Arsenal put in the performance of the season to shackle free-scoring Manchester City at their own ground. If you didn't watch the match you would stereotypically assume Arsenal simply outplayed City - well they did, but it was done with a level of pragmaticism unassociated with Arsenal.
The Gunners only managed 35% of possession compared to City's 65% and only completed 75% of their passes compared to City's 84%. It was a backs to the wall job that required everyone to work their socks off and do their bit to close down in defence.
Nacho Monreal and Aaron Ramsey were among the most effective as they made the most tackles in the Arsenal team with six and five respectively. Meanwhile, Francis Coquelin continued to silence his doubters by screening the defence perfectly. He won 88% (7 out of 8) of his aerial duels, meaning Mertesacker and Koscienly had less to deal with and only had to win one tackle each, compared to Demichelis who had to win four.
Immediately Arsenal won the ball back, Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and Ramsey were at their effervescent best trying to transition defence to attack as quickly as possible. The trio were among the leading players most touches (101 for Cazorla, 69 for Sanchez and 61 for Ramsey) and were among the leading dribblers (10 for Cazorla, 6 for Sanchez and 4 for Ramsey). Cazorla in particular ran the show from beginning to end, failing to put a foot wrong. In addition to the aforementioned, his 92% passing accuracy is further proof he was a metronome and he goal and assist were well deserved.
Though perhaps the most outstanding factor is the fact Arsenal restricted City to just 12 shots. To put it into perspective, City generally average 17.4 per game; it just goes to show what a complete performance Arsenal put in, one that is all too rarely associated with them these days.
To have defeated the champions at their home ground clearly shows Arsenal now have it in their makeup to be resolute and tight when need be.
Purists might slight this approach but Arsenal are in no position to argue about the merits of football considering the lack of trophies they have won for the past ten years. Arsenal have often flattered to deceive in the Champions League; however, one of their very few meaningful runs in the tournament was in 2005/06 where they broke a record for the number of consecutive clean sheets (10), sending them straight to the final.
Fuelling that run was a switch to a more conservative 4-5-1 formation, with the likes of Jens Lehmann, Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure and Gilberto Silva starring at the back. This enabled a flaky Arsenal defence missing Patrick Vieira to have numbers at the back to protect them.
It was also facilitated because players like Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires and Robin van Persie did not need an army behind them to create something out of thin air.
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*Statistics from WhoScored.
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