Do you remember the early Emirates stadium years? The afternoons and evenings where we had a large share of the possession but could not do enough to break down a well organised, top level outfit? The opposition would simply counter attack and clinically kill us off on the break. Well it's rather enjoyable to see the boot on the other foot after a very impressive 2-1 victory on Monday night.
I was intrigued to know how we would approach the game given the importance of the players we had missing against a squad that contains so much technical quality. Would we press them and attempt to stop them from playing or would we sit back and counter. It looked to me as if we did a nice blend of both options. Arsène Wenger seems extremely flexible for a man who is apparently tactically inflexible.
We started off by chasing after them when they played out from the back and put them under real pressure but once they settled into the game and got their passing rhythm going we then dropped off and controlled the spaces in our half.
Sergio Agüero had only one contribution for his team, his flick around the corner to send Kevin De Bruyne scampering through on Cech's goal was very good. Koscielny gambled and got it wrong but Mertesacker more than made up for it with some excellent positional play, left on his own against two attackers the big German managed to cut off the pass to Silva until Bellerin raced back to get involved. De Bruyne is getting a fair amount of stick for not passing to Silva but I am not sure if the pass was actually on. Plus you got to give him a break, he is only 13 or something.
Walcott's goal moments later was a thing of absolute beauty. It's not the first time that he has taken a pass intended for someone else and then gone on to score. He did the same in our home victory last season to Aston Villa. Last weekend against Aston Villa his whipped finish into the far corner was wrongly disallowed, on Monday night he did it again so I wonder if he has been working on it behind the scenes at London Colny. At the start of the season when he was given his chance as a central striker many of his shots were very tame often quite powder-puff. I remember screaming out for a whipped effort rather than a soft curling shot that was easy to save.
I really enjoyed Theo's performance overall. It's great to see him fighting for the team the way he did. He just needs to make this a regular occurrence and not just for special occasions against top teams.
Koscielny driving out from the back really gave us an extra dimension, we've seen it a few times this season. It was his pass to the majestic Mesut that lead to the opening goal. When you have a combination of excellent movement into space and such a good weight of pass, you are always going to create a high number of chances. Özil was soon on 15 assists after his perfectly weighted pass invited Giroud to smash the ball through Joe Hart's legs just before half time. Mangala made the error with an awful pass and we punished them. What a time to score for us and what a time to concede for them.
Joel Campbell was extremely hard working for the team but you can say that pretty much every time he wears the shirt. One passing combination between Özil, Campbell and Ramsey that lead to Joe Hart saving the Welshman's shot with his face. Campbell also should have scored after a Monreal cross. In fact we really should have put City to the sword before Toure scored with a first time side foot from outside of the box with his wrong foot. Quite the goal, not the greatest of marking but to be fair a finish like that couldn't have been expected.
With the momentum shifting with that goal, it was a nervy last 10 minutes and City may have scored an undeserved equaliser on another day but we held out for a very important 3 points. The victory told the squad that they can win tough games even without key players. They know that when they fight collectively, they can stop very good players such as David Silva from making an impact. It is tough for fully fit strikers to have to come up against Laurent Koscielny so Agüero, even as good as he is, had no chance and was muted.
Southampton away has been a tough fixture for us in recent years, even if they are not in great form we will need to put in a fighting performance to get anything from the game. It will be interesting to see if we can recharge sufficiently for that one.
Second in the table, four points ahead of City is a pretty nice place to be in at this time. In years gone by we had to lean pretty heavily on Wengerball to collect points, these days the Gunners have more to their armory, which we proved once more.
Onwards and hopefully upwards.
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