In what was being called one of the most crucial fixtures of the title race, Arsenal defeated their most immediate rivals for the Premier League title, Manchester City by 2 goals to 1. Theo Walcott belted in an absolute screamer past City’s defense and Joe Hart in the 33rd minute, while Olivier Giroud doubled the lead in the final minute of the first half. Mesut Ozil was involved in both the goals which eventually took his assists tally to 15.
Kevin De Bruyne almost equalized for the Citizens but was off target, sliding the ball beyond the far post. Jesus Navas came on in the second half to change the pace and style of the game. Yaya Toure pulled one back for his team, almost 10 minutes before full-time, but his effort did not help their cause, as the Gunners defended their lead diligently; giving absolutely everything. Here are a few aspects of the game that stood out:
The game was fast, physical and tight
The game began at a very high pace. While the Gunners constantly tried to create something, they were caught off their guard in midfield on many occasions, losing possession of the ball. City looked like a definite threat going forward; in fact, every time the ball changed hands. Having conceded a few corners, Arsenal soon found their feet and were able to penetrate City’s 18-yard box. It was in the 33rd minute that Ozil received the ball from open play, passing the ball to Theo Walcott. Walcott immediately received the ball on the left top corner of the 18-yard box, cut it on to his right foot and curled in an absolute stunner past Joe Hart. Jesus Navas came on for the visitors in the second half and changed the pace of the game, and it was from that point that City were able to dominate the game in the second half. In spite of several harsh tackles and the physicality with which the game was played, only two outfield players went into the referee’s books for their challenges.
Arsenal were outnumbered in midfield, but Ramsey and Ozil’s movement in the middle of the park worked wonders
If Arsenal’s movement towards their opponent’s goal can be applauded, their movement off the ball should be appreciated as well. While Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, and Mathieu Flamini, who formed a triad in Arsenal’s central defensive area, found themselves off the guard on a few occasions, their positioning on the defensive was almost always right. For one, many fans expected Mathieu Flamini to make pointless runs forward and find himself out of place, a common mistake he has made repeatedly. However, in this game, the Frenchman knew exactly where he needed to be most. He was constantly disallowing Silva and Aguero from penetrating in the final third and was able to disrupt Manchester City’s build up around his own half. In other words, he was like a third central defender. Simultaneously, he was never too far away from Ramsey or Ozil, who were both absolutely wonderful to watch in this game. Despite being outnumbered in the middle of the park, Ramsey and Ozil were able to move from defense to attack in such smooth coordination that one was reminded of two physically stronger and faster versions of Xavi and Iniesta. Ramsey did get a chance to extend Arsenal’s lead, courtesy an unselfish pass from Joel Campbell in the second half, though he was unable to convert. Nevertheless, Ramsey’s return to central midfield has only worked in favor of the team and possibly, Wenger’s plan in the absence of Santi Cazorla.
Joel Campbell’s form, dedication, and love towards Arsenal are self-evident in his performances
Arsenal fans were clearly devastated after Alexis Sanchez joined the club’s list of injured of players, and were nothing short of anxious on hearing that in his place the young Costa Rica international would get a run-in in the side. While his finishing was not completely up to the mark in this game, his overall contributions to the game; in the attack, in defense and more importantly, his work rate, can in no capacity be undermined. Needless to say, Joel Campbell is a passionate Gunner, one that this team and fans the world over can only be proud of.
Petr Cech’s influence over the team was very clear
In comparison to earlier fixtures this season, goalkeeper Petr Cech did not have to dive in all 4 directions, though his ability to stand strong and influence on the game are now becoming apparent. Game by Game the newly recruited goalkeeper’s experience and talent are proving to be an important part of Arsenal’s game.
A victory over Manchester City now takes Arsenal to second place in the league table; 2 points behind table toppers Leicester City. A crucial victory over their title rivals has now put the onus of bringing the title to North London on Arsene Wenger and his team, who according to several experts discussing the season, are of the opinion that Arsenal are favorites to win it. Whether they will deliver and bring home the league title will be entirely up to the squad remaining fit and importantly, performing the way they have done in this game.