Manchester City 0-2 Arsenal: How Arsenal Coq Blocked City 1

Francis Coquelin


It has been the source of frustration for Gooners for years now. The fans have been driven to insanity, and indeed, Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Due to our tactical naivety, this was our first away win against a “big 4” club for almost three and a half years. It was a big win for us, one that’s sure to give us confidence in the fixtures ahead.

So how did we do it? Put simply our midfield was immense. We addressed all the problems we had against the big teams and came up with a deserved win.

Too often (whether it be United, Chelsea, City, or Liverpool), they press us hard, grab the ball off our midfield, leave us vulnerable, and score. It is either that or they sit really deep, frustrate the hell out of us and then do a similar thing as we press high up the pitch.

Both these problems were nullified and I want to single out two players in particular for praise and they are Cazorla and Coquelin.

Cazorla at times danced past the City midfield (check out the two dances below), and always looked in control. He was quick to play the ball and his distribution was fantastic. This ensured that not only were our pockets not picked, the shoe was on the other foot. 10 ball recoveries in the game is testament to this. 54 passes were completed out of 59, as well as 10 out of 14 successful dribbles.

On a side note, I don’t believe the penalty is as contentious as everyone is saying. Yes is it slightly soft, but think about it. Kompany is clearly blocking Monreal and making no attempt whatsoever to play the ball. He knows Giroud has played a deadly pass. That is a free kick any day of the week outside the box, it was very cynical, just because the foul results in a spot kick everyone loses their minds. Kompany thought he would use his “experience” to stop Monreal thinking a soft spot kick like that wouldn’t be given. We deserved the lead that’s for sure.

I admit there was some scrappy ball control by players other than Cazorla in the final third but in the end it didn’t matter due to the way Coquelin played. I’ve always rated this kid and can’t understand why we loaned him out. 10 recoveries like Cazorla to add to 33/38 completed passes, he topped the clearance charts with 11. He ran like a horse tracking back time and again snuffing out City’s attacks. Once more, he didn’t commit a single foul. Played an absolutely crucial role in protecting the back four and was immense. Man of the match for me.

I believe our defence is too often made the scapegoat by the media and our fans alike. Football isn’t such a simple game. I’m not saying our defence doesn’t have issues and hasn’t been at fault before, but a large weakness of ours has been our midfield, at the top of the diamond (just behind the striker) and at the bottom (just in front of the defence). Both of these have combined to give us a few of those horror results of last season, being too high up the pitch, carelessly losing the ball, being broken on the counter and having our defensive midfield out of position which has a flow on effect to leave our defence in no man’s land.

On Sunday we saw a masterclass in central midfield. When these parts of the system work, everything else just works. In attack, Giroud was able to get into the game and hold up the ball and our defence looked much more comfortable. They had work to do for sure but you could see and feel that confidence that they would pull through knowing that they could rely on Coquelin, and knowing that counter attacks would be rare.

All I can say now is that I hope Arsene Wenger meant to do this and this isn’t just some coincidence. This sort of tactical tweak has been a long time coming, Wenger is a genius but needs to understand the need for a pivot in front of the defence and more cutting edge in the final third, especially against the big teams.

If we can be as disciplined as we were against Manchester City, we can finish the season strongly and achieve great things with the quality we have in the squad. Let’s hope this result is a landmark one, a sign of things to come.

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