Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Ramsey, Ozil, Campbell, Walcott, Giroud
Subs: Ospina, The Jeff, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gabriel, Chambers, Iwobi
Goals from Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud ensured Arsenal took three points against Man City, even if Yaya Toure’s late goal made the final stages of the 2-1 win a little more nervous than they should have been.
The Gunners were unchanged from the side that won 2-0 against Aston Villa, but there was no place on the bench for Alexis Sanchez, still suffering the effects of the hamstring strain he suffered against Norwich on November 29th.
The opening stages saw both teams testing each other out, with City having the first attempt on goal in the 7th minute when David Silva curled a shot over the bar. That was followed by Fernandinho spanking one high and wide, but not by too much.
Kevin de Bruyne was lucky to escape a yellow card for a late challenge on Theo Walcott, and as the half progressed there was more possession for the visiting side. Hector Bellerin had to be alert to clear, while at the other end the most dangerous Arsenal moment came when an Ozil pass almost deflected to Walcott but the angle was too tight.
De Bruyne tested Cech at his near post with a low drive that the keeper pushed around the post, and Alexander Kolorov was the next to escape a yellow card as he tripped Ozil when the German was trying to start an Arsenal break.
Eventually a yellow card was issued to David Silva after a sequence of City fouls, but Pellegrini’s side should have been ahead when an Aguero flick sent de Bruyne through on goal. His shot fizzed just wide of Cech’s far post, and it was to prove a costly miss because within two minutes Arsenal were ahead.
Ozil looked to play a pass to Monreal but Walcott took it just inside the box, came back outside, and then curled a brilliant shot with his right foot into the far corner with Joe Hart grasping at air. 1-0.
That energised Arsenal, there was more zip to the passing, and when City did have it the likes of Campbell and Ozil were willing to work hard and do their defensive duty. When it looked as if Arsenal would take a single goal lead into the break, the lead was doubled in first half injury time.
Mangala made a mistake in midfield and presented the ball to Walcott. He gave it to Ozil who slipped the ball down the inside channel to Giroud who finished between Hart’s legs. 2-0.
That made it two assists for the German, and it was a lovely position for the Gunners to be in at the break.
City made a change for the second period, bringing on Raheem Sterling for Fabian Delph, and picked up an early yellow card when Nicolas Otamendi unnecessarily flattened Giroud on the sideline.
As expected the away side really pressed hard to find a goal to get them back into the game, but it should have been out of sight for Arsenal in the 52nd minute. Monreal got down the left, pulled a low cross back into the box, but Joel Campbell on his left foot put the ball over the bar from 7 yards out – he should have scored.
Aguero tested Cech with a flicked header from a free kick, and there was another chance for the Costa Rican moments later. There was a great pass from Koscielny to Campbell, he raced into the box but under pressure he couldn’t get any power on the shot and Hart saved with his legs.
The England man was the busier keeper and City had him to thank for keeping the score at 2-0. Superb one touch football between Ozil and Campbell saw the Costa Rican feed Ramsey, but Hart came out to save well to deny the Welshman a goal.
Wilfried Bony came on to replace Aguero in the 63rd minute, Ramsey curled a shot over and Arsene Wenger made his first change of the night bringing on Kieran Gibbs for the hard-working Campbell. Yaya Toure dived to try and win a penalty like a bit cheaty bollix, before Navas came on for Silva.
Bony saw an on-target header easily taken by Cech, before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for Ozil in the 77th minute. The Gunners seemed happy to sit deep to try and find space on the break when they won the ball back.
However, it was Navas who found himself through on goal but bizarrely, rather than shooting, he tried to make a square pass through a crowd of players and ended up conceding a free kick for handball. At the other end Walcott saw a shot saved by Hart, but in the 82nd minute the game was made tight when Toure finished brilliantly into the top corner to make it 2-1.
The two goal lead was almost restored instantly when Ramsey found himself with a sight of goal but he seemed caught in two minds, crossing for Walcott when he probably should have had a shot. Toure almost equalised, firing wide from 7 yards out, before Arsene Wenger made his final change with Calum Chambers replacing Theo Walcott.
It was hang onto your seat stuff, with Giroud making a massive challenge in the box and hurting himself in the process, and as he got treatment the board went up with 4 minutes of injury time. There was maturity from the Arsenal players as they forced a series of throws down the City right, and although we made hard work of the last 10 minutes, that’s a massive, massive win.