Roberto Mancini made sweeping changes to the side that lost at the Santiago Bernabeu, while Arsene Wenger made just two adjustments to his rather settled starting XI.
This was a battle between two teams who love to handle the football excessively, so it was always going to be interesting to see how one of them fared when faced with long spells without it.
In the first half, City lined up in a loose 4-4-1-1, while Arsenal went with a strange looking 4-3-3.
The Gunners were clearly set up to control and they did so throughout—finishing up with 59 percent possession at the Etihad stadium is a feat not many achieve.
Wenger continues to surprise us with his unorthodox lineups, and this side looked like a mix between a lop-sided 4-4-2 and a midfield diamond. The red presence on the diagram in the centre of the park signifies why Arsenal managed such a level of control.
It's not just Wenger who's trying things, it's Mancini too. This 4-4-1-1 was ineffectual to say the least, and Sergio Aguero's role was particularly bizarre.
Note on the diagram the Argentine's role, sitting behind Edin Dzeko, but oddly straying towards the left for the entirety of the first half.
What is this role? Talk about a waste of talent. Dzeko only made seven successful passes in the first half, and received just 11 from his team mates. The link-up play simply wasn't there.
These passing statistics, Aguero's positioning and the defensive nature of Yaya Toure and Javi Garcia all contributed to City's poor first half display.
Aguero is a fine natural striker. He's brilliant at running the channels and lethal in the 18-yard box. Why his role was limited to play off Dzeko in the wide areas I'm not sure, but it had little to no effect on Arsenal's back line.
New-breed anchor midfielder
The idea of a holding midfielder who is built on passing skill rather than muscle is fast-emerging. Mikel Arteta is the perfect example of this, and his unflappable nature means he performs day in, day out whatever the occasion.
Many players come to Etihad stadium and freak out. Their passing goes astray, they panic on the ball. Not Arteta—he is class.
Having the ominous Abou Diaby, the magical Santi Cazorla and two adventurous full-backs as passing outlets help, but you don't achieve the completion rate shown in the diagram if you're devoid of talent.
Arsenal completed 561 passes in comparison to City's 342, and the Arteta-Cazorla passing relationship was particularly fruitful and difficult to deal with.
The space in City's formation during the first half killed them, and for the fourth time this season they relied almost solely on Toure to drag the team up the pitch.
Mancini adapted the formation in the second half and switched to a more orthodox 4-2-3-1, but player roles were unclear and served only to confuse further. Aguero was more effective in a central winger role, but the Gunners still dominated.
With Arsenal's current philosophy and as long as Cazorla, Diaby and Arteta stay fit, they're a threat to anyone. They've ramped it up yet again this season and have options on the bench.
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