Premier League round 17 closed on Monday night at the Emirates with a highly exciting derby match between Arsenal and Manchester City.
Two title contenders played a high-intensity game much to the pleasing of the London crowd of 60,000 at the Emirates, which witnessed a 2-1 triumph from the home team. With the tree points against direct title rivals Arsenal stayed close in the race, leaving Manchester City four points adrift and even six to the leaders Leicester City.
The Gunners have produced a spirited performance against the Citizens opening up the accounts through Theo Walcott and then increasing the lead thanks to another goal by Olivier Giroud. Yaya Toure scored a beauty in the second half, but Manchester City failed to create a worthy comeback tonight.
Here are the five things we learned tonight:
Could this be Arsene’s year?
With resilient Leicester City refusing to back down in their surprising title haul, Arsenal are relying on their vast experience to try and grab the leading position at the first sight.
Arsene Wenger has managed to compose a well-organized unit lead by the fantastic Alexis Sanchez, whose absence was not rued in tonight’s encounter.
Gelled up in all positions on the pitch, the London-based club look like proper title contenders and their current score is there to prove it. The Gunners have kept their second place in the Premier League standings with tonight’s 2-1 victory and are currently only two points away from the Foxes, who are topping the league.
Holiday season is upon us and the Premier League is expected to bring a lot of excitement which Arsenal fans hope will slow Leicester City down and push their team towards the very top.
However, the Boxing Day round brings though challenges for both teams as Arsenal are traveling to Southampton, while the Foxes are also on the road against wounded Liverpool. Two days later the Gunners will play host to giant killers Bournemouth, while Leicester City welcome Manchester City in another title decider.
It has been a while since Arsenal last won the prestigious Premier League title in 2003/04, and this could very well be the season to grab the major honours.
Poor form from the champions Chelsea and other contenders such as Manchester United has left Arsenal as the only true candidate to lift this year’s trophy.
Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud the difference for Arsenal
Two men have been the key players for Arsenal so far in the season.
Often criticized for their performances, the German maestro and the French hit-man have reached the high point in their careers and their current forms have coincided with Arsenal’s excellent run in the Premier League.
Mesut Ozil has once again been pivotal tonight as he assisted Theo Walcott for his opener and Olivier Giroud later on tonight. The German playmaker has now notched 15 assists in the season and is just five behind Thierry Henry’s Premier League record. With 21 games until the end of campaign, Ozil is surely a shoo-in to break the record.
His teammate has been equally clinical tonight. Olivier Giroud continued his impressive scoring exploits, bagging his 10th goal in the Premier League and 15th this calendar year in domestic competition.
The French forward has added five more in the UEFA Champions League and has sent a clear message to all the people doubting his ability.
Giroud has managed to get his name on the scoresheet in the last four consecutive games, including the hat-trick he scored at Olympiakos Piraeus.
No Kompany, no party for City
Manchester City captain has missed yet another game due to his calf injury and his return to action is still under a doubt. Even if the Belgian does make a timely return, it will take time for him to get back in shape and form, so Manchester City will have to rethink their options in January.
Taking one player out of the defensive unit has has disastrous consequences for the Citizens, and it was once again evident that City’s backline lacked composure and quality of the leader such is the towering Belgian.
Manchester City have this season played eight games with Vincent Kompany and have managed to keep even seven clean sheets in that period. Nine games have passed without the captain and Pellegrini’s charges have only once kept their net still.
Worst timing for Pellegrini to lose
The loss against Arsenal comes amidst the rumours regarding Manuel Pellegrini’s future.
Pep Guardiola leaving Bayern Munich at the end of the season with Premier League as his probable destination. Manchester City have been touted to lure the Spanish tactician and although the final decision has not yet been made, Manuel Pellegrini is aware of the situation.
Manchester City’s sporting director Txiki Begiristein and Ferian Soriano have worked with Guardiola in Barcelona and there is no doubt they will do utmost to bring their friend to Manchester City.
Being a true gentleman that he is, Manuel Pellegrini is open to Guardiola coming to Etihad.
“I am sure Guardiola will work here someday. I even hope he will have the opportunity to work at Manchester City too because I love this club and I care about its future and I am sure he would do a good job”, he said.
The pressure is piling of the Chilean and today’s result will only make City hierarchy’s job easier. More so if Manchester City drop any further points during the festive season.
Kevin De Bruyne the bright spot
Manchester City have been silent through much of the proceedings at the Emirates tonight. They did dominate the possession early in the game, but were ran ragged by the high tempo and intensive pace from Arsenal’s quick attacking line which caused a lot of problems for the Kompany-less defence.
Perhaps the brighter spot in what has been an uninspiring performance from the Citizens has been Kevin De Bruyne.
The Belgian was involved in the most comical moment of the game when he hit a corner flag instead of the ball when taking a corner kick in the first half, but he was also the most prominent player in his team.
Summer’s arrival from Wolfsburg was taking the initiative in attempts to shake up his team’s play that was too dormant in some moments.
Talented midfielder was paid £50 million and has managed to amass 13 Premier League appearances in his debut season for City. He even got his name on the scoresheet in four different occasions in the league, while he also added one in the UEFA Champions League and four more in the League Cup.
His tonight’s efforts were insufficient for a different outcome and had it been not for Yaya Toure’s individual moment of brilliance the Citizens would have been left with nothing to hold on.
ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Cech 6.5 – Bellerin 7, Mertesacker 7.5, Koscielny 7, Monreal 7 – Ramsey 8, Flamini 7 – Walcott 8 (Chambers 6), Ozil 8.5 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 6), Campbell 7 (Gibbs 6) – Giroud.
Unused subs: Ospina, Gabriel, Iwobi, Reine-Adelaide.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-2-3-1): Hart 6 – Sagna 6, Otamendi 6, Mangala 5.5, Kolarov 6 – Fernandinho 6.5, Delph 5.5 (Sterling 6) – Silva 6 (Navas 6), Toure 7, De Bruyne 7 – Aguero (Bony 6).
Unused subs: Caballero, Clichy, Demichelis, Ineanacho.
REFEREE: Andre Marriner