Manchester City vs Arsenal: Arsene Wenger hails 'fantastic' Santi Cazorla after midfielder orchestrates determined Gunners victory

Manchester City 0 Arsenal 2: Cazorla scored a first-half penalty before his free-lick allowed Olivier Giroud to head in and secure the win

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The Independent Football

Santi Cazorla was hailed as "fantastic" and "outstanding" after inspiring Arsenal to a superb 2-0 victory at Manchester City.

The Spaniard struck a first-half penalty and then delivered the free-kick for Olivier Giroud to head the Gunners' 67th-minute second in a win that significantly boosted their Barclays Premier League top-four hopes.

Arsenal successfully nullified the threat of title-chasing City, who struggled to create meaningful opportunities, and looked much more incisive with playmaker Cazorla at the heart of all their good work.


Manager Arsene Wenger said: "Since Cazorla plays central - he played a lot wide - now he is at a level of his career where he can have more influence.

"He is fantastic because he gets you out of pressure in very tight situations and finds openings that are interesting. He shows you as well how important it is to be two-footed in the middle of the park. Left and right-footed, I think it is a vital quality for a midfielder today."

Cazorla was the standout player at the Etihad

Cazorla's performance was also one that caught the eye of Arsenal's record goalscorer Thierry Henry.

Henry, working as a pundit for Sky Sports, said: "He controlled that midfield. To come and play the way he did here at the Etihad Stadium was outstanding.

"What a player. I said before the game that people were focusing on (Alexis) Sanchez but at the moment, Cazorla is the guy that makes the team tick."

Arsenal's win was their first against a team that finished in the previous season's top four since October 2011. It also lifted them within a point of fourth-placed Manchester United.

But while they can look up with renewed confidence, second-placed City might feel a bit more anxious about their position.

The champions had wiped out an eight-point deficit to pull level with Chelsea at the top of the table but a failure to win in their last two outings has left them five points adrift again.

The pressure is now on with a crucial trip to Stamford Bridge to face their title rivals in a fortnight's time.

Manager Manuel Pellegrini said: "The game we must play at Stamford Bridge is a very important game. We must close the gap to two points.

"I hope we are going to recover and play the way we have been playing so far."

City failed to spark despite the return of Sergio Aguero to their starting line-up. Aside from a brief spell early in the second half when Aguero and Jesus Navas went close, the Arsenal back line was rarely extended.

Pellegrini said: "With the ball we didn't have clear ideas, I think we didn't play a good game.

"We ran a lot and had a lot of possession but we didn't have creative ideas to try and find the space against a team that defend very well."

Sanchez and Giroud celebrate with Cazorla after he scores a penalty

Pellegrini was unhappy with the award of Arsenal's penalty, after Vincent Kompany was adjudged to have impeded Nacho Monreal, but did not make excuses.

He said: "I doubt it was a penalty but after the penalty we had enough time and we didn't create many chances to score."

City will now hope to regroup during a week's warm-weather training camp in Abu Dhabi before facing Middlesbrough in the FA Cup next Saturday.

Kompany tweeted: "Not the result we hoped for. Fair play to the gunners. We'll be fighting back, as we always do. Motivation is sky high."