Belfast Telegraph

Arsene Wenger does big title favour for Jose Mourinho

By Steven Beacom

Finally the monkey is off Arsenal's back. They didn't just push it away, they flung it out of sight with a wonderfully assured victory at Manchester City.

Beating the champions on their own patch was a sensational result for the Gunners.

Great for Chelsea too.

Arsenal aren't going to win the Premier League this season - they are too far off the pace for that - but at the Ethiad yesterday their outstanding performance had a major impact on the title race.

After Chelsea's fistful of goals at Swansea on Saturday, City needed a win to stay in touch with the leaders.

They couldn't even register a point, soundly beaten 2-0 by an expertly organised Arsenal side who outgunned them in every department.

It means City will go to Stamford Bridge on the last night of the month FIVE points behind Chelsea.

Jose Mourinho won't say it, but he will know come January 31, his side could virtually seal the title there and then.

Manuel Pellegrini's men may have come from behind to overhaul Liverpool in last season's race, but if the current Chelsea side move EIGHT points clear, there will be no bouncing back from that.

Wenger has done his old nemesis a massive favour.

Not that the Frenchman will concern himself with that or expect to receive a tasty bottle of red from the Special One as a measure of appreciation.

For Arsene this was all about Arsenal ending their dreadful run of form against big teams, which has become embarrassing in recent years, and the confidence to be gained from the outcome.

Too often recently Arsenal have been ripped apart in fixtures like this. Last season for instance City hammered them 6-3.

Defensively the Gunners looked a mess then.

At the back yesterday, and indeed all over the pitch, the visitors were magnificent.

They kept their shape and discipline to keep City at bay showing another side to their game that many felt wasn't there.

Usually much too open versus fellow big clubs, tactically Wenger closed ranks yesterday and look at the result.

The way they achieved it with just 35% possession in Manchester will provide great satisfaction for their supporters, who had feared these matches had become too much for their boss and team.

Negating the threat of Sergio Aguero and David Silva was key.

City, on the other hand, desperately missing Yaya Toure, could not cope with the class and commitment of Santi Cazorla. He was majestic from start to finish, scoring a well taken penalty in the first half and providing the free-kick delivery for Olivier Giroud to clinch the victory after the break. City's defence, led by underperforming skipper Vincent Kompany, were caught napping on both occasions.

They'll have to wake up by the time they face Chelsea.

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