EPL: Tactical change reaps reward for new-look, solid Arsenal
A change of tactics reaped rewards as a new, more subdued but more solid Arsenal arrived at Manchester City on Sunday, saw less of the ball than usual yet still masterfully outplayed the champions.sports Updated: Jan 19, 2015 18:12 IST
A change of tactics reaped rewards as a new, more subdued but more solid Arsenal arrived at Manchester City on Sunday, saw less of the ball than usual yet still masterfully outplayed the champions.
Arsenal registered just 35% possession - their lowest total since these statistics were first compiled 11 years ago - yet produced perhaps their finest performance in recent seasons to end their away-day woes against the Premier League elite with a 2-0 win.
At the same Etihad venue last season, Arsenal commanded 48 percent of the ball but in attempting to go toe-to-toe with City were thumped 6-3.
They were similarly humbled 6-0 and 5-1 at Chelsea and Liverpool respectively, with continued criticism of manager Arsene Wenger suggesting he was stubbornly refusing to learn lessons or demonstrate tactical progression.
Against City, though, after Arsenal had taken only seven points out of the last possible 48 against Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, it seemed the penny had finally dropped.
Wenger's masterclass was reminiscent of his old foe Jose Mourinho's recent raids with Chelsea on fortress Etihad where resolute, disciplined defence is routinely combined with ruthless, swift counter-attacking.
"It is important to get that (away win) out of the way, to show we can win away in the Premier League, and that will make us stronger," Wenger told the BBC.
"I think we carried that a while, everybody questioning our defensive solidity, and to get that today is very important."
Except for a 15 minute period at the start of the second half when Arsenal reverted to a bolder attacking style, Wenger's men looked secure and untroubled.
Wenger deployed Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey as a defensive shield in front of their back four and it took City 36 minutes to eke out their first shot.
Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain curbed their attacking instincts to defend with energy and protect the full backs as Santi Cazorla, scorer of the first goal and maker of the second for Olivier Giroud, proved the game's pivotal figure.
Wenger made it sound like a turning point. "We looked in control away from home and finally got a big win in a big game away," he said.
"What is pleasing is that reinforces the belief of the team. To feel that you can do well is very important.
"Sometimes, the fact that you have to find solutions internally is a blessing."