A rollercoaster second-half at the Emirates ended with Martin Demichelis rescuing a point for Manchester City for a 2-2 result after Arsenal had looked poised to secure a thrilling come-from-behind victory. Stunning goals from Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sánchez in an 11-minute spell just past the hour mark had completely turned around a game that City looked in control of following Sergio Agüero's first-half strike.
It would have been a rare and surely morale-boosting victory for Arsène Wenger’s men against one of the Premier League’s big guns. Instead, their defending was found woefully wanting from a corner seven minutes from time to allow Demichelis to head past Wojciech Szczesny. And things could have gotten even worse for Arsenal. After losing Mathieu Debuchy to a serious-looking ankle injury, City hit the post twice in the dying minutes and then forced a last-gasp save from Szczesny in injury time to keep the scores level.
For Arsenal it was a third straight Premier League draw, while City too dropped further points following a shock 1-0 defeat to Stoke City before the international break. But given the unpredictable nature of an encounter in which at different stages both teams had the upper hand both Wenger and Manuel Pellegrini may ultimately be relatively satisfied to take a point.
In their first outing since being held disappointingly by Leicester City, a draw looked the last thing on Arsenal’s agenda in the opening stages. Danny Welbeck was named in the starting lineup and the former Manchester United forward was heavily involved early on in his Arsenal debut. It had been a mixed week for Welbeck, with his two goals for England in Switzerland being followed by Louis van Gaal stating in plain terms the poor goal-scoring record that had led him to sanction his sale. In one moment 12 minutes in, Welbeck displayed both the confidence from his headline-grabbing performance on international duty as well as adding credence to the comments of his former manager.
After good Arsenal pressure in the midfield, David Silva sent an unwise ball back toward his own goal that Welbeck latched onto to get a clean sight of Joe Hart’s net. While his dink over the goalkeeper’s head got his new fans off their seat, he failed to complete the key part of the equation and could only watch as the ball came back off the post.
There was still much to please the home fans, with Arsenal getting the better of a Manchester City midfield that was without both Yaya Toure and Fernando and had Frank Lampard making his debut alongside Fernandinho. But Arsenal’s eagerness to push for a goal in the 28th minute turned into the sort of naivety that has so often proved their undoing against their rivals. Arsenal, and Nacho Monreal in particular, were caught hopelessly upfield to allow Jesus Navas to spring clear down the right and put in a precise low pass that was met with a calm close-range finish by Agüero, having all-too easily run past Mathieu Flamini.
An ineffective Lampard was removed at half-time for Emirates villain Samir Nasri and City’s comfort in the game appeared to be growing. Although Arsenal continued to have the better passing moves, the greater nous was on the side of the visitors. They came close to extending their lead, too, when Gael Clichy chipped just wide of Szczesny’s goal. Then, the match turned dramatically on its head and became a wild unpredictable ride for the remaining 30 minutes.
First, Wilshere gave a brilliant demonstration of the ability that led to so much early praise in his career. A stylish Arsenal move culminated with Aaron Ramsey laying a pass onto the England midfielder, who took it past the outside of a leaden-footed Clichy and dinked it brilliantly beyond Hart from a far-from-routine angle. Soon Arsenal were in front. Again Wilshere was involved, this time heading the ball back into the danger zone to allow Sánchez the chance to hit a volley that he fired past Hart with exemplary technique. It was no more than the Chilean deserved after a performance featuring the kind of quality, incisiveness and intensity from which many of his teammates could learn so much.
The stage was set for a huge early season victory against the Premier League champions. Instead they enjoyed a near-catastrophic last 15 minutes. After Debuchy was stretchered off in agony, Arsenal’s defense fell apart. Demichelis was allowed an extraordinary amount of space in the center of the box to produce a header from an Aleksandar Kolarov corner that Szczesny couldn’t claw out. Kolarov soon hit the post, too, before Laurent Koscielny cleared the ball against his own body and was mightily relieved to see the it come off Szczesny’s other upright. In the end only an offside flag saved Arsenal from a nightmare ending when former Gunner Nasri tapped into an empty net following Szczesny’s fine save from Edin Džeko but was rightly denied a winning goal.