Mancini gives Wenger another headache


Arsenal 0 Manchester City 2:Roberto Mancini may be concerned about the state of his Manchester City squad but on the evidence of today’s high-profile friendly against Arsenal in Beijing, Arsene Wenger has more to worry about.

Two goals in three minutes from Pablo Zabaleta and Yaya Toure at the end of the first half allowed a City squad still lacking its Euro 2012 contingent to claim victory in a game that ended in monsoon conditions, with large pools of water appearing across the pitch.

In contrast, Wenger had most of his senior players available, although Robin van Persie was an obvious absentee, having been left at home amid massive speculation about his future. Van Persie has refused to sign a contract extension with the Gunners as he harbours serious reservations about their ability to compete with City and the Premier League’s big guns.

And the calm manner Mancini’s men swept their opponents aside in the Bird’s Nest stadium, which four years ago was playing host to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, underlined Van Persie’s point. Of course, Wenger will play down the significance of the outcome.

It is true Arsenal are not as far advanced in their preparations for the new campaign as City and that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s introduction triggered a much-improved second-half showing. However, there did appear to be a gulf in class at times as the rain swept into the Chinese capital, and no obvious sign that a 19-point gap between the teams last season is likely to be closed to any great extent.

With Toure taking command and 20-year-old Israeli Nir Biton impressing, Arsenal were restricted to a couple of decent Theo Walcott efforts before the interval. City had to wait until the 41st minute to get their opener though, as Zabaleta strode up on the overlap and drove home Toure’s inviting pass.

Toure scored his side’s second on their next attack as Sergio Aguero turned Aleksandar Kolarov’s cross into the path of the Ivorian, who stabbed home from close range. Wenger introduced Oxlade-Chamberlain at the break and the England man immediately made an impact, hitting both posts with a fizzing shot that eventually bounced away to safety after Gervinho had gone close.

With both sides making changes, the contest began to lose its fluency. Content to play on the counter-attack, City should have grabbed a third when Carlos Tevez squared to Aguero.

The South American chipped over Lukasz Fabianski but the ball dropped wide. Oxlade-Chamberlain flashed another shot narrowly wide near the end.

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