Gold standard bearers Arsenal leave Wenger feeling vindicated


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The Independent Online

They paraded Dave Brailsford's Olympians on the pitch at half-time and Manchester City certainly need to catch a little of that champion class, because the early signs of this season are still not encouraging for the defending champions.

Two wins from six, three leads thrown away, no clean sheets in seven matches and another public ruck between the manager and Mario Balotelli. Whichever way you tot it all up, City are not emphatic. Roberto Mancini, the manager, claimed no recollection of how he shoved his young striker down the tunnel at the end of the game, though the suspicion is that it was something to do with him getting only six minutes of football.

"I don't know if he's asked me something. Mario thought it was important, probably," he said. "I'll probably ask him next time."

But don't let the latest piece of Balotelli burlesque be a distraction from the real story of the day: Arsenal, yesterday's gold standard bearers who, having arrived in the season seeming depleted and diminished, currently look as good as anyone in the Premier League. All the spirit was theirs, as was evident in the huge heap of players they formed when Laurent Koscielny's equaliser came eight minutes from time to cancel out Joleon Lescott's first-half opener. In that moment Arsenal were vindicated for playing by far the better football and for having looked harder for players and bought more intelligently, if the evidence of six weeks of football can really tell us anything.

Mancini insisted that City, who have conceded three goals from set pieces in the last four games, were not still living off the euphoria of last season. "I hope not. What we did is finished. It's in the past. Now we are like all the other teams," he said. "I don't know why [it's happening] but probably we don't have enough concentration in some situations."

But it was Wenger, with his belief in footballing self-sufficiency and distaste for City's largesse, who was feeling the first sense of vindication after a wretched summer. "I'm pleased and happy because it's the minimum we deserved," he said. "I'm frustrated because there was room to do more.

"I hope the game will reinforce our belief and confidence and reassure us about our potential in this league."