Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Arsenal Beat City To Stay Second

Arsenal went into last night's game at home to Manchester City in second place in the Premier League five points behind Leicester. They were one point ahead of title favourites City before the game and they had a chance to increase that lead on their own turf. The season isn't even halfway over, but a four point gap just before the midway point of the season was their target on the night.

Arsene Wenger kept faith with the team who won away to Villa last week as they looked for their third league win in a row. I had hoped to see Alexis Sanchez on the bench, but it seems he suffered a slight setback in training and sat the game out. It wasn't going to be an easy task for Arsenal, but the togetherness and team work they have shown were a key factor in their performance.

Not an awful lot happened early on and the first real chance didn't come until Kevin de Bruyne got in behind Arsenal on the half hour mark. Thankfully for Arsenal he put his shot just wide when he really should have set up David Silva and Arsenal survived. That miss proved even more costly when Arsenal took the lead less than two minutes later.

Laurent Koscielny played a pass to Mesut Ozil which took out the City midfield as it found him in the pocket between their midfield and defence. Ozil passed to Theo Walcott just inside the box and Walcott took a touch to steady himself before crashing the ball into the back of the net. It was a fantastic finish by Walcott and exactly what Arsenal needed from their first shot of the game.

Arsenal took a lot from that goal and looked stronger after it. I hoped for them to reach half time with their lead intact, but they went one better just before the break. There was only one added minute, but that was just enough for Arsenal to double their lead.

Eliaquim Mangala made a mess of a pass at the back for City and the ball came to that man Ozil in the same pocket between the City midfield and defence again. He made no mistake with his pass as he played it to Olivier Giroud's stronger foot as he ran through. Giroud finished firmly between the legs of the keeper and Arsenal were two up from their two attempts in the first half.

The first half couldn't have gone any better for Arsenal considering they only had two attempts at goal and led 2-0 despite City having more of the ball. The second half started off very similarly to the 3-0 win over United, but I was a little more anxious this time as we only held a two goal advantage. Gradually Arsenal started getting chances on the break though and I was even more worried when Joel Campbell and Aaron Ramsey missed three good chances between them to make it 3-0.

Kieran Gibbs came on for Campbell who had again put in a huge shift and proved his value to the team. With players tiring Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for Ozil and I thought that was where City gained a real grip on the remainder of the game. With no Ozil to worry about Yaya Toure came alive and scored a very good goal to get City back in the game with just under 10 minutes to go.

He hadn't done a good job of trying to stop Ozil, but he gave up all of his defensive cares when Ozil went off and very nearly got a second goal too. As the game neared an end Calum Chambers came on for Walcott to try to shore things up and keep City at bay and it just about worked. The final whistle came after almost five added minutes and the sense of elation was almost matched by the sense of relief.

It was a fantastic team performance with every player giving their all in defence and the players crucially taking the first two chances that came their way. Ozil again ran the show and he now has an incredible 15 assists in the 16 league matches he has played this season. Both Giroud and Walcott have got a very good goals per game ratio this season too and they showed they can play together. I've said before that I think Walcott is suited to playing on the left and coming on to his right side to score. 

It was very important for Arsenal to hold on to their lead and see the game out as a point dropped would have almost felt like a defeat after leading 2-0. The four point gap over City is hardly enough to win the league this early, but the result does make Arsenal the favourites to win the title this season. The players look like they might just have the belief to go and do just that and maybe the result last night is what they needed to point them in the right direction.

December has been a very good month so far with three league wins out of three and qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League secured against the odds. There's games against Southampton and Bournemouth still to come and six points in those games would improve the team's chances even more. They're two games the players are more than capable of winning and let's hope they can go and do so.

The only bad news was the injury Alexis picked up in training and it looks like he's going to be out for another three weeks. It means the squad is still too thin for comfort and there's no sign of any players returning before Alexis. Let's just hope the rest of the players can stay fit and maybe the boss can add to the squad in the transfer window. For the moment though we can wallow in our victory and dream of our first league title in 12 years.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad Walcott scored .In the past ,he would have passed the ball.
    The sudden shot from a distance gave the defence no time to regroup.
    Hopefully Arsenal can march on.
    However I' m worried about our BG being the last defender.He was outpaced by
    the MC player who could have scored.