The 2015-16 Premier League title race will likely not be decided until late May. With Leicester City currently leading the way, and perennial top-four finishers Arsenal and Manchester City not far behind, Monday’s showdown, between the latter two, at the Emirates Stadium was chock full of title implications.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]
It was Arsenal who came out on top, 2-1 at the final whistle, thanks to goals scored by Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud, and an extremely disciplined defensive effort that frustrated Man City’s prolific attacking unit for much of the game.
The game’s first real chance came and went in the 31st minute, when City unlocked the Gunners’ deep-lying midfield and defense with a quick move down the right flank. Kevin De Bruyne ended up in acres of space and racing in on goal, but the Belgian playmaker fired his bouncing effort inches wide of the far post.
[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]
Theo Walcott opened the scoring for Arsenal barely a minute later. He received the ball from Mesut Ozil on the left edge of the City penalty area, cut inside past Bacary Sagna and rifled a low, right-footed drive through a sea of defenders and around Joe Hart, nestling itself inside the far post. It was Arsenal’s first shot of the game.
The Gunners doubled their lead during first-half stoppage time, when Olivier Giroud slotted a low screamer between the legs of Hart. The entire thing began with a wayward pass from Eliaquim Mangala into no-man’s-land midfield. The ball was quickly circulated to Ozil 25 yards from goal, where he played Giroud onto his favored left foot and the Frenchman made no mistake with his finish. With two assists in the first half, Ozil’s tally for the season rose to 15 in league play (tops in all major European leagues).
With 53 minutes on the clock, Joel Campbell nearly gave Arsenal a 3-0 lead, but the Costa Rican blazed his shot well over the crossbar after getting on the end of Nacho Monreal‘s cut-back cross toward the penalty spot. Campbell had another chance two minutes later, when he raced in one-on-one against Hart, but the England no. 1 made a clever quick save to keep the deficit at 2-0.
[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]
The one-way traffic continued as yet another chance for 3-0 came and went in the 60th minute. Ozil played the ball to Campbell at the top of the penalty area, and Campbell slipped Aaron Ramsey into the penalty area with a one-touch ball but again it was Hart rushing out quickly and making the one-on-one save.
Yaya Toure gave the visitors a lifeline in the 82nd minute (above video). The Ivorian midfielder lofted a perfectly weighted, left-footed shot into the upper-90 from the top of the 18-yard box. Sagna cut the ball back to Toure, whose first-time strike left Petr Cech with no chance of intervening.
For the next 10-plus minutes, City threw numbers forward, pressed much higher up the field and chased an equalizer with everything they had. In the end, Arsenal held firm and escaped with a much-deserved victory.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
With the victory, Arsenal move to within two points of Leicester at the top of the table, while City remain in third, six points back of the Foxes. Up next for Arsenal is a Boxing Day trip to Southampton. Meanwhile, City will host Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium.