Arsenal slipped to their fifth Premier League defeat of the season as Manchester City triumphed 2-0 at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
James Milner and Eden Dzeko grabbed the goals as Roberto Mancini’s side racked up their first league victory in N5 for almost 38 years.
However the game swung on the ninth-minute incident that saw Laurent Koscielny sent off for hauling down Dzeko. The striker would miss the resulting penalty but Arsenal never recovered from the reduction in their ranks.
By the half-hour, the home side were 2-0 down. By the time Vincent Kompany was dismissed to even the numbers with 15 minutes left, Arsenal were worn out from chasing the game.
Wenger’s men had responded manfully in the second half but few sides could cope with being undermanned for so long against the Premier League champions.
A disappointing day for Arsenal.
"The game swung on the ninth-minute incident that saw Laurent Koscielny sent off for hauling down Dzeko"
The most eye-catching element of the team news was the return of Abou Diaby. The French midfielder had impressed during a run-out in the under-21s on Wednesday so, with Mikel Arteta (calf) out, Wenger restored him to his line-up for the first time since the defeat to Chelsea on September 29.
There were three further changes - Thomas Vermaelen, Lukasz Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Per Mertesacker, Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey.
Manchester City had their absentees too including Sergio Aguero (hamstring), Samir Nasri (suspended) and the Toure brothers (international duty).
Before kick-off, Mancini’s men would have seen Manchester United extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to double digits with a 2-1 win over Liverpool.
The opening stages suggested the visitors knew they had to respond straight away.
They sprawled all over Arsenal early on, peppering crosses into the box. However it brought them little reward.
Eventually they would be given a glorious opportunity to go in front when Koscielny hauled down Dzeko as the Bosnian bore down on goal.
Referee Mike Dean deemed it a penalty and a clear goalscoring opportunity. As a result, the defender was dismissed.
With Carlos Tevez on the pitch, Dzeko was perhaps a curious choice of penalty-taker. His spot-kick bounced off Szczesny, hit the inside of his right-hand post and then bounced along the goal-line before the grateful keeper collected it.
The save was a huge let-off but Arsenal still had to adjust to the red card. Oxlade-Chamberlain was the unlucky player to be taken off in favour of Mertesacker as the home team went 4-2-2-1.
They did a decent ‘shoring up’ job for 10 minutes but then the visitors capitalised on the hosts' first loss of concentration.
Midway through the half, Podolski clipped Javi Garcia 10 yards outside the Arsenal area.
Barry and Silva combined at the free-kick then, with Arsenal reorganising, Tevez fed Milner in the inside-right channel. The former Leeds midfielder unleashed a fierce cross-shot that flew into the far corner.
Manchester City followed up the breakthrough by creating a number of opportunities. Tevez smashed a long-range shot straight at Szczesny then an unmarked Garcia headed wide.
Arsenal's 10 men were struggling to cope and another goal from the visitors seemed to be coming. It arrived in the 32nd minute.
Milner broke down the right and, though Szczesny saved well from a Tevez flick, Dzeko was lurking at the far post. He turned the ball into the empty net.
Manchester City now had the game by throat but they allowed Arsenal to come back into matters a little.
Podolski exchanged passes with Diaby and fired over. The supplier then blazed an effort high.
Just before the half-time whistle, Garcia met Milner’s corner with a firm header and the stretching Wilshere headed the ball off the line.
It had been a horrible first half for Arsenal.
Manchester City nearly extended their lead at the start of the second period with a similar effort. This time Dzeko nodded over from Milner’s right-wing delivery.
Again Arsenal responded to an extent. They had some joy down the right, while Gibbs and Santi Cazorla had dips from distance.
Wenger also introduced Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey at the expense of Podolski and Diaby.
However, the home side did not have enough ammunition to damage Manchester City and the counterattacking visitors caused consternation when they got in the Arsenal area.
With 20 minutes left it seemed like the points had been secured when Dzeko nudged Tevez through on goal with just Szczesny to beat.
The keeper stood up and timed his intervention to perfection as he swiped the ball away from the feet of the Argentine striker.
The save lifted Arsenal momentarily and we might have savoured a grandstand finish had Giroud nodded in Cazorla’s curling free-kick. Unfortunately the Frenchman put his header just over the bar.
With 15 minutes left, the participants were evened out as Kompany slid in on Wilshere and received a straight red card.
However, the home side had been working overtime since Koscielny’s dismissal and they did not have the energy to lay siege to the City goal, as they would have liked.
Still, they upped the ante and, in the final minute Ramsey released Walcott on the right of the area. His shot beat Joe Hart but substitute Joleon Lescott booted the ball off the line.
It had been that sort of day for Arsenal.
Referee: Mike Dean
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