MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 18: David Silva of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal with team mate Sergio Aguero (L) during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium on December 18, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Premier League, Week 16: City Stays Top With 1-0 Win Over Arsenal

Arsenal certainly brought their effort to Manchester, but they couldn't find a goal and their makeshift defense couldn't keep a clean sheet. Earlier in the day, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United all won.

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Manchester City Vs. Arsenal, 2011 Premier League: City Edge Arsenal 1-0 To Reclaim Top Spot

Manchester City failed to show the ruthless streak that characterises Premier League winners but beat Arsenal anyway in a nervy, exciting match that should never have been as close as it was. City had the better chances to score throughout the game thanks to an Arsenal defence which quite clearly featured multiple players out of position.

The Gunners held out during an opening few minutes best described as an 'onslaught' and gave Joe Hart a few scares in the first half, but a goal was coming and it was David Silva who got it after Wojciech Szczesny failed to hold Mario Balotelli's driven cross from the left. Although Arsenal went forward regularly, their approach play was lacking and uncharacteristic sloppiness in possession gave the hosts ample chances to break forward and score the second. They failed to thanks to some awful finishing - Samir Nasri and Micah Richards really should have managed to put them further ahead - and some bad luck when Pablo Zabaleta's long-range drive cannoned off the post with Szczesny beaten.

As the game drew to a close, Arsene Wenger hurled his men forward and they came close to making City pay for their profligacy. Richards should probably have been called for a handball in the box on a cross, and Joe Hart was called into action thanks to a blistering shot from Thomas Vermaelen, keeping the game level as the clock ticked its way into injury time. It was the Belgian defender who fashioned the visitors' last chance to come away with a point, but his curling effort from range failed to creep inside Hart's right-hand post as Arsenal just failed to get an equiliser that they probably deserved, the match finishing 1-0.

City, of course, go top of the table again with the win (they'd been temporarily knocked off their perch thanks to Manchester United's 2-0 win away at Queens Park Rangers). Arsenal on the other hand fail to take advantage of Chelsea's slip up against Wigan, and drop to three points back of fourth place, level with Liverpool.


Manchester City Vs. Arsenal, 2011 Premier League: David Silva Opens Scoring

Manchester City have made their breakthrough against Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium shortly after halftime. It was Sergio Aguero and David Silva who were in front of Wojciech Szczesny's goal on this one, but credit for the goal should mostly go to Samir Nasri and Mario Balotelli after some excellent play made the most of Gervinho's mistake inside the City half.

Nasri broke forward and laid in a searching pass which Balotelli picked up on the left. The volatile Italian beat Alex Song easily and drove the ball low across the area, with Szczesny only able to parry the ball into the path of Aguero. Thomas Vermaelen does wonderfully to hook the ball away from the former Atletico Madrid man, but he can only divert it straight to Silva, who's left with an easy finish to make it 1-0.

Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie attempt to reply, but they're denied by Joe Hart and the linesman's flag respective. Lots of work to be done for Arsenal now.


Manchester City Vs. Arsenal, 2011 Premier League: Szczesny Denies Balotelli

What a save by Wojciech Szczesny! The young goalkeeper has come up huge in denying Mario Balotelli what looked like it was sure to be the game's opening goal, bailing out his centre backs after they made a complete mess of a simple cross. Manchester City look as though they're going nowhere, stuck in the middle of the pitch, but they ping the ball out right to Micah Richards and he lofts the ball in the general direction of the penalty area.

The ball lands right on top of Laurent Koscielny's head, and pops straight back up in the air, behind Per Mertesacker, and into the range of Italian striker Mario Balotelli. His first touch takes the defenders out of the game, and his second sends a vicious effort towards the back of the net, only for Szczesny to intervene and keep this match scoreless. That really was excellent stuff right there.


Manchester City Vs. Arsenal, 2011 Premier League: Arsenal Getting Into The Match

Arsenal finally manage to get the ball forward - it's their first attack, a full sixteen minutes into the match - and they cause Manchester City some real problems. City's static lines don't do well in preventing Gervinho from being slipped in behind the defence, and the Ivorian's blistering shot is turned behind by Joe Hart for a corner in rather unconvincing fashion.

Even less convincing was Hart's save from Aaron Ramsey's long range strike. The England keeper, unsighted by the suspiciously offside-looking Theo Walcott, reacted very late and had to sprawl to keep the ball sneaking in at the bottom corner. Eventually City can clear their lines, but it's the first hint from the visitors that they're prepared to make an actual game of this after a period of dominance from the home side. It's still 0-0 at the Etihad Stadium, but with the game this open it'd be a surprise if it stayed that way for much longer.


