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Manchester City 2-1 Arsenal, 2016 Premier League: 3 Things We Learned

The Sky Blues came from behind to beat Arsenal with simple, direct, and confident play.

Manchester City v Arsenal  - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Sunday’s win could be attributed to any number of causes: a lackluster performance from Arsenal, an adapted approach from Pep Guardiola, an emergence of the greater potential of this Manchester City squad, etc. It was far from a perfect performance, but the result gives the Sky Blues another confidence boost before the end of 2016. Here are three aspects of the fixture that should bring Citizens hope during the holidays.

1 - City can attack with purpose

From the outset, City approached the Gunners' box with fluidity and pace. Even with an Arsenal goal at the four-minute mark, the Etihad squad moved the ball with intelligence and accuracy to dominate the style and speed of play.

Although only two goals were needed to win, City had a lion’s share of the possession and a number of great chances. Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sané and Kevin De Bruyne each had glances that would have further inflated the scoreline but their domination of play was enough to disorient an often dangerous Arsenal side.

For the most part, Arsenal was forced to defend against a determined swarm of Sky Blue shirts. The ball was moved quickly through relatively well coordinated lines of attack with more gusto than we’ve seen recently. Although there weren’t that many shots on target, City looked far more dangerous in both their build-up and their direct approach to the net.

There were intervals of time when City lost their edge but were quick to regain an advantage. Particularly as the fixture entered its final phase, the home team’s intentions to score steered the game.

2. The City defense CAN hold off Premier League greats

Nicolas Otamendi has been guilty of many mistakes in 2016, including Arsenal's goal on Sunday. During a number of critical moments of the game, however, he read the Gunners well, relieved pressure, and pushed the ball back into the feet of City attackers.

Aleksandar Kolarov provided a few key clearances and challenges, particularly late in the game, but was generally a little more vulnerable at the center of City’s defense. He did an excellent job neutralizing the ever-eager Olivier Giroud for the last half hour of the game, though.

Much defending was done by Fernando and Yaya Touré and the back line looked far more confident in winning headers. Thus, the all-important second ball was played in City’s favor and threats toward Claudio Bravo’s net were minimized.

3. There are many leaders to carry this momentum into the next weeks and months

De Bruyne and David Silva provided direction and pace in City’s advanced midfield space. They demonstrated excellent technical skill and decision making to create chances for themselves and others. With their unique abilities to read the field, move, and distribute the ball, the squad will surely expand their goal scoring capabilities.

Sterling and Sané worked the wings and down the middle with great success. Their confidence helped City to rally on a number of occasions, not to mention their respective roles in the final outcome. City strikers haven’t been able to unlock defenses recently but, with threats such as these two, opponents will have to commit and risk being beaten by dribbling, shots, or key passes.

Otamendi and Kolarov recovered quickly from Arsenal’s goal. Less than a minute after that potentially deflating strike from the Gunners, the City center-backs were steering the team’s build-up with relaxed confidence. Throughout the rest of the game, they managed their offensive responsibilities and defensive tasks with more balance than we’ve seen since losing Vincent Kompany.

Hopefully these performances will stand as an example for anyone that is chosen to start against Hull City and Liverpool next week. When these individual talents and efforts coalesce, Man City could produce something special. Finding a balance of Pep’s preferred style within the signature demands of the Premier League might give City a major boost going into the new year.