Arsenal poked, prodded, failed, nearly succeeded, failed again, and then finally broke through against an unambitious and hapless Manchester City side today at the Emirates, winning 1-0 on a late thunderbolt from Mikel Arteta. The victory means that Arsenal remain in third ahead of rivals Tottenham and Chelsea, and City's title hopes more or less have fallen apart for good.
Follow us below the jump for how it all went down.
Arsenal named a lineup with the experienced Yossi Benayoun on the left; otherwise the team was the same as the one at QPR last weekend. City were without the service of David Silva, who had a small knee problem.
Tomas Rosicky made a delightful burst around Yaya Toure two minutes in, and the Ivorian had to grab him, earning a yellow. The free kick and corner resulted in nothing. Arsenal were able to sustain their pressure from that moment forward well into the tenth minute, but were unable to produce a shot on target.
They sustained the pressure, though, and 15 minutes in had half a penalty shout, Robin van Persie getting pushed from behind by Vincent Kompany, but the call was only a corner. From that corner, the ball was headed towards goal by van Persie only to ping off of Thomas Vermaelen's shoulder and the crossbar. It was very close, and Arsenal's first effort near the target, and they were unlucky not to be up 1-0.
Yaya Toure had picked up a knock that he was not able to overcome, and he was replaced by David Pizarro 17 minutes in. Two minutes later, Mario Balotelli, playing on the left, left his foot in very late on Alex Song, crushing his knee with his studs, but there was no call at all from Martin Atkinson for what should have been a straight red card, no questions asked. Song was able to carry on, thankfully.
24 minutes in, City finally enjoyed some possession. Balotelli turend a corner towards goal, but it was stopped before it reached the line by Yossi Benayoun and cleared. City were really coming back into the match now, and the next five minutes were all Citizen. Arsenal would finally relieve some of the pressure 34 minutes in, Arteta screaming in a free kick from the left that Joe Hart turned aside, but there had been a clear drop in intensity from the home side.
The rest of the half sort of bogged down, and reached its conclusion with Balotelli lying on the pitch in some discomfort.
He would start the second half, though, as rain streamed down onto the Emirates pitch. Vermaelen expertly broke up City's first attack and released Kieran Gibbs up the left, but the latter's cross found only City shirts. Arsenal may have been guilty of crossing a bit too often. 51 minutes on, Gael Clichy escaped up the left and found Aguero, but the Argentine was expertly coerced away by Laurent Koscielny. City had an effort on target a couple of minutes later, an Aguero header floating down until Wojciech Szczesny tipped it over the bar.
56 minutes on, Andre Santos joined the match in place of Kieran Gibbs, who appeared to have an issue with his groin. James Milner received a yellow card for a chopping tackle on Rosicky. City won a corner on 58 minutes, but the ball slipped through and then off of Aguero's foot the other direction, the rain perhaps starting to make things a little slick. Santos get booked for a tug on Balotelli.
61 minutes, Arsenal started to come alive a little. A beautiful floater in from Song towards van Persie was met, the Dutchman heading off the post, his drought continuing for the time being. It was Arsenal's best chance since his header was cleared off the line by his teammate in the first half.
Song found van Persie again on 70 minutes, Kompany having lost him a bit, but the Dutchman had strayed just a bit offside, and his goal didn't count. Arsenal pushed on, won a corner, which Zabaleta cleared into touch. From there, Mikel Arteta did well to hold off Balotelli, who held the Spaniard back, only for no call to come through again.
76 minutes in, Arsenal had their best opportunity of the match, Joe Hart turning Walcott's shot against the post. The rebound should've been a tap-in for Vermaelen, but he screwed his shot wide off of Benayoun, who couldn't tap it in either, and Rosicky couldn't get there in time as the ball wiggled past the outside of the far post.
It was comedic, and awful, and still 0-0.
Aaron Ramsey came on for Benayoun on 79 minutes. Some questions might be asked as to why it wasn't Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
84 minutes on, Carlos Tevez joined the fray in place of fellow Argentine Aguero. A minute later, Walcott departed to make way for Chamberlain. All the subs were used; there were five minutes plus extras for one side or the other to make it count.
It wouldn't take that long, because Mikel Arteta is basically amazing. Kompany and Lescott didn't close him down as he strolled up on 86 minutes, looked around, and just decided to plaster a shot low, curling away from Hart the entire time, and into the bottom corner of the net from 25 yards.
1-0 to the Arsenal, small feet to the rescue.
Balotelli fouled Sagna again, earning a second yellow and more or less ending his season because of accumulated cards.
93 minutes on, City had one last chance, but their free kick didn't make it on frame. Arsenal countered, Ramsey had a chance to square to van Persie and elected to go alone instead, turning one defender before hilariously missing from eight yards.
It didn't matter, though, as the match ended shortly thereafter, 1-0 to the Arsenal, who stay out in front of Spurs and Chelsea for the time being. For City, it's basically the end of their title hopes after Manchester United won earlier today.