A watershed for nothing? Arsenal's January 2015 win at Man City has left little legacy
The Gunners have occasionally shown an ability to manage games with discipline ... but not often enough12:51 Sunday 8 May 2016, 12:51 8 May 2016
On January 18th 2015, Arsenal marched away from the Etihad Stadium with one of the most important results of their recent history.
The Gunners went on to face reigning champions Manchester City, whilst sitting outside the Top Four and with a perception of naivety in big games.
But that day, a different Arsenal emerged. Francis Coquelin was making his fourth start in succession since returning from a loan move at Charlton as the holding midfielder, Hector Bellerin starting for just the third time and Santi Cazorla was beginning his transformation from attacking midfielder/winger to deep-lying playmaker.
In one of the most disciplined Arsenal performances of recent times, Arsene Wenger's side won 2-0 to end City's 12-match unbeaten run and although they did have to ride their luck a little bit as most teams have to away at the Etihad, there was a sense that the victory was a watershed moment of sorts.
Coupled with a strong end to last season, Arsenal were expected to challenge, yet as we all know, that hasn't happened, with game-management still an issue.
New champions Leicester City stole a march on both Arsenal and City this season. The Gunners remain the only team to beat Leicester home and away and this season and to a degree their results in the so-called big games ahead of today's trip to the Etihad, haven't been that bad.
Chelsea remain a bogey side of course, with Wenger's side losing twice to them with red cards significant; Arsenal did beat City 2-1 at the Emirates in a result that left them top and made the North London side early favourites in December; Manchester United were dispatched 3-0 at home, only for Arsenal to falter badly at Old Trafford; and four draws were the outcome of matches against Liverpool and Tottenham.
At times, the balance between defence and attack was farcical in the Champions League group stages, particularly at home to Olympiakos when they lost 3-2 and away at Dinamo Zagreb which saw Arsenal start the group with a 2-1 loss.
Yet, the ability to be consistently inconsistent threw up results like the 2-0 home win over Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich and a relatively solid first 70 minutes against Barcelona in the last-16 first leg, before Lionel Messi scored twice in the last 20 minutes.
Arsenal's Theo Walcott shows his dejection after Southampton score their third goal of the game during the Barclays Premier League match at St Mary's, Southampton. Picture by: Clive Gee / PA Wire/Press Association Images
The evidence is Arsenal can manage a game almost perfectly on occasion, but without the ability to do so regularly.
And it's the games against the so-called weaker sides that have also cost them them this season.
As well as those aforementioned defeats to Olympiakos and Zagreb, a consecutive defeat and draw run away to West Brom and Norwich were early setbacks in November, although optimism remained up until January due to the big wins over Man City and Man United in the first half of the campaign.
But Southampton had found a way to thrash them 4-0 on St Stephen's Day in a dire, dire performance which could have been managed so much better collectively.
Coupled with the opening day loss to West Ham and another home defeat to Swansea at a pivotal point of the Premier League season in March, too many points were dropped in games that mattered but were played in a manner as though they were boxes to be ticked along the way.
The sort of concentration and drive that was evident in the 2-0 win at Man City 16 months ago was certainly absent in many of those showings.
Mentality and an inability to deal with growing expectation could be one explanation. When they beat City in January 2015, they were underdogs going into the game.
Yet when they lost 4-0 to Southampton, it was off the back of the recent 2-1 win at home to Man City, when a good result at St Mary's would have continued a fine run of form which had included a victory over a direct rival.
The same occurred after Danny Welbeck's last gasp winner delivered what appeared to be a crucial 2-1 win over eventual champions Leicester.
Next time out, the Gunners failed to fire as a decidedly under-par result against a weakened and youthful Man United at Old Trafford saw them lose 3-2.
If the win over City last January had truly been a watershed, that Old Trafford result was one of the games which washed that positive effect away.
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