Aston Villa Vs. Liverpool, 2011 Premier League: Reds Earn Comfortable 2-0 Win

Alex McLeish's Aston Villa put in yet another pathetic display, falling 2-0 at home to Liverpool and never looking like a threat to a) become motivated b) threaten Pepe Reina's goal or c) cease being a blight upon this Premier League landscape. It's the sort of performance that we've become accustomed to from this Villa side since McLeish took over in the summer, with no fight whatsoever, and Liverpool were basically able to stroll into Birmingham and pick up three points without breaking a sweat.

Craig Bellamy and Martin Skrtel each scored early goals, allowing the visitors, marshalled by the impressive Jonjo Shelvey in midfield, to relax and breeze their way through the game. That didn't mean that Liverpool failed to menace Brad Guzen's goal further, however - the woodwork was probably man of the match for Villa after stopping a pair of Luis Suarez attempts - and the Reds looked by far the more dangerous side.

It's almost a shame there are too many truly awful teams for Villa to avoid the threat of relegation this season.


Manchester City Vs. Arsenal, 2011 Premier League: Lineups

Manchester City are looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season by dispatching Champions League hopefuls Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium, and based on their home form so far this year it'd be surprising if that was particularly problematic. Samir Nasri, a Gunner until earlier this season, has the chance to rub some salt in the wounds of his former employers - he starts to the left of Sergio Aguero in City's 4-2-3-1 - although it's David Silva one would imagine Arsenal's all-centre-back defence will be focusing on.

Manchester City lineup (4-2-3-1): Joe Hart; Pablo Zabaleta, Kolo Toure, Vincent Kompany, Micah Richards; Gareth Barry, Yaya Toure; Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero, David Silva; Mario Balotelli.

Substitutes from: Stefan Savic, Costal Pantilimon, Edin Dzeko, Adam Johnson, James Milner, Nigel de Jong, Joleon Lescott.

Arsenal lineup (4-3-3): Wojciech Szczesny; Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Johan Djourou; Mikel Arteta, Alex Song, Aaron Ramsey; Gervinho, Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott.

Substitutes from: Ignasi Miquel, Emmanuel Frimpong, Marouane Chamakh, Andrei Arshavin, Yossi Benayoun, Manuel Almunia, Tomas Rosicky.


Queens Park Rangers Vs. Manchester United, 2011 Premier League: Red Devils Win 2-0

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Manchester United didn't look brilliant, but never looked like losing and deserved three points against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road on Sunday. Wayne Rooney scored a goal for the Red Devils in the opening minute, and they were in control from there. QPR had opportunities to score goals of their own, but their finishing was poor and Manchester United kept a clean sheet in a 2-0 win.

Rooney's goal came on a great header on a cross by Antonio Valencia just seconds into the match. QPR's defending on the goal was poor, not having any time to ease into the flow of the game. United controlled possession throughout the rest of the first half, and QPR could only create on the counter. United created some chances before the end of the second half, with Johnny Evans hitting the crossbar with a header and Phil Jones forcing a save out of Radek Cerny, who had a solid game.

However, he could have done a bit better on the second goal, scored by Michael Carrick. More blame will fall to the outfield players who allowed Carrick, of all people, to run 60 yards with the ball, but his low shot at the end of the run was nothing special and should have been stopped. Carrick's 56th minute goal felt like the clincher at the time, and it would turn out to be the final goal of the match.

For more on the Red Devils, check out Manchester United blog the Busby Babe.


Manchester City Vs. Arsenal, 2011 Premier League Week 16: Can Robin Van Persie Pile On City's Misery?

Robin van Persie looks to continue his ridiculous run of form as Arsenal travels to the Ethiad Stadium to take on Manchester City.


Wigan Athletic Vs. Chelsea, 2011 Premier League: Latics Grab Late Equalizer To Snatch Two Points From Blues

Chelsea were far from their best against Wigan Athletic on Saturday, but it still looked for most of the match like they would be able to clinch a win and all three points. After a scoreless first half, Chelsea was the side that took the lead, but they threw it away in the 88th minute as Wigan grabbed a late equalizer for a 1-1 draw.

Both teams looked a bit static in a poor first half and Andre Villas-Boas made an attacking change to start the second half, bringing on Solomon Kalou for defensive midfielder Oriol Romeu. The move would pay off with a 59th minute goal, though the strike was more about individual brilliance than tactics. On a long diagonal ball by Ashley Cole, Daniel Sturridge took it down brilliantly and hit a great finish past Ali Al-Habsi, giving his team a lead.

