Hunger tells as Gunners prove they can cope just fine without Nasri

 

The Emirates Stadium

Hunger was the difference at the Emirates yesterday as Arsenal's midfield bustled and scurried their way to a late winner, leaving a five-point gap between themselves in third place and Chelsea in fifth. Mikel Arteta's tackle and shot with three minutes left was characteristic of his team. Manchester City, featuring the peripheral Samir Nasri, once of these parts, could not cope with the pressure or the pace.

Arsenal started the game with just as much purpose and control as they did in this fixture last year. Then, a City side obviously hoping for a 0-0 managed to procure one, after withstanding a ferocious barrage in the first 20 minutes.

That was a very different Arsenal midfield, run by Jack Wilshere, Cesc Fabregas and Nasri. The personnel at the Emirates yesterday was perhaps short of the dazzling quality which those three brought to Arsenal last season. But the outcome was similar. Arsenal's midfield controlled the game's first 20 minutes, hassling and harrying City off the ball. The combination of Alex Song and Mikel Arteta behind Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun was the same that so stirringly turned the north London derby here six weeks ago. In doing so, they turned Arsenal's season. What looked worryingly like a slump into the drudgery and embarrassment of Europa League football led in fact to seven straight league wins: Arsenal's best run since October 2007.

Aside from Robin van Persie, it is Rosicky to whom Arsenal are indebted for saving their season. Much like Arteta, Benayoun and Song, he is certainly technically gifted but knows that he has to play with the most intense commitment if Arsenal's place in England's elite is to be preserved.

Without Nasri, Fabregas and Wilshere Arsenal do need to work harder to create chances, especially when Van Persie is merely playing like a mortal. But yesterday the midfield started as if keen to show Nasri that the club was still healthy without him. They played to demonstrate that wit and technique are certainly useful gifts for a midfielder but that 90-minute, twice-a-week commitment is also worth something.

Their early dominance of the ball did not yield quite as many chances at they might have hoped, though. Rosicky and Arteta were excellent at winning the ball back but, rather than playing through City, they often decided to play the ball to Bacary Sagna or Theo Walcott on the right wing, with little to show for it. But it was an important statement of intent. There were special cheers for tackles on Nasri, from Song in particular.

Nasri himself was as peripheral as he has been for much of this season at City, who improved when David Pizarro and James Milner were brought into the middle and Nasri moved to the wing. While City were more comfortable for the middle section of the game, the Arsenal midfield, sensing that the game was there to be won, raised the pace for the final 20 minutes.

Roberto Mancini replaced Nasri with Aleksandar Kolarov, switching to 4-4-2. The Arsenal fans, delighted to see Nasri removed, questioned whether his signing was the best deployment of City's wealth.

But with one fewer midfielder, City were more exposed than ever. Pizarro let the ball escape from him and Arteta, hungrier and sharper than ever, robbed it from him. With no pressure on him, Arteta took a touch and fired the ball past Joe Hart's dive into the bottom corner. Hunger had told.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone