Arsenal Defeat Premier League Champions Man City
After their worst start to a top flight season in 32 years, some disappointing performances against the leading sides and an absolute nightmare against Southampton to kick off the New Year, Arsenal are back. The north London side put in a fantastic all around performance to defeat Manchester City, the current Premier League champions and Chelsea’s biggest challengers for this year’s title.
City had been on a 12-game unbeaten league run, before going down 2-0 to the Gunners.
Despite a horrendous run of injuries, Arsenal fielded a side that provided the best defensive performance in recent memory… while both first choice full backs were sidelined.
That run of injuries may have led to a revelation. Francis Coquelin was recalled early from his loan period at Charlton Athletic in December and has subsequently shored up the defensive midfield role, that Arsenal have struggled with for so long. The whole defensive unit has looked more assured in the last three games.
Santi Cazorla has also taken full advantage of Mesut Özil’s long absence, to lay claim to the central midfield role behind the striker, picking up a string of man of the match awards and goals to go with them. In Mikel Arteta’s absence, he has become the first choice penalty taker and scoring a few of them has added to his confidence.
Couple this with the return from injury of Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs and the aforementioned Mesut Özil and things are definitely looking up for Arsene Wenger’s side.
Here’s the BBC’s slightly northern biased match report, but we are unashamedly Arsenal biased, so together it balances out.
Santi Cazorla scored a goal and created another as Arsenal ended Manchester City’s 12-match unbeaten league run and damaged their title hopes.
Spain playmaker Cazorla converted a first-half penalty after Vincent Kompany fouled Nacho Monreal.
Arsenal added a second after the break when Cazorla’s free-kick picked out Olivier Giroud and the France striker headed in from close range.
The result left City five points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea.
City and Arsenal played out a thrilling 2-2 draw when they met at Emirates Stadium in September but this contest was not as free-flowing as that encounter.
Beforehand the focus had been the influence of Alexis Sanchez and Sergio Aguero for Arsenal and City respectively.
Aguero had only returned from a month out with a knee ligament injury as a substitute in City’s 1-1 draw with Everton a week ago, and the Argentina international was relatively subdued by his standards.
Chile forward Sanchez, who has scored 12 goals for Arsene Wenger’s side this season, was well shackled by the City defence.
Instead it was Cazorla, 30, who was the game’s outstanding attacking player and it was fitting that he was to have such an influential role with both goals.
The pressure was on City to beat the Gunners after leaders Chelsea beat Swansea 5-0 in such imperious fashion at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.
But without Yaya Toure, who is at the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast, they lacked a player to orchestrate and dictate the game in midfield.
Arsenal went close when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain escaped down the right flank and picked out Giroud but his header was deflected wide by Kompany.
The chance served notice of Arsenal’s intent to hit City on the counter-attack and shortly afterwards they won a penalty.
Monreal played a one-two with Giroud and the Spain left-back went down after his run was blocked by Kompany, who looked rusty in his first match since 13 December having recovered from a hamstring injury.
Cazorla sent the spot-kick low to Joe Hart’s left and even though the City goalkeeper dived the correct way he was unable to get a hand on it.
Arsenal packed men behind the ball in the remainder of the first half, which stifled City’s creativity with Aguero frequently outnumbered and rarely having the chance to run at players.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini replaced James Milner with Stevan Jovetic at half-time and his side had more impetus immediately after the interval with two up front.
An angled shot from Jesus Navas was beaten away by Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina, and the Spain winger teased a cross into the box on the hour mark but Laurent Koscielny made a crucial interception.
Despite City’s pressure, it was Wenger’s side who scored next when Cazorla lifted a free-kick into the penalty area and Giroud escaped his marker and took advantage of a disorganised City defence to head past Hart.
Read more at Arsenal dent Man City’s title bid
I really believe that this match could be a turning point for Arsenal. They know what they need to do against the wealthier sides and players like Cazorla and Coquelin are coming into their own. I would expect a finish no lower than third in the Premier League and a good run in both the FA Cup and European Champions League to follow, if they can maintain this form.
By Max Power