With Wigan defending well and his side not looking like they were going to pour in the goals, AVB reverted to his original formation, subbing in John Obi Mikel for Juan Mata in the 66th minute. It was an understandable change at the time, but he would eventually regret not pushing harder for a second.

Chelsea's defense, which had played well, completely fell apart in the 88th minute. However, the biggest blame for the Wigan equalizer should fall on Petr Cech, who committed an absolute howler. After Branislav Ivanovic and Jose Bosingwa's questionable positioning allowed the ball to get into the box easily, Hugo Rodallega attempted to toe poke the ball past Cech and hit it very slowly, right into his stomach. Inexplicably, Cech failed to handle the ball and batted it into the path of Jordi Gomez, who scored with a simple finish.

For the final two minutes, plus stoppage time, Wigan actually looked like the side more likely to score a winner as Chelsea looked toothless. Nothing came of their ventures forward, however, and the match finished 1-1. Though Cech should have easily prevented the equalizer, the score isn't necessarily an unfair representation of the play. Chelsea simply did not bring their best to the DW Stadium.

For more on the two teams, check out Chelsea FC blog We Ain't Got No History and Wigan Athletic blog Pie Eaters Footy.


Newcastle United Vs. Swansea City, 2011 Premier League: Scoreless Draw

Newcastle United have suffered somewhat since their first loss of the season, a 3-1 reverse against Manchester City five games ago, and while their general performance rebounded against Swansea City they did themselves no favours with the result - a 0-0 home draw against a newly promoted side represents a missed opportunity to get themselves back on track with all three points.

It wasn't for a lack of industry, however. With Fabricio Coloccini returned to the back line, Newcastle regained their notoriously stout defence, restricting their guests to just three shots all match - Tim Krul was completely untroubled in goal. Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch, they were carving Swansea apart at will only to see hilariously bad finishing mean that Michel Vorm didn't have that much to do either. Demba Ba was mostly to blame, but one has to imagine that he'll get a few free passes from the fans after his epic performances in pretty much every other match this season.

Ultimately, this was one of those games where things just didn't break right for Newcastle, but it was a significantly improved performance over the Norwich game, so nothing to worry about just yet.


Fulham Vs. Bolton Wanderers, 2011 Premier League: Fulham Ease To 2-0 Win

If Owen Coyle and Bolton Wanderers survive this season, it'll be a miracle. The Trotters are glued to the bottom of the table and on a miserable run of form, and that changed not at all this week. Fulham hosted the stuttering side at Craven Cottage, and although Martin Jol's men have flattered to deceive this season they had little difficulty in brushing their visitors aside.

Bolton were restricted to the odd counterattack as Fulham completely controlled the game, scoring in quick succession through the head of Clint Dempsey and then via a cute chip from former FC Twente striker Bryan Ruiz which left Jussi Jaaskelainen staring mournfully as the ball sailed into the back of the net. Bolton had a few chances to get back into the match, but ultimately they weren't good enough to seriously threaten Mark Schwarzer or their hosts' lead.

I get that Coyle's without his best players, and losing Danny Sturridge to Chelsea over the summer certainly didn't help, but how are people not calling for his head at this point? Bolton are awful!


Everton Vs. Norwich City, 2011 Premier League: Everton Huff And Puff To 1-1 Home Draw

The numbers say that it was an impressive performance by Everton, despite the scoreline. The numbers are probably lying. Despite having almost all of the ball against a defensively-minded Norwich City, the Toffees had approximately zero clue what to do with it and were more or less kept at bay by resolute defending from their guests and some decent goalkeeping until David Moyes finally bit the bullet and brought on Royston Drenthe in the second half.

By then, Norwich had already gone 1-0 up with basically their first attack of the match, Grant Holt doing a fine Sergio Aguero impression to control, swivel, and poke in off Tim Howard's far post, and Everton were being forced to chase the match. The hosts were finding it tough to break down the Canaries' collective defence, and whenever they did they were being hurt by poor finishing too. Drenthe's introduction gave the Toffees more of a direct threat, and although the Dutch winger made some questionable decisions at times, he was able to provide the spark for the equaliser, his low shot from range allowing Leon Osman to guide the ball past a stranded John Ruddy.

Norwich regained their composure to see out the rest of the match and continued to look reasonably dangerous on the counterattack, but the real question was whether Everton would be able to grab another before Lee Probert blew for halftime. The answer, as it turned out, was no, and the hosts ended with a solitary point against a newly promoted team at home. Not ideal, really.

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