You don't always need silk

It's been Arsenal's bread and butter style of football for years now...tippy-tappy football wrapped in silk...our own tiki-taka.  After frequent meetings with Barcelona in Champions League in years past, Arsene Wenger ushered in a shift in ideology that saw us try to emulate those Catalan masters of the possession game.  It was always pleasing on the eye and it even forced us to change the types of players we brought into the club...but make no mistake, the new Arsenal was far removed from the one of Vieira, Petit, Overmars, Bergkamp and Henry.
Patrick Vieira was vital in the by-gone era of our counter-attacking days...was our performance at the Etihad signaling a return to  our ability to call upon something different? (image courtesy of Arsenal's official Facebook page)
Much to the pure exaltation of Gooners the world over, Sunday's brilliant performance against Manuel Pellegrini's City was a joy to behold...a complete masterclass performance...near vintage Arsenal.  We were, quite simply, absolutely fantastic, but the most encouraging signs I took away from the performance is that there is no reason why we cannot continue to play that way when it's necessary.

Despite the result, many of us still understand that there is a time and place for how we performed on Sunday, just as there is the right time to call upon the silk we have become so accustomed to over recent years.  Yes, what I am telling you is that we now have (potentially at least) that long sought after plan B that has been missing from Le Prof's tactical cupboard for far too long.  Even Pellegrini mentioned it in his post match, citing how we were we knew how to defend, not just go forward.  The beauty of this, is that it has the ability to throw a monkey wrench into many a plan of the likes of Mourinho, van Gaal, Rodgers and others who have no doubt bee chomping at the bit to deploy the same counter-tactics against us that have been proven time and again to bear fruit...this may no longer be the case.
Ramsey's deeper deployment was a key tactical adjustment by Arsene Wenger (image courtesy of Arsenal's official Facebook page)
In the run-up to the match there were plenty of Gooners questioning the inclusion of Aaron Ramsey into the XI at the expense of Tomas Rosicky, and I must admit I was one of them.  Wenger asked the Welshman to sit deeper, being more of that deep-lying playmaker that we would need along side Francis Coquelin who rightfully kept his place in the lineup - it was a move that proved to be one of the key decisions,

With Ramsey sitting deeper, it afforded Coquelin the ability to hunt down City's supply lines and close them immediately - his ability to read the play and always be right where he was needed was absolutely superb.  Despite Santi Cazorla's excellent showing, for me, the man of the match had to be Le Coq.

A second tactical adjustment on the day saw Nacho Monreal asked to sit back far more frequently, an acknowledgement of the potential threat posed by Jesus Navas' pace and ability on the ball that could potentially skin the Spaniard alive.  But with Monreal being held back, Navas was truly held in check from start to finish and rarely threatened us.  Wenger was two for two on Sunday, and the balance throughout the side was spot on...Wenger got it right, and it was a pleasure to see.
Francis Coquelin continues to show us just what can be done with a just a little bit of elbow grease (image courtesy of Arsenal's official Facebook page) 
Perhaps the most important aspect of the performance is something that most have not mentioned enough, or even at all.  Yes the balance was spot on and yes Wenger made the right calls tactically, but the biggest improvement from us of all was our lack of arrogance in our performance, and that is a notion perfectly embodied by Francis Coquelin not only on Sunday, but ever since he's been called upon.  Countless times over recent seasons we take the pitch with a sense of entitlement, and it is those very same sentiments that see us done and dusted by our rivals before the clock even hits the thirty minute mark...but not Sunday, not all.  Arrogance was replaced with hard work, dedication, sweat, grit, but most importantly, the determination to make a statement and begin to show just what we can do even if we were out of our tactical comfort zone.

Common sense will tell you that, in any sport, success comes from the will to work hard enough to achieve it.  When you really consider that fact, is it so surprising that we have not won the league since the Invincibles season?  Surely not, but if Sunday shed light on anything at all, it's that we've always had the fight...but maybe now the players truly believe they have it in them to fight hard enough.
Alexis Sanchez continues to be a driving force for Arsenal, not just with his performances, but his positive influence on us mentally (image courtesy of Arsenal's official Facebook page)
For me, the arrival of Alexis Sanchez to the club has been a major catalyst mentally...the players see his tireless efforts not only during matches, but on the training pitch as well.  His constant refusal to tone it down and relax, and even his warning to Wenger that he does not need to be given a rest has certainly not fallen upon deaf ears.  The performances of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the absence of Theo Walcott have undoubtedly been inspired by our Chilean spark-plug...even the renewed high class showing from Santi Cazorla surely can list Sanchez as a major influence.  Hard work and desire are some of the most infectious character traits that you will ever find when it comes to sports, and it's quite clear to me that those qualities that we all love and adore in Sanchez have spread through the dressing room like the Bubonic know, without the death.

Truth be told, there is no telling if we will turn in another performance like that for the rest of the season...who knows if it was just a one off, but I think it's important to take away from it the fact that we all saw what could be if faith is put into it.  Football evolves constantly, and no league can stake a claim to that more than the Premier League, but such a comprehensive performance against one of the title favorites hopefully will remind Arsene Wenger that you don't always need silk.

Andrew Thompson is a contributing writer at The Modern Gooner and Outside of the Boot.  Follow him on Twitter @AFCBvB1410