By William Wood | In Micah's Say
Manchester City were outgunned by high-flying Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, losing 2-0, and Micah gave his thoughts on another defeat away from home exclusively to MicahRichards.com.
Having shaken off the hamstring strain that ruled him out of action for England under-21s earlier this week, the 20-year old started at right-back for Mark Hughes’ side, while Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bridge also returned to the line-up following their own spells on the sideline.
Arsenal welcomed back several first-teamers of their own, most notably Cesc Fabregas whose every touch was greeted by cheers from the Arsenal faithful, but they were all given little time to settle as Nigel De Jong’s effort from 25-yards – which forced Manuel Almunia to scramble across his line – set the tempo of the game.
Fabregas’s impact was immediate, and it was from his lofted free-kick into the area that Emmanuel Adebayor – himself making a return from injury – headed home unmarked, though minutes later a cross from Shaun Wright-Phillips deflected off Gael Clichy and almost caught Almunia out.
Much of Arsenal’s early pressure resulted in set-pieces from which they looked dangerous, and after a corner in the 23rd minute Kolo Toure collected the ball, jinked his way through City’s defence and powered a shot goal-wards, though the effort was saved well by Given at the near post.
Despite the ongoing threat from The Gunners’ lively front-line, Hughes’ men were posing questions of their own, Micah laying the ball off to Wright-Phillips who turned exquisitely before slipping a return pass back to the England international, and the subsequent shot required the full attention of Arsenal’s goalkeeper.
In fact, City could and perhaps should have been level after another fine move, Gelson Fernandes finding himself in acres of space at the heart of Arsenal’s defence before turning and shooting right-footed, but the ball clipped the woodwork as it flew wide of Almunia’s left-hand post.
In the final minute of added time in the first-half, Andrey Arshavin and Adebayor combined effectively to set the former up for a curling effort which was blocked by Given, though they doubled their lead minutes after the interval as City were still settling back into the game.
Fabregas chipped a perfectly weighted pass over Richard Dunne’s head and Adebayor controlled and rounded Given to put daylight between the sides, much to the frustration of the Eastlanders’ coaching staff.
The Togo international thought he had sealed his hat-trick on 54 minutes when Fabregas cut the ball back to him, but Given was once again equal to it as he palmed it away from danger.
With Arsenal in control the pace of the game dropped slightly, though Fabregas and Adebayor kept the City defence on their toes, and Dunne had to clear a close-range effort from the latter off the line midway through the second-half.
Niklas Bendnter went closest to adding a third for Arsene Wenger’s side with 10 minutes remaining, but as it was the hosts had to settle for a 2-0 score-line, leaving Hughes to mull over yet another disappointment on the road.
“They played some outstanding football whereas we never fully got into our stride,” Micah told MicahRichards.com. “It’s disappointing in that sense because we all felt that we could have got something from the game.
“We had some good chances, particularly in the first-half, and could easily have gone in at half-time level.”
Having aggravated the hamstring strain that has reappeared at several points this season, did Micah feel any ill-effects during the match?
“It’s still not 100 percent but it was fine for me to play and it’s getting there,” he added.
“It was great to be out there playing having had a frustrating week with it.
Despite the setback against Arsenal, the youngster is still optimistic that City can finish the season off with a flourish.
“We’re aiming to finish as high as possible, and I personally think we can get into the top-eight, despite today’s defeat.”