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Vermaelen Shows Arsenal Way Forward

Manchester City maintained their 100% home record this season and returned to the top of the Premier League, with a 1-0 victory over Arsenal in a pulsating encounter at the Etihad Stadium.

Meanwhile, the defeat consigned the Gunners to their first defeat in nine matches.

David Silva struck the only goal eight minutes into the second half.  A defensive reshuffle following the loss of Johan Djourou at right-back, found Laurent Koscielny out of position.
 Mario Balotelli took full advantage finding space down the left flank, cutting inside Alex Song and driving in a vicious shot that was saved by Wojciech Szczesny. However, the ricochet fell to Sergio Aguero who headed the ball into the path of Silva, who scrambled home at the far post.

The visitors returning to Manchester for the first time since their humiliating to defeat to United in late August put in a spirited response. Although Robin van Persie could not find his 20th goal of the season, Joe Hart saved well from Gervinho, Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey.

The biggest threat to the City goal was Arsenal defender, Thomas Vermaelen who had a clever free-kick tipped over by Hart and then deep into injury time, the Belgian curled a superb effort just wide.

The absorbing contest was end-to-end from the very start of the match.

The first chance fell to Sergio Aguero, who fired over the bar from 10 yards out after being set free by Pablo Zabaleta.

The Gunners themselves had several promising efforts and forced Hart into two quick saves.  The England goalkeeper first stopped Gervinho’s angled shot and then pushed Ramsey’s effort from the resulting corner round the post.

As you can see from the statistics above (via our Stats Centre powered by Opta) the contest was very evenly matched in terms of both pass completion and possession. Most importantly, the Gunners are now more compact and stronger than earlier in the season. Arsenal won 71% of their (24) tackles against Man City, as opposed to 53% (15) tackles when they were dispatched by United with such ease.

Mikel Arteta made the most passes with 73 of which 67 were accurate (92%). The Spaniard also attempted two tackles and won them both. It is also worth mentioning, Gervinho who attempted 45 passes with 42 finding a team-mate for 93%. However, disappointingly, the Ivorian attempted 3 crosses without any success. In both defence and attack, Vermaelen was imperious. The Arsenal vice-captain won 100% of his attempted tackles (3/3), made six interceptions, won two fouls and made none.

Amazing, the defender was a bigger threat offensively than substitutes Chamakh or Arshavin – sent on to rescue a point. The Belgian carried Arsenal’s biggest danger to the City goal – producing a total of five shots, two on target and two blocked efforts.

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