MANCHESTER: Arsenal’s state of confusion after their 6-3 thrashing at Manchester City was far greater than the sum even of a scoreline which reduced their Premier League command but did not remove them from the top of the table.
Central defender Laurent Koscielny suffered a twisted knee which could keep him out of the holiday programme, England midfielder Jack Wilshere risks suspension for a gesture to City fans and Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil fell out up as they walked off the pitch at the final whistle.
Frenchman Koscielny was carried off on a stretcher after suffering a twisted and cut knee in a collision with Alvaro Negredo as the two players slid in, with the Spaniard diverting the ball into the goal to hand City a 2:1 lead in the 38th minute.
Thomas Vermaelen came on as substitute but his partnership with Mertesacker is fragile and the prospect of the two having to hold the fort is worrying for Arsenal not only because of the holiday but because Chelsea are the next opponents next weekend.
Wilshere made an obscene one-fingered gesture while being taunted by City fans after he had seen a shot well saved by keeper Costel Pantilimon. The incident was missed by referee Martin Atkinson but captured by television cameras. Liverpool’s Luis Suarez served a one-match suspension two years ago for a similar act against Fulham.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, as usual, claimed to not have seen the incident but conceded: “If he did it and he’s banned, we will have to accept it.”
The final ignominy for Arsenal was the sight of the two Germans squabbling as they left the pitch at the end of a humiliating afternoon.
Mertesacker stormed over to Ozil – one of his best friends in the game – and jabbed his finger in the midfielder’s face at the final whistle. The row was apparently as a consequence of Ozil ignoring Mertesacker’s exhortation to walk over and applaud the travelling Arsenal fans.
Neither had enjoyed the afternoon. Mertesacker was swamped by City’s rapid-fire attack while Ozil was caught in possession in midfield when City ran away to score their third goal. Overall this was by far his poorest game since his £42.5m arrival from Real Madrid in August.
Ozil later apologised, on his Facebook page, saying: “Sorry I didn’t thank the fans at the end of the game! You have been brilliant to me and I know you had travelled a long way and spent your money to support us.
“I was upset with the result and know I should have come to you to say ‘thank you’ and I know it is a big Arsenal tradition win, lose or draw.”
City established themselves as the most dangerous title challengers to Arsenal with their victory. The prolific Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo were again both on target while Fernandinho struck twice – his first goals for City. David Silva and Yaya Toure completed the scoring.
Theo Walcott marked his first start since September with two fine goals but Mertesacker’s late header was mere consolation for a side ultimately well beaten. Indeed, City manager Manuel Pellegrini’s delight in victory was tempered by irritation at three goals conceded.
Arsenal were always in for a tough time of it. City had won all their seven previous home goals and now their eight wins out of eight are embellished by 35 goals for and a mere five against. City’s overall goal difference of plus-29 far outstrips the plus-16 of Arsenal and Liverpool.