Arsenal set themselves up to defend from the start and with the intention of preventing David Silva from getting on the ball. I've seen Arsenal play defensively under Arsene Wenger before and in fact they have employed similar tactics in their last few away games, but they were not as disciplined in how they carried out their task. The really new thing for me was the attention given to keeping Silva out of the game as he was obviously highlighted as City's playmaker. Their task was of course helped by the absence of Yaya Toure on ACN duty, but Arsenal have had and continue to have an injury list other teams would struggle to cope with.
In the first half City never looked like coming to grips with Arsenal's tactics and created no chances of any note at all. At the other end Arsenal didn't create a whole lot either, but they looked a lot more likely to do so than City as they looked to break with pace. The first goal came mid way through the first half courtesy of a penalty when Vincent Kompany knew exactly what he was doing in preventing Nacho Monreal getting on the end of a one-two. Monreal might have made a bit of a meal of it, but Kompany knew he was beaten and tried to make it look like an accidental collision. Santi Cazorla stepped up to despatch the penalty to the back of the net and Arsenal had City exactly where they wanted them.
For some strange reason Arsenal switched tactics at half time and went in search of a second goal rather than continuing with the system which had worked so well in the first half. I suppose it was also down to City changing the way they were playing, but the game certainly opened up for a while. There were a couple of half chances at either end, but the openness of the game was a real worry from an Arsenal perspective. When they have played so openly in similar games in the past they have paid a heavy price and there was no need for them to do so. Aaron Ramsey had been very disciplined in the first half, but he seemed to be operating to a completely different set of instructions after the break as he continually looked to get further forward. Thankfully Frsncis Coquelin was on hand to sit in front of the defence and break up City's attacks time after time.
With the game looking like it could go either way it was Arsenal who got the crucial second goal to put the game beyond City. Like the first goal it was at the mid point of the half and that man Cazorla was behind it again when he took a free kick from 35 yards out. The City defence were disorganised to say the least and Olivier Giroud got a run on them to head easily past Joe Hart.
There should have been plenty of time for City to try to get back into it, but Arsenal strangled the game and stopped them playing. There were a few half chances at times, but I can't say there was one occasion where I thought they would actually get back into the game. I won't say the performance from Arsenal was flawless, but it was their best away performance against a title contender in years.
For me the crucial factor in the win was the first goal because it meant Arsenal could continue to defend whereas I think they might have changed tactics if the game had stayed at 0-0. They defended deep enough to make sure there was no space behind the defence for City to run into and crucially they cut off the supply to Silva. In the past when Arsenal have played defensively I don't think they have concentrated on one player as they did with Silva and it worked perfectly.
There were some very good individual performances but the team as a unit worked very well together to implement their game plan. Coquelin has made the defensive midfield role his own while Hector Bellerin looks like he will be the player to benefit from Mathieu Debuchy's injury. Monreal continues to prosper at left back and Arsenal have won the last eight games in which he has started. Of course Cazorla was again the star of the show and his form for the last couple of months has been exceptional.
When Arsene Wenger emptied the bench it wasn't Mesut Ozil or Theo Walcott who entered the fray, but Tomas Rosicky, Mathieu Flamini and Kieran Gibbs came on instead. They helped to maintain the defensive solidity and see the game out while their more illustrious team mates kept the bench warm. Despite all of the injury woes the club has had the boss should be able to make quite a few changes against Brighton in the FA Cup on Sunday and still put out a very strong team.
After so many bad results away to the better teams in the Premier League it was so good to see Arsenal put in that performance and win the game so convincingly. Anyone who knows me and my love for the club couldn't wait to tell me in work how impressed and surprised they were with Arsenal and not many of them thought Arsenal had that performance in them away from home.
Of course in the last couple of seasons Arsenal have won away to both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. They set out to defend in those games and won the games on the break, but their opponents created a lot more chances in those games. Sunday was so different because they gave a team as potent as City so few chances to get anything out of the game.
There's still just over four months to go until the end of the season and the team have plenty of chances to show they are capable of that performance on a permanent basis. The players have to gain belief from playing so well and getting the result to go with the performance and they need to continue to show that belief and determination. A top three or four finish is a must and they're still in two cup competitions which means there's an awful lot to play for from now until the season ends. For the moment though we can bask in the glory of Arsenal's best domestic result away from home in some time.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.