he was strong on the ball, decision making was magnifique, craft wise excellent etc etc etc and he stood head and shoulders above most of his counterparts but unlike the press and other blogs are giving him the Motm crown i felt Fabianski was our MOTM!

    fact citeh went down to 10, might have diluted his importance but i felt he made telling saves before our 1st and 2nd goals, that helped steady his team mates nerves.
    i mean some A23 critics say arshavins pass to SN8 for the second was easy and their grand ma’s could have made it but i say imagine he had miss-placed it or over hit it. and the longer we went without a goal might have affected the Arse mentally….

    in conclusion, i felt little moments get forgotten in the grand scheme of things but they do matter. COYGs!

    thanks for the opportunity and you sure are doing good work with your Blog. Now i am going to read the rest of your post just had to leave this after reading the 1st paragraph! lol

  9. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1The BearMan

    Come now lads lets us not get to carried away as yet. Yes! It was a wonderful victory, and a victory in football also counts if the opponents only have 9 or 10 men on the pitch.

    The season is only a few weeks in play, now is the time to maintain our focus and to keep our discipline. It is not time to take our ease or relent, and definately no time to start boasting. Chelsea, Man U, Man C and Spurs are maintaining their focus with one eye on their next match and the other on the finishing line.

    There are areas in our game that we must put right very soon. Eg: Defence, passing the ball, free kicks, corners, penalties, tackling and playing and thinking like champions. Arshavin, Clichy, Djourou and Denilson are still making the same mistakes. More time needs to be spent on the training ground, working on those mistakes and in the video room mentally addressing them. We have to quickly make improvements in every department.

    How is it that Chelsea keep on beating us in the same manner? Why have we not yet learned the lesson and address those areas of weakness. Finally let us not become complacent against Newcastle or West Ham.
    To be a champion you have to dream,think,sweat, fight, and turn up to every match fully focussed, fully committed ready to do battle the entire match. Our neighbours believe they are the champions, they are expecting us to fade away near the finishing line. If we desperately want trophies this season, we have to steal their courage.

    To all Arsenal fans I say this, there will come a time very soon when we will be needed to support, strengthen, and raise our players up. We also need to stand tall with the same resolve: “NEVER GIVE UP”; “NEVER GIVE IN”; “NEVER QUIT” UNTIL!

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Arsesession

      @The BearMan, If you want to use Chelsea as the yard stick, watch their matches: they make similar mistakes…..and have clean sheets.

      Denilson, who is everyone’s whipping boy, did nothing in the match yesterday to deserve ANY criticism – a surprising solid performance.

      Djourou, who missed all of last season with injury and b4 had maybe started 2 or 3 matches at CB, had some 1st half issues – non of which led to goals. How many aerial balls did he lose? zero. and of those he headed away, how many were a completed pass to a teammate – almost 100%. He did make a timely challenges in the second half……and that settling play showed maturity.

      Players must be blooded into competitions and Vermaelen and Koscielny’s injuries have been beneficial for Djourou’s development and confidence.

      I cannot defend Arshavin – at 29, he is what he is.

      Clichy can have one poor and 4 excellent plays and everyone will still focus on his one poor play.

      You are absolutely right about keeping focus.

  10. Vote -1 Vote +11886 - inthenorthwestuk

    contd… even the moment when LF21 flapped for the adebayor chance, the camera gave us a false perception. In fact after watching replay’s the advantage was to the sriker in that, the loop of the ball and the distance btw the keeper were factors in ade’s favor. Fab on the other hand was stretching and trying to cover. But obviously with our recent keeper crisis situations like that make gunners worldwide pull clumps of hair out! all in all i felt he gave an accomplished performance. touch wood hope that continues….

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Brahmabull

      One thing Fabianski did wrong on that play – he should have broken Adebayor’s jaw with a well placed double fist to his fucking head. We were up 2-0 against 10 men, what would be the harm.

      Maybe then Stoke, Blackburn et al can have some interesting discussions in the video room when the do their prep for their next game against Arsenal.

      When you get a chance to send a message like that, take it. Like later in the game, Cesc took a yellow to get a shot in on de Jong, Cesc knew what he was doing – but he was sending a message to de Cunt.

