Manchester City v Arsenal
Barclay’s Premier League
Kick off: January 18, 2015 16.00 PM BST
Our performance against the Premier League champions today was absolutely phenomenal, and showed a side of the team we haven’t witnessed in a long time. Arsene Wenger is not known for his tactical flexibility, but there was a clear and visible change to the way we set up at the Etihad.
Right from the off we looked defensively solid, and the entire 11 kept their shape superbly and prevented Manchester City from playing their game.
There was an early scare when Laurent Koscielny picked up a yellow card with just three minutes on the clock, and memories came flooding back of the Frenchman getting sent off this time two years ago against City. He remained unshaken however, and went on to have an excellent game.
We were set up to counter-attack, and from the City free kick Hector Bellerin went on a fantastic run down the right. Olivier Giroud was totally unmarked in the box, but the Spaniard’s mishit cross only found a blue shirt.
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Bellerin was linking up well with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and we were causing them endless problems down their left side. The 21-year-old showed power and pace to beat several players, hurdling a challenge to make space for the cross. Giroud got in front of Vincent Kompany, but saw his headed effort deflected narrowly wide.
We were unusually surrendering possession, but looked a constant threat when we won the ball. Our patience finally paid off in the 24th minute, Nacho Monreal going down in the box under a Kompany challenge. It was a slightly soft one, but definitely a penalty.
Our ever reliable Spaniard Santi Cazorla stepped up, and smashed it in from 12 yards to give us a well deserved lead. He has been in fantastic form as of late, and is looking like one of the most consistent performers at the moment.
Our work-rate dropped a little after going ahead, but we showed defensive stability to see out the half. Manchester City looked to change things up a bit after the break, with the ineffective James Milner being replaced by Stevan Jovetic to switch to a 4-4-2.
The second half was far more open right from kick-off, and the Citizens looked far more dangerous. They were given far more space on the flanks, and Jesus Navas was peppering the box with crosses. Our defence stood firm though, and David Ospina was never really tested.
Aaron Ramsey had been exceptional in the first half, and his disciplined performance was key to keeping City out. He was getting forward more in the second half though, meaning we were going blow for blow rather than hitting them on the counter.
We had a great chance to double our lead with nearly an hour gone, City caught out with Giroud and Ramsey bombing forward to support Alexis Sanchez. The ball eventually fell to the Welshman at an awkward angle, and he disappointingly blazed it over the bar.
We caught the home side napping to grab our second, Cazorla knocking a free kick into the box for Giroud to nod in. Fernando had fallen asleep and allowed the Frenchman a free run on goal, and Joe Hart had absolutely no chance.
We never looked like losing after that, and City looked fairly impotent going forward. The counter-attacking style returned, and we looked the more likely to get the third goal.
Arsene Wenger brought Tomas Rosicky on to add a much needed energy boost, followed by Kieran Gibbs and Mathieu Flamini to replace some tired legs. We saw out the game superbly, although arguably should have taken the ball into the corner more often.
It was an inspired team performance, with Santi Cazorla on a different level at times. A special mention also needs to go out to Francis Coquelin, whose energetic defensive display was vital today. He shut down the space and prevented City from playing, and put in a huge number of fantastic tackles.
It was fantastic to see Wenger adapting to deal with the threat City offered, and is hopefully a sign of things to come.