Monday, September 24, 2012
Koscielny saves our arse.
On Friday I said I didn't want to discuss how getting a point out of this match would be a decent result. I didn't want to discuss it because I don't think that we should be going into any match thinking that a point is good enough. But now that it's said and done, and we gave it something close to our best, I'm reasonably comfortable with the result and I still feel confident about our lot.
It's a funny thing, how much it matters the way in which you take a draw. Had we scored first, and conceded late as City did, we'd still have just a point but we'd probably feel much worse about it. The sense of relief that came along with Koscielny's goal was massive, and I was pretty contended to see the match end the way it did.
I called it "something close to our best" and I think that's a fair assessment. Last season, City failed to win all three points at home just once. This match was as difficult as they come. Just looking at City's lineup is mind-boggling. So to walk away even was respectable. The problem though, is that we had a lot of chances to win the match and most of those chances went begging. Had we been at our best, we'd probably have won the match.
Gervinho's performance was pretty shocking, and totally unexpected from a player in a run of very good form. I'm slightly concerned about that because in the past we've seen Gervinho slip out of form and stay there for long periods of time. He had a wide-open chance at scoring the opening goal but a terrible touch pushed the ball right into Hart's hands. If that goal happens, this is a different match entirely. Koscielny's late equalizer not only secured a point but it pulled a couple of players out of the fire, including Walcott who also missed on a pretty clear-cut chance to score.
To be fair, City had numerous chances to score another goal as well. Just minutes after his equalizer, Koscielny played a horrible clearance that definitely should have cost us the match but didn't. It was just one of those matches where neither side was totally on-point and in that respect, I imagine Mancini's lot don't feel gutted over a draw either.
Defensively, I thought it was another impressive performance. Obviously, we didn't do well defending the corner that resulted in Lescott's goal, but I'd hardly consider it a disaster. Some will blame Mannone, some will blame zonal marking, while some might even say it was simply well taken. For me, it was probably a little of all three. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter much. It's something the team needs to look at and figure out how they could have done better, learn from it, and move on.
The defense came up big for us on several other occasions in this match, and any time you can hold a side like Manchester City to only one goal, you know you've done well. That's why I think Koscielny's performance was worthy of MOTM. It's a tough task to play center-back against City, and coming through with a late equalizer is above and beyond anything we could have asked. Well played, especially when you consider he wasn't even expecting to get the start. I also thought Jenkinson did well under considerable pressure, while Gibbs was hardly troubled at all.
All in all, we've survived a tough run of matches and my level of optimism remains high. We're still undefeated, we're still creating chances, and we're defending better than we have in years. We're waiting for better things from players like Giroud, but this should come with time, and we've also got several top quality players getting close to a return from injury. And remember, this time last year we were in a world of hell, still pouting about Cesc and Nasri. Most of all, if we can draw at The Etihad, I like our chances to win just about anywhere else.
No rest for the weary as we have a midweek fixture with Coventry before hosting Chelsea and then Olympiakos. Wednesday's match at The Emirates shouldn't trouble us too much, although I'm certain I've said that before. I'll be back tomorrow with a full preview of that. I expect to see some different players on the pitch which will give us plenty to talk about. Until then.