Francis Coquelin’s Arsenal masterclass: tactical triumph or just lucky?

Had Arsène Wenger’s preferred personnel been fit the French defensive midfielder would most likely not have started
Match report: Manchester City 0-2 Arsenal
Five talking points from Etihad Stadium

Who are you? And what have you done with Arsenal? At the final whistle in this oddly stately, bizarrely unruffled 2-0 away defeat of Manchester City Arsenal’s players, led by the outstanding (for more reasons than one) Francis Coquelin, formed a brief, triumphant huddle. Understandably so. For the first time since they were last champions themselves Arsenal had won away at the Premier League title-holders. More than this a team that so often against the best has appeared to have not steel but custard in its veins had produced a performance of unexpected discipline and even, in the shape of Coquelin, genuine snarl and snap.

And yet in a sense this was a tactical triumph for Arsène Wenger that will exasperate some supporters as much as it provides cause for optimism. It is no mystery why Arsenal have lost so often away from home against the better teams, with a central midfield that has so often been a soft-touch combination of the inappropriately skilled and the physically depleted, a team intent on coming to a knife fight armed with a baguette.

Related: Manuel Pellegrini: we can’t lose to Chelsea after defeat by Arsenal

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