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Man City and Arsenal: An Entwined History

VIEIRA: Arsenal's captain for much of Wenger's reign has close links with Manchester City

VIEIRA: Arsenal's captain for much of Wenger's reign has close links with Manchester City

With the distinct likelihood of goals being scored at both ends at the Etihad this weekend, the mind drifts back to two games in the Premier League era that encapsulate what City and Arsenal are all about.

On both occasions the levels of symmetry and precision that were reached have probably not been surpassed by either side since.

In one case City were absolutely pulverised by probably the best Arsenal side of modern times and in the other the tables were turned with Arsenal receiving a complete undressing from an utterly rampant City team.

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On the 24th February 2003, Daniel Taylor wrote in The Guardian, “At half-time the historians among Arsenal's fans might, without exaggeration, have been thinking about the record 12-0 victory against Loughborough Town in 1900, but their team settled for just one more, Patrick Vieira scoring a fifth after the break.

The incredible thing on an afternoon when, undeniably, it was only Arsenal's drowsy contentment that spared City more humiliation in the second half, was that the City fans remained so supportive. ‘At any other club in the world, boos would have been ringing in our ears,’ Keegan said proudly, before adding a flat note. ‘I suppose you could say we've got the crowd, we just haven't got the players.’” 

It had been a game where Arsenal revealed an attacking instinct that the home team just could not live with. Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and the balletic Dennis Bergkamp had inflicted the terrible damage in little over 20 first half minutes.

Time, however, waits for no man and, by the time Arsenal headed north for the same fixture almost ten years later, things had changed significantly. Arsenal, still top of the league, were met by hosts emboldened by the first phase of serious investment by Sheikh Mansour.

Now the boot was about to be on the other foot and the Silva (David) on the other side (Gilberto had been the engine of that glorious 2003 Arsenal side).

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City were scoring goals like they were going out of fashion in the first of Manuel Pellegrini’s three seasons at the helm.

What transpired on a chilly December afternoon warmed the cockles of every single City fan present. A 6-3 avalanche of goals told only half the story of a match that twisted, turned and refused to settle into any identifiable pattern.

Daniel Taylor, also present at this game, was moved to write, “Arsenal can console themselves that Manchester United endured their own ordeal here in September, and Tottenham suffered even worse when they were hit for six without reply in November, but it was still a deeply chastening experience for Arsène Wenger's team…”

What could have been a nine point lead at the top of the table for Arsenal was thus cut to three. Beyond Christmas it would be swallowed up altogether, as City powered to a Premier League and League Cup double that spring. 

Silva, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and Alvaro Negredo were suddenly doing for the Blues exactly what Bergkamp, Wiltord, Pires and Henry had done for Arsenal a decade earlier.

Like the Arsenal Invincibles of 2003/04, City too left their mark on the history books, reaching 100 goals after just 34 games, the quickest century in Premier League history.  

Fortunes swing but – for Arsenal and City – there will always, it seems, be goals.

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