Arsene Wenger may have a slight smirk of satisfaction on his face today, after his Arsenal side finally showed their worth against one of the so called 'big guns' of the #Premier League away from the Emirates. In recent seasons they have often seemed to struggle on the road, as the likes of City, Chelsea and even Liverpool last season, put them to the sword and tickled their perceived 'soft underbelly'.
Yet at the Etihad yesterday they seemed to arrive with a definite plan and strategy that ensured they were competitive across the pitch and pragmatically reined in their usual attacking instincts to a degree, to ensure that they were not going to wilt to the home side's expected pressure. It worked, as they were decent value for their hard-earned two goal victory against a spluttering City side and could in fact have won by more at the end.
The Gunners showed their intent early on when they missed a half-chance from French striker Olivier Giroud, with his header deflecting away off Vincent Kompany. A crucial moment of the match occurred shortly afterwards after a neat one-two between Nacho Monreal and Giroud on 24 minutes, when City's captain Kompany marginally blocked off the Spanish full-back as he looked for the return ball. Kompany was just back after injury and perhaps needed a few games before getting back to his sharpest. The referee decided that there was sufficient intent and contact to warrant a penalty-kick, much to Kompany's bewilderment at the decision. Santi Cazorla stroked the spot-kick home, giving Arsenal for once a decent start in one of the big away games..
It was typical of an uninspired performance by City in the first-half as they seemed to go through the motions, perhaps expecting their opponents to allow them to dictate the game as in the past. Perhaps they also missed the drive of Yaya Toure from midfield, currently away at the Africa Cup of Nations.
City showed more creativity and ideas in the second-half as the reality of their position seemed to dawn on them. The unusually quiet Sergio Aguero (recently back from a knee injury) sparked into life momentarily, seeing his deflected shot drift narrowly wide of target, as the home side went on the offensive at last. Jesus Navas then stung the gloves of David Ospina in the Arsenal goal, as the chances started to come for City.
They failed to get the equaliser though and a second goal came for the London club instead, when Giroud capped a fine individual performance with a goal of his own on 67 minutes. Cazorla's free-kick honed in on the Frenchman's head and he duly obliged from close-range as the City defence lost their bearings.
Arsenal's victory ended the home side's twelve-game unbeaten league run and leaves Chelsea five points clear of their nearest rivals at the top.