There were "special circumstances", as Arsène Wenger acknowledged, but the ruthless manner in which Arsenal FC took advantage of their numerical superiority to win 3-0 at ten-man Manchester City FC yesterday left their manager declaring they had passed a significant test.
Arsenal have suffered for a lack of resilience in the past against their direct rivals, including this month's defeat at Chelsea FC. They had taken just two points from their previous nine outings against the other three clubs currently sited in the Premier League's top four positions – leaders Chelsea, Manchester United FC and City.
Yet, fresh from their 5-1 defeat of FC Shakhtar Dontesk in the UEFA Champions League, Arsenal seized the opportunity afforded them by Dedryck Boyata's fifth-minute red card for a foul on Marouane Chamakh. They achieved not just a first Premier League clean sheet on their travels since January but, moreover, a handsome victory that lifted them to second in the table.
"For us it was important to get a win in a big place to strengthen belief in our squad and continue our march forward," said Wenger, who praised the maturity of his team who regained their composure after an "electric" first half in which they had four players booked in front of an aggrieved City of Manchester Stadium crowd. "Overall I am very pleased because we look like we have matured – that means not getting a red card today, that means keeping the ball well, being patient when it was needed."
Given Arsenal's ability to outpass opponents, City could not have picked a worse opponent to concede a numerical advantage to and so it proved as the Londoners took a 20th-minute lead through Samir Nasri. Arsenal missed the chance to double their lead when Cesc Fàbregas failed to beat Joe Hart from the penalty spot but they followed their manager's half-time orders to avoid just sitting on their lead and killed off Roberto Mancini's City with Alexandre Song's 66th-minute drive and substitute Nicklas Bendtner's late third, following a pass by Nasri.
Wenger singled out for praise the "more efficient" Nasri, who now has seven goals this term – two more than the French international managed in the whole of last season. "You judge a player on what he does with the numbers and today he had a goal and an assist," said Wenger. "He is quite a complete player because he can run with the ball, he is very quick and is a clinical finisher."
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