Flamini scores first goal at the Emirates in 6 years as Gunners earn point
Mathieu Flamini scored his first goal at the Emirates for six years as the Gunners denied Manchester City top spot in the Premier League. So unlikely a goalscorer was Flamini that everyone around me in the North Bank Upper thought Santi Cazorla had scored the equaliser in the 1-1 draw.
It was Arsenal’s third Premier League game without a win – but we witnessed a much better performance to fully merit taking a point from the match.
In fact, the home side might have taken all three points after a much improved second-half showing in which Flamini’s 52nd-minute strike cancelled out the opener from David Silva.
City threatened to wreak havoc in the opening few minutes as Pablo Zabaleta got in behind the Gunners defence, but tried to play the ball into the centre when the shot seemed on. A bit of Arsenal type overplaying from City was evident throughout the match from the visitors.
Soon afterwards Jesus Navas put the Gunners’ back line under pressure again and sent a curling just wide, while Samir Nasri’s deflected drive went straight into Wojciech Szczesny grateful arms.
But the breakthrough came on 18 minutes as Lukas Podolski was caught in possession and Yaya Toure and Silva combined to set up Edin Dzeko, whose shot was tipped onto the post by Szczesny – only for Silva to react quickest to poke the rebound into the net.
Arsenal almost hit back immediately when Podolski’s cross picked out Flamini, whose volley deceived Joe Hart and bounced into the net, but the linesman had correctly signalled offside.
Unfortunately, that was as close as the home side came to troubling Hart in a first half when they wholeheartedly applied themselves to the midfield battle, but lacked both pace and penetration.
The Gunners might have conceded again early in the second period when a low cross from Navas was palmed away by Szczesny, bounced off Per Mertesacker and went just past the post. The first piece of good fortune the Gunners have received recently when the ball has been bouncing around their penalty area.
It had shades of the last-minute goal Arsenal had conceded four days earlier – but it was the culprit from the Swansea game who netted the equaliser on this occasion.
Arsenal worked the ball out to the left, where Podolski whipped in a low cross for the Frenchman to steer his finish neatly beyond the diving Hart.
Suddenly the home side seemed more likely to edge in front and Podolski was foiled by a point-blank save from Hart, while Flamini burst forward again to fire narrowly over from an angle.
At the other end, Szczesny tipped over a rocket from Fernandinho, while Toure’s header drifted wide, but it was Arsenal who finished the game the stronger.
Tomas Rosicky set up Olivier Giroud for a potshot that dribbled well off target and substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also went close with an overhead kick late on.
Arsenal: Szczesny 7; Sagna, Mertesacker 7, Vermaelen 7, Gibbs 7; Arteta 7, Flamini; 8 Cazorla 7, Rosicky 8, Podolski 7 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 79); Giroud 6 (Sanogo 85).
So a well-earned point for the Gunners. Where does it leave us in the title race and top 4 chase.