Victories against Arsenal in the Premier League era have been a rare occurrence for Manchester City with the Blues having only won five times against the Gunners. Four of those victories have occurred since Sheikh Mansour’s 2008 takeover of the club, the only other victory occurring in 2006. Therefore, this is a fixture that is still viewed with caution by City fans a little longer in the tooth than others.
One of those five victories which was particularly memorable occurred in November 2008 with Mark Hughes at the helm for the home side. With global attention focused on the new riches of blue half of Manchester, thanks to Mansour’s arrival, Hughes’ team were still a rickety outfit given that the only opportunity to splash the cash at the time was on Robinho, the flagship signing who represented City’s dramatic entrance to the football elite on transfer deadline day in September 2008. Indeed, whilst the club was brimming with optimism for the future, the present wasn’t such a pleasant affair. That said, on this particular afternoon all was rosy.
Arsenal arrived at Eastlands with problems of their own. In the build-up the game to the game captain, William Gallas, criticised the mentality of his team mates and Arsene Wenger saw fit to drop him. Without Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Emanuel Adebayor as well, Arsenal were a weakened outfit and there was an opportunity to be had should City be up the task.
The game was largely a scrappy affair in the first half. Both teams struggled to build any sort of momentum but a combination of wayward passing, from both teams, and City’s physical approach seemed to unsettle the away team. As the first half drew to a close City began to build pressure and found just reward for their endeavour when Stephen Ireland put the Blues ahead. With Benjani driving at the heart of the Arsenal defence, he released Ireland down the middle. The ball temporarily flittered away from the midfielder but a scuffed Gael Clichy clearance fell straight into the path of Ireland who delicately clipped the ball over an onrushing Manuel Almunia.
The second half was a different story all together and City could have had a hatful. Robinho was in particularly inspired form and could and should have bagged more than the one goal that he did score. However, his was goal was worth the admission fee alone. Shaun Wright-Phillips picked up possession in the centre of the park and City broke quickly. The winger saw Robinho making a quick run down the left channel and played a perfectly weighted pass into his path. With Ireland to the Brazilian’s right it would have been easier to play a square ball but Robinho had other ideas: with Almunia way of his line, Robinho sent an audacious, nonchalant chip from 18 yards out to nestle comfortably in the back of the net. It was a special goal and worthy of cementing City’s dominance of the second half.
Robinho could have had a second goal when he back-heeled in after pouncing on a spilled Ireland shot shortly afterwards but he was adjudged to have been offside. The wait for the next goal didn’t last too much longer when Daniel Sturridge, on as a sub, won a penalty in the dying embers of the game. Much to Elano’s displeasure Sturridge insisted on taking the spot kick. Thankfully, he was spared any blushes and duly converted to round off a wonderful afternoon for Hughes’ side.
The win moved City to 11th in the table whereas Arsenal dropped to 5th. Hughes said after the game:
I think it is only the second time in the Premier League we have been able to beat Arsenal, so it is a significant victory for us. We were good value for the win as well. We had a game plan and wanted to break up the rhythm of their play. We did not want them to dictate the game. The players stuck to their task and caused them problems.
City XI: Hart, Zabaleta, Richards, Dunne, Garrido, Wright-Phillips, Ireland, Kompany, Vassell (Elano 73), Robinho (Hamann 82), Mwaruwari (Sturridge 88).
Subs Not Used: Schmeichel, Onuoha, Evans, Ben-Haim.
On this day, Duffy entered the UK Singles Chart at 22 with Rain On Your Parade.
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Written by Rob Toole