Four things we learned: Arsenal 2-1 Manchester City

In what was Arsenal’s most crucial game of the season, Arsene Wenger’s outfit put in their best display of 2017 to beat Manchester City and put recent demons to rest.

It wasn’t the Gunners most memorable display in terms of quality, but from back to front the team put in a determined performance to run out 2-1 winners at Wembley and book a place in the final once again. 

Here are four things we learned…

1) Switch to three at the back paid off

When analysing the Arsenal side individually, they are a team that has all the components to be a force with three at the back. 

The back three were simply magnificent today. In their more natural 4-2-3-1 formation, the centre-backs are often left woefully exposed and lesser sides are able to exploit these weaknesses. Against Middlesbrough, the Arsenal faithful pondered whether it may have been a panic-switch by Arsene Wenger, with a less than convincing display. However, from the 45th-minute mark onwards, the Gunners grew into their formation and ultimately, the game. There is work to be done, no question, however, it looks as though there is a good base to build on.

2) Arsenal showed grit and determination

All too often this season Arsenal have been insipid, passive and lived up to their billing as a team filled with weak characters. On Sunday, however, Arsene Wenger’s men dug in when it mattered and ran out deserved winners. Despite clearly struggling for confidence in the first-half, unable to string two passes together, the team went from strength to strength as the game wore on, led by the brilliant displays from Koscielny, Gabriel and Rob Holding. Moreover, the oft-criticised Mesut Ozil put in an incredible shift, while both Monreal and Oxlade-Chamberlain were outstanding up and won their respective flanks. This could be a turning point in the season in which Arsenal maintain a sense a pride and have a real chance at a trophy.

3) Arsenal have to hang on to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

The rumour-mill has been in full swing in recent months surrounding The Ox’s future at the Emirates. Game-time has been limited for the young Englishman yet he continues to impress this season. He has had some stand out performances in an Arsenal shirt, most notably at the Allianz Arena, however these have been interspersed with passive displays that have resulted in a lack of trust from Arsene Wenger. He seems to be showing a more mature side to his game this season, and against Manchester City he was the best player on the pitch by a country mile. Considering the wealth of talent on display on the famous Wembley pitch, this speaks volumes. 10/10 performance from The Ox.

4) The players showed a real togetherness

Despite all the goings-on at Arsenal in recent months, one thing you have to commend them on is their immunity to implosion. Yes, their performances have been abysmal at times, but unlike other clubs there are never rumblings of big fall-outs in the dressing room, no blame culture within the club and have somehow managed to put in their best display in months. Like any other commentator on the Arsenal team this season, I have lambasted the players for their pathetic displays at times, but what is most surprising is their ability to keep going, for it to not turn nasty like it would at other clubs, and maintain a sense of dignity – brilliant display.

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