Arsene started with a side that was something like we expected, Djourou partnered Silvestre in the middle at the back, while Gavin Hoyte came in for the injured Sagna, Song replaced the suspended Fabregas and Diaby slotted in on the right of midfield, while RVP returned up front. I thought we started pretty brightly, there was a decent tempo early on and the passing was pretty crisp.
Of particular note Alan Wiley allowed City to get away with numerous deliberate fouls without producing a single yellow, deliberate cynical fouls from Zabaleta times two, Dunne times two, Wright-Phillips, Vassel and Kompany were ignored, Richards somehow got away with an awful body check on RVP when he only had eyes for the man. I don't know how many times I say this but this kind of weak cowardly incompetent refereeing changes games, if the yellows are not brought out early for deliberate fouls then it will carry on and on until the referee grows some balls.
If the referee had had given a few deserved yellows it would have stopped the persistent fouling whenever we broke from midfield, it would have put City on the back foot, as it was the referee was weak and City came into the game towards the end of the half. Given our possession we only created one decent chance, Nasri's decent hit from a free kick forced a decent Hart save, Bendtner neatly back heeled to Song who shot wide, the ball was a little bit too far behind him to be fair. Then just before half time a terrible mix up let in Ireland to neatly chip over Almunia, Clichy seemed to be about to clear but was knocked off balance by Silvestre, the ball fell to the alert Ireland who did the rest in accomplished fashion. We did fade as the half went on, there was not enough incisive play in the final third but City were extremely fortunate to go in a goal up at half time.
The tempo was more upbeat at the beginning of the second half, a good move saw Diaby blast over from a tricky angle, while Bendtner could have easily won a penalty as he was rather crudely hacked from behind when attacking a cross in the box, RVP almost bent in a free kick after yet another crude Richards challenge went without a yellow card. Wiley continued to keep his yellows firmly in his pocket despite repeated cynical City offences, while he was always keen to give city something rather soft at the other end.
Then the killer blow, the ball was lost slackly in the midfield and Robinho was played in, his finish was immaculate, Almunia was stranded as the ball lobbed over his head into the net, Hoyte was caught somewhat napping but the slightly casual nature of the midfield play will not have pleased Arsene. Chances at both ends then followed, Bendtner delayed too long before shooting straight at Hart, Song tested Hart with a left footer, Robinho was wide with a diving header and then unlucky to have a goal wrongly disallowed for offside, RVP shot over after a good turn on the edge of the box.
Ramsey came on for young Gavin Hoyte, who I thought did well in the first half but was caught out for the second City goal, Vela replaced Diaby who was far too anonymous for my liking, however right midfield is clearly not his position. Unfortunately the game now looked lost, Robinho again broke clean through after the ball was yet again lost far too easily in the midfield, he rounded Almunia but Djourou did magnificently well to get back and block Robinhos' goal bound effort.
Wiley then finished the game as he had started, with some truly one sided decision making from the officious referee's manual of how to be a fat little twat. Song was booked fairly, however how many times had we seen the same from City players go unpunished? RVP nicked the ball out of the keeper's hands and slotted home, technically no foul was committed, but Wiley knew better and disallowed the goal. Then Sturridge jinked past Djourou in the box, Djourou made some contact but it was pretty minimal, but Wiley pointed to the spot. The refereeing really is the pits in the premiership these days, however this defeat was only minimally influenced by the referee.
There are almost too many problems at the moment to go about dissecting them in one attempt. It appears that the morale has been rotting for a while now and it is not something that will magically recover overnight. There are problems with the playing staff too, we had no width on the right without young Theo, the ball was given away sloppily so many times by our midfielders to set up dangerous City breaks, Song and Diaby looked particularly lethargic, the defense was left terribly exposed at times as the midfield melted away like warm butter. Bendtner is clearly very low on confidence, while RVP needs to prove he is the player that he thinks he is.
This season is in danger of completely collapsing unless we pull together and start to fight for each other. On the positive I thought Djourou had an outstanding game at the back and he should partner Kolo when he returns from injury. The biggest focal problem we have is our centre of midfield, there is frequently absolutely no drive and bustle coming from the hub of our team, the midfield is also not supporting the defence enough. The thing that killed us today was the sloppy and casual gifting of possession to the opposition in dangerous positions from which they broke. City did not look a side high on confidence, it was just so frustrating to see us gift them so many opportunities too damn cheaply, it was typified by the first goal, a simple clearance was botched and the crucial goal came at such a devastating time.
Now we'll see what these boys are made of, it's time to stand up and be counted, we'll find out who has the character to stay at the club and fight for the cause in the long term, this is one of the biggest moments that I can remember in Arsenal's recent history. This is not just a blip, this is a fully fledged crisis and we are about to learn a lot about this group of players and our manager. Come on you Gunners, they need our support now more than ever.