The way Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger set up his side against Manchester City was surprising and refreshing – and he got his reward with an impressive victory.
At Etihad Stadium on Sunday, it seemed that Wenger finally realised he cannot play his usual open style of attacking football when his team are away from home against the best teams in the Premier League.
Instead, the Gunners were set up to defend and keep a clean sheet. Right from the start, there were times when all 11 of their players were defending deep in City’s half.
That kind of work-rate, within the structure of their 4-1-4-1 formation, was the biggest reason why they won the game.
Arsenal’s starting XI and 4-1-4-1 formation vs Man City
They had only 35% of possession – their lowest rate in a game since Opta’s records began in 2003.
But that did not matter because of the way they applied themselves when City had the ball. They were disciplined and hard-working, not gung-ho like they have been in these kinds of games in the past.
On top of that, Wenger’s side still looked dangerous whenever they came forward. They did not see much of the ball but they still looked after it well in tricky situations to put pressure on City.
You would not usually describe this Arsenal side as well balanced but, against City, Wenger got his team selection, formation and tactics absolutely spot on.
In the past, part of Arsenal’s problems defensively have been how cavalier their full-backs are, especially away from home.
Usually they operate high up the field but, against Manuel Pellegrini’s side, Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin did not ignore their defensive responsibilities.