Resilient Arsenal take a giant leap forward to stun Man City
Gunners beat Premier League champions away from home for the first time since 2002 as Chelsea celebrate
Manchester City 0 Arsenal 2. The Gunners avenged their 6-3 thrashing at the Etihad last season with 2-0 victory that stunned the blue half of Manchester and hinted that Arsenal are finally developing the tactical acumen needed to overcome the best teams in the Premier League.
It was the first time City have lost a league match by a two goal margin at home since Arsenal won 3-0 in October 2010, and it means the reigning champions are now five points behind leaders Chelsea with 16 matches left in the campaign.
The Sky Blues travel to Stamford Bridge in a fortnight and another feeble display to match yesterday's and the title race will be as good as over by the start of February. So how good were the Gunners? According to BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker they were superb, the former England striker tweeting: "This is the best I've seen Arsenal play in yonks. Disciplined, canny, energetic, explosive and combative."
The stats back up Lineker's assessment. Not only was it City's first defeat in 12 league games it was the first time Arsenal have beaten the defending Premier League champions away from home since defeating Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford in May 2002. Since then Arsene Wenger's sides have struggled to live with their rivals on the road, but on Sunday afternoon they looked solid and confident rather than fragile and nervous.
Just as telling was the fact that the Gunners only had 35 per cent of possession, but were content to frustrate City and had the strength to do that, restricting the home side to just a handful of chances.
Last season they leaked six goals to City, five to Liverpool and six at Chelsea, but at the Etihad they were anything but generous to their opposition. "I felt that we were well-disciplined, well-organised, had a good solidarity and overall we kept a good control of the game," said a delighted Wenger. "We could even have done better on counter attacks."
The Gunners took the lead on 24 minutes after City skipper Vincent Kompany, who looked off the pace in his first game in more than a month, blocked Nacho Monreal in the area. Santi Cazorla shouldered the responsibility of taking the spot-kick, and the Spaniard made no mistake, slotting the ball past the despairing dive of Joe Hart.
Though City sharpened up in the second half with the substitution of James Milner for Stevan Jovetic, the best they managed was an angled shot from Jesus Navas which David Ospina kept out. Instead it was Arsenal who found the target when Cazorla's chipped free-kick on 67 minutes left the City defence strangely statuesque, allowing Oliver Giroud the space to head the ball past Hart for the winning goal.
"We did not play well," conceded City manager Manuel Pellegrini. "We had a lot of possession but after that we did not have the ideas to be a creative team against Arsenal."
The victory moves Arsenal above Tottenham into fifth, just one point behind Manchester United and three shy of Southampton in third. More importantly, in Wenger's estimation, the win will do wonders for his side's morale as they prepare to enter the Premier league's home straight. "We looked in control away from home and we finally got a big win in a big game away from home," explained the Frenchman. "What is pleasing is that reinforces the belief of the team. To feel that you can do well is very important."