Match Review - Manchester City 0 Arsenal 2 - Premier League
Football, it's a funny old game, full of funny old cliches like 'it's a funny old game'
I have been getting down with the old football cliches this season, my favourite being 'football is a game of small margins'. I've used it many times already this campaign. In fact after just having typed it into the search bar on top of this website, I am slightly embarrassed as to how many times I say it. But it is difficult to avoid in a sport that is largely based on small percentages at the highest level. In October we had traveled to Stamford Bridge looking to avoid the utter humiliation of last season and went there with a game plan. Our game plan was to contest every ball and restrict the space for the opposition and I thought we had done that. Chances were very difficult to come by because we faced a manager who plays for clean sheets in big games.
In Wenger's post match press conference on Sunday evening, Arsène told the press that the first goal was the difference. At Stamford Bridge Eden Hazard made the difference single handedly with a moment of brilliance. At the Etihad stadium we were finally the team to open the scoring. Vincent Kompany just coming back from injury looked rusty and his cynical block on Monreal was spotted and given by the referee. How many times have decisions like that in a big game not gone our way? Too many. This time Mike Dean of all people pointed to the spot and Cazorla beat Joe Hart to his left.
Joe Hart had guessed correctly but the penalty was well struck. Joe Hart must be following me on Twitter.
Santi is so going bottom right on his next penalty. Middle/left/left were his last three. That said, Arteta is back soon.— Mean Lean (@arsenalvision) December 30, 2014
What I found interesting watching the game was the fact that Arsenal and Manchester City had swapped roles. The scripts had been switched without any prior warning to any of us. Ok perhaps not so much Manchester City but certainly Manchester United and Chelsea down the years. City had so much of the ball and yet were not able to do anything with it as we clogged up the central areas so we continued to block and clear the City give and gos. City were looking very one dimensional, trying to funnel everything through the middle of the pitch and had little else.
David Ospina currently has one of the easiest jobs in Europe and that is thanks to the entire team. We are not allowing the opposition time on the ball starting from high up the pitch and filtering it's way down. Ospina has had three consecutive clean sheets and has little to do during that time. Long may that continue.
When Giroud scored our second I let out the biggest roar because that was the daylight goal, the goal that gave us that much needed cushion. The game could have been more convincing if our counter attackers on the day made better decisions or had better execution but it would be churlish to complain. In three matches against the champions this season we have scored 7 goals and conceded 2. Hashtag improvement.
As you know Santi Cazorla was the best player on the pitch. I honestly cannot remember a similar style player that I've enjoyed watching more when on form. Not necessarily the best but the most fun to watch from a technical point of view. Check the Giftastic Gunners on the left column on this site for a gif of that run in the second half. Refresh until you get it because it was lovely. Santi has played his way into the number 10 position for me and yes I am fully aware of Mesut Özil's quality but how can you move a player who has been so instrumental in recent weeks. Unless of course his levels drop, until then he has to stay where he is.
It also goes to show that having two strong powerful yada yada yada 'DM's' isn't the magic stick and top hat. Our midfield were tiny in comparison to Fernando and Fernandinho, yet there was only one midfield in that match. Which brings me on nicely to Francis Coquelin. Can someone fill in the blanks for me? What happened in between the young Coquelin flying around the pitch as a teenager, filling in at full back and showing a lot of promise to all of a sudden being cast aside? The only possible explanation I can think of is that the player grew fed up of waiting and thought he had to start for Arsenal or find another club.
I vaguely remember Coquelin saying that he had been playing as well as Arteta in training (just found this) and deserves a place. Maybe he lost patience and the writing was then on the wall. One thing is obvious and that his attitude on the pitch has always been spot on. He is tenacious and aggressive and technically I think he is underrated. On current form he deserves his place in the team and if he continues to improve from what we see today then I'd fully understand if a defensive midfielder was no longer on the shopping list but there is a long way to go before a decision like that can be made.
Special mentions also to the likes of Hector Bellerin, a player with wonderful potential and a player that is maturing in front of our eyes. Nacho Monreal has had his detractors over the last few seasons, largely unfairly but for me, he is starting to over take Gibbs for that left back spot such has been his consistency of late. Contrary to popular belief I think Monreal is more effective in the final third than Gibbo. The timing of his runs behind the opposition defence and his delivery are both a great asset to the team.
What was amazing was the talent we left on the bench, those players should be given match time at Brighton in the cup.
In October at the Bridge we were a side trying to find itself, trying to force understandings and partnerships given both new personnel and system changes. In January we are a lot further down the line and our 'team' looks far better than it was. But this is a single match, we will need to prove we have turned the corner from now until the end of the season but as I have suspected all season, we have always been good enough, getting the team to prove it was the difficult part.
They've shown it now, time to continue to show it. Well done Arsenal.
'til the next time.