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Transfer Rater: Ramsey to Bayern Munich

Football Whispers
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Transfer Rater: Malcom to Arsenal, Mata to Juve

Football Whispers
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Transfer Rater: Mata to Arsenal, Foden to Juve

Football Whispers
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 By John Cross

Wenger's nous, Cazorla's flair and Coquelin's steel give Arsenal belief

Surely you knew they had that in them, didn't you?

Well, maybe not. As Sunday's remarkable result still takes its time to settle in, it has become more about the nature of Arsenal's performance at the Etihad than the result itself.

Arsene Wenger sent his players out with a plan to be disciplined and strong. In turn, they produced a near-perfect display that saw Arsenal beat reigning champions Manchester City 2-0.

Wenger's whole philosophy means that, generally, he is reluctant to send out a team to frustrate the opposition. He is far happier when his team try to go toe-to-toe and outplay the opponent.

That's what led to last season's away-day thumpings at Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Everton. They couldn't match them and ended up getting thrashed.

This time, Arsenal set up to frustrate, hit City on the break and executed a tactical master plan that Wenger had drawn up to perfection.

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In the post-match interviews, Wenger looked somewhere between smug and offended. Smug because of the result. Offended that interviewer after interviewer seemed shocked that Arsenal could play that way and, more pertinently, that Wenger knows how to defend.

This victory seems more than just three points because it has given Arsenal fans such a lift and the players a huge boost in confidence that they can win against one of their top-four rivals.

Arsenal have been so inconsistent this season, and yet, here, at the Etihad, they produced a brilliant, stirring victory that gives them hope of pushing for the top four again, especially as defeat would have left them six points behind Southampton in third place.

Wenger needed the win, and duly delivered. No one deserves more credit than Santi Cazorla, who was easily the best player on the pitch and typified the Arsenal win and performance.

Cazorla is a rare breed. He is a player of great natural skill and talent who has a work rate to match. This season, that's what we've been saying about Alexis Sanchez. Now all the praise should go Cazorla's way.

Last summer, I think Cazorla could have gone if the right offer had come in. He wasn't great last season, and a few began to wonder if his best was behind him.

Santi Cazorla's performance Sunday against Manchester City perfectly embodied Arsenal's winning personality.

In these past few months, as Arsenal have nursed injury after injury, he has really taken on the responsibility of being the main man.

Cazorla has been in superb form in central midfield, driving forward and always mixing effort and work rate with lovely skill. Yesterday, the Spaniard scored from the penalty spot and provided the free kick for Olivier Giroud to head in the second.

But it wasn't just that. It was about Cazorla dribbling from deep in his own half, beating three or four players and then diving headfirst to block the ball being sent back to danger.

He was out of this world. It was one of the best individual performances for some time to match one of Arsenal's best away days for a long, long while.

The other sight to behold was Francis Coquelin, the 23-year-old midfielder who has come back from loan at Charlton to just about save his career.

As Wenger looks for a new defensive midfielder, Coquelin may just be the answer he was looking for all along. I'm not suggesting he doesn't sign a player or we make a judgement on the basis of one victory, but Coquelin is proving that he deserves another contract.

The Frenchman will be a free agent this summer, yet there would be no shortage of suitors after his performance at City as he sat in front of the back four, dictated play, ordered teammates about and had a wonderfully disciplined game.

In those two players, Wenger had a snapshot of the game: a mix of defensive steel coupled with flair and work rate. That's how Arsenal won the game.

They will need to keep doing that for the rest of the season if they are to finish in the top four, as there is so much competition for third and fourth with Southampton, Manchester United and Tottenham vying with Arsenal for the remaining places.

Let's not get too carried away. It was one win, a big one, but still one win. But it does give confidence, belief and evidence that Wenger can play a different way.

Contrast the City win against the win over Stoke when Arsenal's passing game was at its best with pace and movement from Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Cazorla.

Arsenal made just two changes -- one was enforced, as Hector Bellerin replaced the injured Mathieu Debuchy -- from the Stoke game. Aaron Ramsey came in for Tomas Rosicky. But the performance against City couldn't have been any more different.

It proves that Arsenal and Wenger have a Plan B. And maybe, just maybe, even the most ardent anti-Wenger Arsenal fan may give him some credit.

John Cross is a reporter for the Daily Mirror. He regularly covers Arsenal and has done throughout Arsene Wenger's reign. Twitter: @johncrossmirror.

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