Manchester City 0-2 Arsenal: Gunners win big on the road with tactical masterclass

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It’s been four years. Four long years.

That’s how long it’s been since Arsenal won a game on the road against an eventual top-four finisher. They’ve likely broken that trend, thanks to some brilliant tactical game-planning by Arsene Wenger.

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A structured defense and lethal counter saw Nacho Monreal earn a penalty – which Santi Cazorla finished off – and Olivier Giroud head home a second as Arsenal comprehensively locked down the dangerous Manchester City attack to win 2-0.

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Manchester City began the game with much of the possession, owning nearly 80% of the ball through the first 20 minutes, but did precious little as Arsenal was content to sit back and counter. In fact, the Gunners had the best chance of the opening portion as a cross found a diving Olivier Giroud’s head but he put it wide from a tight angle.

The positive breaks for Arsenal allowed them to take control, with a penalty given after Nacho Monreal, on a one-two in the corner of the box, was blocked and tripped by Vincent Kompany. Santi Cazorla tucked the penalty home inside the right post, and Arsenal took the early lead.

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After the goal, Arsenal sat right back where they were, stuffing players behind the ball, and it continued to befuddle the home side. The first half ran out with very little in the Manchester City attack, as Francis Coquelin played brilliantly in a covering role just in front of the back four.

Halftime saw Manuel Pellegrini swap out James Milner for Stevan Jovetic looking for more attacking creativity. City turned things up a notch on 50 minutes, but still couldn’t unlock the Arsenal defense for the final ball. They had a massive chance on the hour mark minutes, but a ball across the face of goal by Jesus Navas somehow eluded both David Silva and Sergio Aguero despite the latter two beating the entire Arsenal defense to the space.

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Again, though, the Manchester City defense would let the title contenders down. A free-kick from well outside the box came in from Santi Cazorla. It floated over the entire City defenders, who were playing in an aggressive position, and found the head of Olivier Giroud who completed an easy finish.

City continued to build up the possession and corner statistics, racking up over 65% possession and an 15-2 corner advantage, but it amounted to nothing offensively. Alexis Sanchez nearly picked out a third from distance if not for a quality save by Joe Hart with 17 minutes to go, and Arsenal was happy to see the rest of things out at the back as Manchester City had no answers.

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The three points are enormous for Arsenal, who not only get a marquee win on the road, but also jump above rival Spurs into fifth and are now just a point off Manchester United for the final Champions League spot. Meanwhile, as big a win as this is for Arsenal, it’s equal of a blow to the hosts. City now falls five points back of Chelsea, unable to keep pace with the Blues at the top. Southampton is five points back of the Citizens in third.

LINEUPS:

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho (Lampard 63′), Fernando, Navas (Dzeko 76′), Silva, Milner (Jovetic 46′), Aguero.

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey (Flamini 84′), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Rosicky 66′), Cazorla, Alexis (Gibbs 84′), Giroud.

Goals: Cazorla (pen) 24′, Giroud 67′