The trouble with playing in the best league in the world is that there are, more often than not, fantastic games at both ends of the table. The vibrancy, speed and contrasting tactics make England’s Premier League the best and most unpredictable league amongst the other contenders.
Yesterday saw another game fly by at such a speed that it was over before it began, but not in the way you may expect. All the games nominated by SkySports as their game of 2011 have been high scoring affairs, with Arsenal’s draw at Newcastle and win at Chelsea featuring, but the game yesterday between Arsenal and Manchester City was a game to behold.
The attacking prowess and defensive frailties of both sides was exposed as the game was played from the first minute to the last at a relentless and unyielding speed. Manchester City played with Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure supporting the four-pronged attack, leaving the defensive lynchpin of last season Nigel De Jong on the bench, a position he has become accustomed to over the last two months. But they were stretched to all lengths by Aaron Ramsey’s endless movement, Mikel Arteta’s precision passing and Alex Song’s tenacity in front of the Arsenal defence.
The ball glided over the surface and it was as though it was attached to the players’ feet by elastic. Balotelli dragged the ball from the heavens with a superlative touch before forcing a save from Szczesny whilst Ramsey tested Joe Hart at the other end. Sergio Aguero blazed over as Robin Van Persie saw his deft chip chalked off by the linesman.
It was the first fifteen minutes of the second half when Arsenal momentarily lost their shape that City scored the winner with Silva scoring past Vermaelen’s lunge, when the Spaniard should have been marked by either Arteta or Ignasi Miquel. City deserved their lead but a draw would have been a fair result.
A cross from the right was handled by Micah Richards but Phil Dowd decided it was unintentional, before Walcott lashed an effort on target which was tipped over. Arsenal’s pressure in the final minutes should have been rewarded with Vermaelen, an inspiration at the heart of the defence curling two brilliant shots goalwards, one of which was pushed over and one that curled agonisingly wide of the far post, with Hart scrambling.
The game may have finished one nil but it will be remembered for the energy and finesse that these sides bring to our league. Both sides were winners yesterday but the real winner was the Premier League.
By Luke Lambert