Monday night saw Arsenal defeat rivals Manchester City in game that will have huge implications in the title race going forward.
Arsenal dominated the match while City were left searching for leaders with answers on the field. Theo Walcott opened the scoring in the 32nd minute with Olivier Giroud adding to the lead right before the halftime whistle. Yaya Toure gave City a lifeline in the 82nd minute that ultimately proved to be a consolation goal. Arsenal have now taken 16 points from a possible 18 against the top seven sides in the Premier League this season while City will have to go back to the drawing board to get back into the title race. Here are five takeaways from the game.
1. Kevin De Bruyne miss changes the game
You’ve got to take your chances in the Premier League — the old cliché proved true yet again Monday night in the clash of title contenders at the Emirates. Kevin De Bruyne won’t like being reminded of that following his critical miss in the match against Arsenal. The Belgian missed a golden chance to give Manchester City the lead, sliding the ball wide to the left of Petr Cech’s goal after an Arsenal error.
Before City fans had a chance to pick their heads up, Arsenal marched straight back down the field and scored a wonderfully taken strike from Theo Walcott. At that point, the first half flipped on his head. City, once in control of the game and comfortable in possession, looked vulnerable and a step slower than an Arsenal side invigorated by the goal.
2. Individual errors cost City
First of all, all three goals were all wonderfully hit strikes. However, each goal scored on the day was the direct result of an individual error. Yaya Toure was responsible for the first goal, drifting out of position toward the ball as if he was being pulled to the ball by magnetic forces. Shortly thereafter, an Eliaquim Mangala giveaway led to a breakaway goal for Arsenal’s second just before halftime.
— SportsMind (@SportsMindUK) December 21, 2015
Even Manchester City’s solitary goal came from Aaron Ramsey losing his concentration and his man, Yaya Toure, who finished a sublimely taken shot from just outside the box. For all the quality that was on the field, the game was decided on which team made the most mistakes in a high pressure environment.
3. Manuel Pellegrini plays into Arsene Wenger’s hands
From the first few minutes, it was clear that Manuel Pellegrini had set his team out to control the tempo of the game and not concede early. City set up in a 4-5-1 formation to match Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 formation man for man. Fabian Delph was deployed out on the left rather than in his more natural position in the middle of the park, likely to give defensive cover to his full back Aleksandar Kolarov.
The defensive tactic appeared to be working in the opening 30 minutes of the game as Arsenal found it difficult to find their passing rhythm. But it ultimately backfired on Pellegrini because City had no natural wide men to stretch the play and beat a compact and determined Arsenal defense. Both De Bruyne and Delph pinched inside when City had the ball, congesting the midfield and closing any spaces for the likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero to run into.
Ultimately, Pellegini abandoned the setup in the second half, bringing on both Raheem Sterling and later Jesus Navas for much needed width, but by that point it was already too late in the game to make a difference. Arsenal’s game plan worked as they allowed City to have the ball — a tactic that saw them win 2-0 at the Etihad earlier this year.
4. Mesut Özil orchestrates for Arsenal again
David Silva may have more assists than any player in the Premier League over the past five years, but he was thoroughly outplayed by his Arsenal counterpart Mesut Özil.
5 – Mesut Özil now has 15 goal assists – only five players have ever managed more in a single Premier League season. Nicking.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 21, 2015
Özil added two more assists to his Premier League leading tally of 15 in what was another great performance by the German.
Özil only needs five more assists to tie the Premier League record for assists in a season, held by another Arsenal great Thierry Henry. That record that is almost sure to fall with Özil only needing five assists in 21 remaining matches, and if he continues this way, he is a surefire contender for player of the year.
5. City stars dim on important night
While Arsenal’s stars shown brightest on Monday, City’s stars appeared to have been missing completely. In a game where City were already missing captain Vincent Kompany through injury, no City players stepped up to lead the team in a vital title bout.
Silva was invisible for the entirety of the game, Toure only decided to switch on for the last 20 minutes of the game, and Aguero seemed more than happy to take a seat after taking a knock to the head after 60 frustrating minutes of no service.
Our big match record in the league this season so far: City 3-0 Chelsea Spurs 4-1 City United 0-0 City City 1-4 Liverpool Arsenal 2-1 City
— City Watch (@City_Watch) December 21, 2015
The fire in the bellies of the City players appears to have gone out in the former champions and they desperately need their captain to come back and rekindle it.
Having played a near perfect game against City, Arsenal now move into second place on 36 points, just two points behind league leaders Leicester City. Arsenal will fancy their chances at winning the title, having already bested Leicester in a 5-2 victory earlier this season.
Meanwhile, Manchester City stays in third place on 32 points following this defeat. City will need to find their groove quickly on Saturday when they face Sunderland to stay in the title race.