Welcome to my Arsenal blog for the 2015/16 season; here you can check out my thoughts on the current goings on at the club.
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Monday, 19 January 2015

Arsenal pull of surprise win against City

Arsenal put in one of the best performances we've seen from them in recent years as they overcame Manchester City 2-0 at the Etihad on Sunday afternoon. In a spirited, composed and tactically astute performance, the Gunners put in a display worthy of beating anyone. It was far from a typical Arsenal performance but that didn't matter, because we finally managed to beat a top team on the road for the first time since 2011. For me, I haven't felt that happy and buzzing as an Arsenal fan since the FA Cup final. What's more though, we managed to pick up a vital three points in the race for Champions League football as we leapfrogged Spurs once more.
Santi Cazorla was the star of the show as Arsenal beat city
If you told me we'd be unbeaten against Manchester City at the start of the season I would've told you to get your head checked, especially after last seasons displays against the top sides. However, after a Community Shield win over them, followed by a 2-2 draw at the Emirates and now a 2-0 victory away to the Champions I am heavily satisfied. That's not to ignore our form in the League so far this season because its been average at best. However, the result against City yesterday offered a respite for Wenger, who had previously come under heaps of pressure.

Indeed it was Wenger who took the initiative and changed his tactics around. After our performances away from home against the big sides in 2013/14, something needed changing and against City that finally happened. In the form of Coquelin we had a player in front of the back four who broke play up brilliantly whilst fullbacks Monreal and Bellerin kept their position and didn't expose the defence when going forward. They were cautious and there was only one period of time at the beginning of the second half in which they did leave us exposed at the back. It meant for a brilliant display of counter attacking football - exactly the style you need to play when against the big teams away from home, and it worked a treat. The overall performance of the team was brilliant though. Monreal has been heavily improved of late whilst Bellerin just gets better and better.

All the pre-match talk had been about Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez, but the outstanding performers where Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin. Thierry Henry, who was making his Sky debut mentioned in the build-up that Cazorla would be the man at the heart of things, and he was correct. Cazorla played probably his best performance in an Arsenal shirt, let alone his career. The penalty decision was perhaps a bit dubious in the fact that Monreal went down too easily but Cazorla slotted home from the spot with ease. He then played in the free-kick which Giroud headed home our second goal from.

It's difficult to put into words just how good Santi's performance was but the fact that Ozil is likely to stay on the bench proves how good he was. He was tracking back, made some important tackles and blocks, and wasn't afraid to get stuck in. That side of his game hadn't been seen before but it really was a complete performance from the Spaniard. Long may it continue too!

The other outstanding performer, as said, was Francis Coquelin. It's easy to get ahead of ourselves but since the Frenchman has returned from his spell on loan with Charlton he hasn't put a foot wrong. That was the same against City as he managed to keep David Silva out of the game and prevented the hosts from finding those pockets of space in and around the area. He made life easy for Koscielny and Mertesacker who didn't have a lot to do because of the protection Coquelin offered. His contract is up at the end of the season but he surely deserves a new one.

The defence went relatively untroubled but did show resilience when tested early in the second half when we had to withstand a heavy band of Man City pressure. However we kept our shape and Ospina managed to keep his third clean-sheet in a row. The only thing he really had to do was make a good save from a deflected Aguero effort. It was remarkable how well the defence played, especially after last years disaster. Hopefully this performance will now lay down a real blueprint for future games against the big sides.

City were missing Yaya Toure but I think our performance was that good that we still would have achieved a result even if he was playing. We managed to isolate their two best players, and as a result won the game. It certainly was a fantastic win, and one that should bring us huge confidence going into the coming weeks.

This could well be a result that changes the context of our season, if we can maintain the sort of performance we showed yesterday then there is no reason why we can't go onto have a very good end of season. Brighton in the FA Cup lies ahead next.

The team's line-ups:

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernando, Fernandinho(63), Navas(76), Silva, Milner(45), Aguero.
Subs: Caballero, Mangala, Sagna, Kolarov, Lampard(63), Jovetic(45), Dzeko(76). 

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey(84), Oxlade-Chamberlain(66), Cazorla, Sanchez(84), Giroud. 
Subs: Szczesny, Chambers, Gibbs(84), Flamini(84), Rosicky(66), Ozil, Walcott. 

My man of the match: Santi Cazorla.

Referee: Mike Dean
Attendance: 45,596 

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