  11. Vote -1 Vote +1Yan

    I was really eager to see the passing stats for this match. I was sure that some kind of guiness record was made in that 2nd half. I think it was a disgrace the hack a cesc tactic (De Cunt and Barry). Our Capitan was lucky not to get injured. What’s wrong with Denilson’s hands? He made like 3 handballs yesterday. And I remember in another match a pelanty was called against him. Maybe brazilians have shorter ankles and longer hands. Anyway. Still my Motm is Nasri. Though Fabianski had a monster game. He now has that crazy psycho eyes; definetely not last season’s 10 yo “where’s my mom” look.

  12. Vote -1 Vote +117highburyterrace

    Excellent blog Tim, I know you must’ve been keeping those stats at the ready for a good moment to spring them….

    At it is a good moment. Cesc’s comments and his play showed tons yesterday. He worked “Plugs” (Crappenburg) nicely and he settled the possession well (when he wasn’t getting mugged), esp., after half-time. And the penalty miss, while it could’ve been a real turning point, turned into just another test that the team passed.

    Still some severe worries IMO over on the left side of defense, what with Djourou dragged out of position repeatedly and Clichy over-reliant on stab tackles and his recovery pace. At least Andrey seemed to have gotten the word that he actually needs to help his teammates: I counted him actually tracking back and helping out defensively at least once, and he made an assist that he actually intended!

    And finally, if we didn’t have the specter of Flap’s past, he’d be our own Polish Joe Hart….

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid69

      Fabiansaki’s flap was very necessary because even though he did not get the ball, he provided enough pressure on Ade which made him put the header just over. None of our defenders were marking Ade (only God knows why) and he would have had a free header without that interference.

      At that point we also had 2 defenders on the goal line at either post. All things considered, he made the correct decision and his actions probably saved us from conceding.


  13. Vote -1 Vote +1Patrick

    The win at City cancels out that loss at home to West Brom. We now make up the remaining 5 points by beating Chelsea at the Grove, we beat Villa away, and then hope Sunderland hold Chelsea at the Stadium of Light. Makes sense to me.

    It’s back on! Stay fit, Cesc! Stay fit.

  14. Vote -1 Vote +1Limestonegunner

    Song was immense, Tim, good call. We were worried he would get a second yellow but he played in a brilliantly controlled way for the second half. Song had more completed passes than the entire City midfield, I believe.

    I agree completely with Fabianski as MOTM. This was a game where he wasn’t just solid, but really contributed to Arsenal taking the three points. I think he continues to start even when Almunia returns from injury. I was a big detractor, for sure, but he has played well. Inevitably he will make a costly error, as any goalkeeper will, and then we will see if his confidence has been rebuilt enough to recover from that. If he does, we have no problems in the position and he will go forward as our #1 in goal this season. The run of games has helped him show his quality.

  15. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Cesc has clarified his 15 men comment which was twisted to make it seem he was dissing Man City. He meant that even if Man City had 15 men Arsenal would till play their game (not we would still win.

    Andre Marriner ‘caved’ at TOD and failed to send off Neville for a second bookable offense. This led to our favorite team Stoke City FC getting hosed.

    We need to thank Flamini for leaving because all the MF players we have now are infinitely better and none are ‘headless’ chickens. Flamini is now 3rd choice behind Gattuso and recently acquired ex-Portsmouth MF Kevin-Prince Boateng.

    WBA is playing the way Mowbray was unable to get them them to play with attacking play and solid defense.

    Wenger’s faith in Fabianski while all around him were openly derisive of the keeper should be commended.

    If Rooney gets his wish and Man U are forced into a buying spree, will they get kicked out of Europe because of even more unsustainable debt?

    I hope JET gets into that CC game against Newcastle because I think he could develop our version of. Drogba.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid69

      I really like JET, but think it would be good to loan him to one of the lower end EPL teams for half a season. He is still not the complete package yet, but is very clinical, fast for a big man with good defensive skills. He can play anywhere from DM to Striker.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Brahmabull

        Fast for a big man? OMG, no. He has Gareth Barry pace, if not worse. That’s been the knock on him for a while now – versatile, good skills, intelligent, but a poor runner with hardly any acceleration over short distances, and an inability to escape quicker defenders under tighter marking schemes.

        It’s one thing to rack up goals in the reserves or Championship; defending there is not strong.

        I predict JET will not make it into the Arsenal first team, he’ll be sold off at the end of this season.

      2. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

        @Brahmabull, On Arsenal 360, Wenger was so effusive in his praise of JET as to be over the top. The only position he can’t play is GK (he started out as a CB and has steadily moved forward) , his finishing is with either foot is incredible, blah, blah, blah. You and Wenger will have to agree to disagree :)

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