Arsenal put in a master class defensive performance to win by 2 goals against a Manchester City fighting for the title. The gunners were compact in their defending, and did not go in an all out attack that you would normally see them do. The result was there to see as a penalty on Monreal was converted by Cazorla and Giroud headed in a free kick in the second half. Here are 3 things we learned from the game.
Arsenal can defend
This game showed that if the Arsenal players actually apply themselves, they can definitely defend against the big teams and not lose by big margins. Before the game, the thoughts were on the 6-3 defeat last season, and if Arsenal would suffer the same fate this time too, especially since Sergio Aguero was back in the squad. David Silva would certainly have relished taking on the Arsenal defence, but the gunners did not allow any space for the Spaniard to do his magic.
However, the Arsenal midfield, and especially Coquelin, were always aware of the danger posed by Silva and ensured that he was covered at all times. Coquelin especially did a fantastic job in shielding the defence and read the game very well, leaving no room for the City players to make an attacking move. It is a testament to the application of the entire Arsenal team that goalkeeper David Ospina has not had to make a single important save in the entire first half.
For some reason Arsenal decided to be more open in the beginning of the second half, and that almost proved to be their undoing as City piled on the pressure in the first 10 minutes. Common sense prevailed however, and Arsenal kept their shape to see out the game with a clean sheet.
No Toure, no party
It seems that Manchester City are unable to function without Yaya Toure in the team. The last 3 games that he was absent, City could only draw those games and they missed him against Arsenal too.
Toure’s absence was especially felt against the gunners as both Aguero and Kompany were not fully match fit and the rustiness showed in both the players, especially Kompany, who conceded the penalty and was lucky not to have been sent off with a second yellow card for the challenge against Alexis Sanchez. Aguero was also not his usual sharp self, and that hurt the defending champions as they could not find a way past the Arsenal defence.
Manuel Pellegrini would be hoping that Ivory Coast have a very short African Nations Cup campaign so that he can have his star midfielder back in the team. More importantly, City need to be back on their toes as they face their title rivals Chelsea on the next Premier League match day. They are off to Abu Dhabi for a friendly and training sessions and would be back only 24 hours before their FA Cup game, so Pellegrini will have his hands full in making the trip useful.
Cazorla in the centre
All the praises for Arsenal’s recent games have gone to Alexis Sanchez, but the form that Santi Cazorla is in for the gunners makes him undroppable. Previously, Cazorla used to be shunted to the left to allow Mesut Ozil to do his magic, but the German’s injury has come as a blessing for Santi as he showed how good he can be if he is played in his preferred position.
In the game against Manchester City, not only was he the centre of all the attacks created by Arsenal, he was also very alert to his defensive responsibilities, constantly bailing out the team with his dribbles and interceptions. It may not look like much, but when Santi takes the ball out of the box and drives past people, it gives a breather for the rest of the team and they can re-orgainse themselves in their preferred defensive shape.
And Cazorla’s set piece delivery is already well documented, consistently providing assists with his free kicks, and that was in evidence against City too, with his clever free kick giving Giroud the chance to knock in a header. Fernando, who was marking Giroud, was completely caught off guard, and Hart had no chance of saving the goal.