It was no Wengerball; it was no total football. But it was just the team performance the red and white footie doctor had ordered: solid, determined, energetic, predatory, and victorious. Many of us have argued that in the big games we should play compact in defence, lay deeper and work our socks off, and then beat our title competitors on the break.
And that is exactly what the Gunners did against Citeh today; and had we been a bit more tuned in and clinical up-front, we could have won with more goals.
Of course, the best thing in the world is to beat these opponents with free-flowing, attacking footie, but this might have to wait for a while. Every new palace needs a solid foundation first.
Today’s performance shows that we can play a more solid, defensive game if we have to: and we got the full rewards for it. Had we lost today the gap between us and the Northern Oilers would have been unbridgeable; but in a week’s time it could be just six or five points (when the battle of the Oilers takes place and we play home against the Villains). The Chavs are too far ahead of us, but we can still gun Citeh down; and, given the difficult start of the season, that would still be a good finish to the PL season in some respect.
We ‘scalped’ the Northern Oilers twice now this season and fought hard for a draw at home as well.
Significantly, winning today’s away game has the potential to move us onto a higher platform: the win builds confidence and belief, and with a number of stars returned and returning – did you see that sexy bench today? – we should be able to repeat this performance against the Spuds (in three weeks), the Chavs and the Mancs. Other than one or two good cup runs and a high finish in the PL, learning how to beat our closest rivals would be a great, much needed outcome of the 2014-15 season.
Positives from Man City v Arsenal:
- Le Coq stood tall. I had doubts whether Francis would survive in this game, but he had a quietly brilliant game: he was solid, kept it simple and played with great discipline. He showed a great nose for advancing danger and positioned himself really well. His interventions were strong and decisive, and he moved play on well. OzG could be right after all, and no additional DM will be bought anytime soon… What a development!
- Cazorla was totally in his element. The free role in our 4-2-1-3 formation today suits him so well. Santi was instrumental in releasing the pressure on our defence with his ability to hold onto the ball in very tight spaces and find a way to play it to a fellow attacker. Furthermore, it was a big penalty to take, and he converted it calmly and professionally; and his free-kick provided the assist for Giroud’s all important second goal. He helped out everywhere and was great support for his fellow midfielders. An inspired, passionate performance, and I feel I owe him an apology but that is for another post. Santi Santi ahahaha 🙂
- Ramsey offered a lot of support to our defence and attack today. He was clearly rusty as his final ball and attempts on goal showed us, but he linked up midfield and attack well and helped out Coquelin constantly. I would not have opted for him today, as I believed both Flamini and Rosicky were more suited for this match, but Aaron put in a good shift. There is new life in the Welsh engine room…
- We defended as a team: all eleven of ‘us’. I thought Alexis had an off day from an attacking point of view (compared to his high standards) but he put in a good defensive shift (although not faultless). To a large extent, the same goes for Ox, although he had a couple of good moments in attack, notably the excellent run and cross into the box to Giroud. But he also put in a disciplined defensive shift (although not faultless either). The Gunners wanted it more today.
- The Full Backs were very keen and kept the City flank penetrations to a minimum. This was crucial as they love to get behind defences from the sides in order to crack them open. Bellerin was very impressive with his positioning and interventions; and Monreal showed great, healthy aggression and energy on the left flank. Both also offered great support going forward, and it was Nacho’s involvement up-front that earned him and us the beautiful gift of a penalty (deserved, but I was still amazed the ref gave it to us so early in the game). The FBs were on fire.
- Koz was a beast throughout the game. He hovered up so many balls and his presence and raw energy was enormous. Playing compact and deep suits both Koz and (obviously) the BFG, especially if they get very fine support in front of them by the midfielders. Our CBs were a great mixture of calm interventions/positioning and organisation on the one hand (BFG), and power and aggression on the other hand (Koz). Absolute bliss.
- Ospina did not have a lot to do, but he was calm and somehow always ‘present’. He also felt no need to get unnecessarily involved and handled the high balls into the box well. I love the way the away fans shouted his name every time he was kicking the ball out. Nice touch.
- Giroud worked hard for the team but, crucially, he took one of his few chances to decide the game for us. It just looked that Alexis was not going to score today, so we needed somebody else to step up. Santi did so from the penalty spot and Ollie from a free-kick at a crucial point in the game. City had looked strong at the start of the second half and we were buckling quite a bit under the pressure, so we needed that second goal desperately, and Giroud delivered right on time. Priceless.
A big compliment should also go to Arsene. He opted to include three relatively young/inexperienced players in his team – Bellerin, Le Coq and Ox – and started with the rusty Ramsey, and it all worked out brilliantly. I did not think this could work, but he proved me wrong. 🙂
There is so much to take from this game and to discuss. What are your positives and negatives from the game? Have we turned a corner now?