It’s fair to say there were a lot of people who were decidedly underwhelmed with a point in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw at Manchester City and, in many ways, I understand that.
I wrote, coming into the game, about how this felt like a City side ripe for the taking, especially given the unusually poor showing in the Champions League semi-final clash in Spain midweek.
And with news of Tottenham going down 2-1 to Southampton earlier in the day, there was motivation aplenty for Arsenal to really go for it.
So with all that in mind, and given City’s woefully inconsistent form in the league, I think there is room for disappointment in a draw – it feels as though the door that cracked open very briefly has been slammed shut again.
But then, with perspective, picking up a point at Manchester City should never be lightly dismissed. Twice recovering from going a goal behind is also worthy of praise, particularly when City looked in such determined mood from the outset.
In many ways, City were a mirror image of Arsenal – so busy and promising going forward, but so liable to sit back and make mistakes at key moments in defence.
A point tightens our grip on third place, while keeping us in the hunt for second, albeit with a very slim chance of stealing in front of Tottenham at this late stage. Barring any catastrophic balls-up of Arsenal proportions, we should see off Villa fairly comfortably next Sunday.
The most disappointing part about our performance today was the opening five or 10 minutes. We allowed City to set the tone, we allowed them to pile on the pressure, and it was no real surprise when they took the lead.
Credit to Arsenal, however, they hauled themselves back into the mix courtesy of Olivier Giroud’s header. And what a timely goal it was, both for him and for the team. While it would be churlish to ignore his vastly improved contribution these last two games, it merely adds to the frustration that he was so poor in February and March, when we really needed him at his best.
I think it’s fair to say Petr Cech will be disappointed with the second City goal – he was beaten from a fair distance, and not with the sort of postage-stamp strike you can only take your hat off too. Had it been David Ospina in goal, you feel he would be coming in for much sterner criticism.
All was quietly forgotten, however, when Alexis and Giroud combined superbly, in exactly the fashion Arsene would have dreamed, for the second equaliser. A quite superb goal.
There was a lot of tension in the final 15 minutes, Wilfred Bony was unlucky to hit the bar with an excellent volley, but, ultimately, Arsenal held out for the point.
There was a lot of belly-aching online about how disgraceful it was to see Arsenal settling for the draw late on, instead of going for the win, but I don’t agree at all. Arsenal have so often thrown it all away with poor game management and decision making in situations just such as these, so it was well enough to see them introduce a little caution late on.
I admit it does feel a bit of a hollow point, all things considered, but it was hard earned and, for me, well deserved in the end. Though we may not have enough to nick second place, we at least didn’t throw away the chance of automatic qualification which, really and truly, should be the goal from here.