It was an absolutely wonderful victory from the lads. They produced another excellent performance and beat the reigning champions on their own soil while keeping a clean sheet in the process. We needed a victory badly as all of Saturday’s results went against us but with three points at the Etihad we keep pace with Manchester United and Southampton respectively.
Here are the points to take away from Sundays win.
1.David Ospina was a really Nice purchase.
It’s not like Ospina was seriously tested today as our defence kept the hosts at bay for the large part, but the Colombian has kept a clean sheet three times in a row. He adds experience, doesn’t fool around when the opposition strikers apply pressure and looks confident between the sticks.
He looks safe with crosses despite his lack of height and it seems Arsene Wenger has made yet another brilliant signing in the Colombian from Ligue 1 side Nice. With all due respect to Wojciech Szczesny’s talent, Ospina should be our No. 1 for a while as he continues to prove how an experienced goalkeeper makes a team far more solid.
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2.Hector Bellerin had an ideal baptism of fire.
Truth be told, I was worried how Bellerin would cope with the Citizens despite how talented a youngster he is especially given that Sergio Agüero likes to attack from the left. The Spaniard did well and didn’t allow the early booking in the second half to affect his confidence. Victories build a winning mentality and big victories build a mentality of a champion.
3.Nacho Monreal fought off the demons from Etihad.
Our other Spanish full-back gave one of the worst performances of his career in last season’s defeat at Etihad. This time aside from one panic reaction he kept his position well and didn’t allow his compatriot Jesus Navas to exploit our left flank. Wenger said after the game at Anfield that there had been a fear among our players due to the heavy defeat in February. That’s why yesterday’s solid Nacho performance had additional weight.
4.Laurent Koscielny is one of the best defenders in the world.
The Frenchman’s return aside from his performance against Southampton was what this team needed. Whenever he has felt pain this season (remember that goal we conceded at Leicester) we suffered too. It’s amazing how he has improved in the last 22 months. His biggest weakness was his positioning, he managed to improve in that area and a partnership with the master of positioning Per Mertesacker has been key. Vincent Kompany is usually named as one of the best central defenders in the world but compare his today’s performance with Koscielny and ask yourself which one would you like to have at Arsenal?
5.Per Mertesacker is a real leader.
Last season at Etihad Per Mertesacker made the headlines for giving Mesut Özil a lesson on how to pay respect to the supporters. Today he kept the defence ticking just like it should be every week. Yes, it’s much easier when you have a top-drawer partner like Koscielny next to you but when you have a teenager on your right who made his debut at the Etihad, you have to be a real captain.
6.Francis Coquelin’s revival – a fairy-tale that continues.
There are so many dirty puns that I could have written about Coquelin but I will skip it (you made a sigh of relief, didn’t you?) The Frenchman has been incredible lately and his performance on Sunday was of the highest class. Yes, the hosts missed Yaya Toure in the middle of the pitch but players like Fernandinho, Silva and Milner can keep control of the game. Coquelin protected the back four well, barked the orders in a way Flamini has done since his return and showed resilience throughout the whole match. It’s great to have him back. Being just 24, Coquelin’s best years are ahead of him.
7.Santi Cazorla pulled all the strings again.
All our big victories in the last three years have had Cazorla’s stamp on them – the one against Bayern at Munich, Borussia in Dortmund, Hull in the FA Cup Final and against Manchester City in the Community Shield. Cazorla gave a very mature performance and continue to produce the final product, this time in a well-taken penalty and an assist from a free-kick. Santi. who was linked with Atletico Madrid last summer, has given a string of performances that reminds me of Dennis Bergkamp’s revival in 2001-02. May it last for a long time!
8.Aaron Ramsey is close to his best.
Pretty much like Cazorla, the Welshman has been an important part of our big victories lately. He could have scored at least once today but even without scoring he gave a fine performance. It’s only matter of time before he is going to start scoring again. Nevertheless, having such a mobile, young and dynamic central midfield axis is really exciting.
9.We can win even when Alexis doesn’t score.
The Chilean didn’t have a performance like what he usually gives but he was everywhere again. He was the first line of our defence, constantly looking for a chance for a counter-attack. There was a moment of magic though when he made a fool out of his marker before shooting, but it didn’t quite come off for him on Sunday. Even when he doesn’t score he is such a great asset to have.
10.Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain put another shift in today.
When you have a 19-year-old and a 21-year-old holding your right side of the pitch against experienced players like Clichy, Milner and Agüero, you have to applaud when they keep the opponents at bay. The English youngster gave a battling performance, looked for every opportunity to start a counter-attack and helped his junior team-mate to protect our goal.
11.Olivier Giroud scores against the big teams.
Remember when I wrote that Cazorla and Ramsey have been integral in all our big victories in the last two years? Of course you do, it was just a few minutes ago. Well, guess who has also played a huge role in all those victories. Yep, that’s right: Olivier Giroud. He scored an opener in Munich, assisted Ramsey in Dortmund, made a wonderful back-heel assist for Ramsey’s winner in the FA Cup Final and scored a lovely goal to seal our victory against Manchester City in the Community Shield.
He had been branded as a flat-track bully (I was no exception) but he has looked sharp this term and if he hadn’t been injured for three months, he would have reached double-digits by now. Goals against Manchester City, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and, again, Manchester City suggest that the big Frenchman has decided to make up for all those missed chances in previous years.
12.Arsene Wenger outsmarted Manuel Pellegrini…again.
It may sound like an exaggeration as this was the first league victory for Wenger in four matches against Pellegrini. Then again, the Chilean has also won one league match against Wenger. The thing is, unlike Pellegrini, Wenger didn’t need help from the referee to beat his rival. It was the fourth consecutive match against City in which Arsenal didn’t lose and that suggests Wenger has Pellegrini’s number. If we take the Community Shield match into account, Wenger has beaten Pellegrini twice this season with a goal-difference of 7:2.
13.Is Armageddon upon us?
Mike Dean was in charge in our big match, we got a penalty and won the game. Unbelievable. Sure, he should have booked Kompany at least one more time but…baby steps.
14.Thierry Henry was our lucky omen.
If celebrating Dean for over-coming his jinx over us for years as our No. 13 in these ‘key points’ then nothing is more appropriate than to give No. 14 to our best No. 14 ever. Thierry Henry’s debut as a pundit appeared to be a lucky omen for us. Indeed, if there is anyone who has to be a part of all our big victories than it’s Thierry.