MANCHESTER CITY 6, ARSENAL 3
Manchester City extended their 100% win record in the league at Fortress Etihad to eight games having scored 35 goals in total at well over four goals a game with another unstoppable performance as they demolished an Arsenal side who went home having scored three goals but still feeling that they had been destroyed by City who closed the gap with the league leaders to just three points.
City already had the luxury of an extra day’s rest and having played a second string side against Bayern Munich on Tuesday, they kept only David Silva and Fernandinho from the side that shocked the European Champions in their own back yard, the pre-match pundits were predicting goals and City didn’t disappoint.
Manchester United shipped four goals, Spurs were hit for six and now Arsenal have been sent packing from the Etihad with a six goals in the against column. Only Hull City managed to escape the Etihad having conceded fewer than three goals this season.
Goals by Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo, David Silva, Yaya Toure and Fernandinho’s first two goals for City sealed Arsenal’s fate despite slack defending allowing the Gunners to score three consolation goals.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini could afford to laugh at himself when he admitted that today’s performance was more complete than the historic win in Munich because they had scored four today. It was a reference to the fact that the Chilean had apparently not realised that City could have topped their Champions League group in Munich if they had scored four goals to finish top of the group against Bayern having come from 2-0 down to a winning 3-2 position last Wednesday.
Pellegrini said: “It’s not easy to score six goals against Arsenal, the best defence of the Barclays Premier League.
“We had at least four or five clear chances to score more goals.
“I don’t think this was our most complete performance of the season because Arsenal scored three goals. I think that’s too much for the amounnt of chances they had.
Pellegrini denied that City were title was theirs to lose on the basis of just eight home games so far and demanded improvement. He said: “We are not thinking of title at the moment. We have a lot more points to fight for with six or seven other teams.
“We must continue improving and finding a style of football that suits us.”
Pellegrini poured praise on City’s midfield for their dominant performance today especially Fernandinho, who scored twice today, and has been an unsung hero for City this season.
He said: “Fernandinho played a perfect game. He scored two goals, he recovered a lot of balls throughout the game. He deserves a lot because he’s a top player. Also Yaya Toure but don’t forget Silva and Nasri. It’s very difficult to play against the four we have in midfield. With those players and the way we play the strikers can score a lot of goals because they have a lot of chances.
“When we bought Fernandinho we were sure we were buying a top player. I saw him play a lot of games for Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League. He’s a typical Brazilian midfielder. They play very well and have a lot of pace. He’s doing a lot of good work with Yaya Toure and the other midfielders.”
Pellegrini admitted that his favourite of goal of a day raining with goals was Fernandinho’s second one.
He said: “For me its very important to be an entertaining team, it’s even better if we score six and don’t concede goals.
“Other managers might prefer to score one goal and sit back in counter attack – our philosphy is to continue trying to score more goals because the best way to win is to play well and score more goals.
“We can improve. The whole team must defend well. I’ll see the game again tomorrow but I don’t remember so many chances for Arsenal to score more goals. They scored three. They had only one clear chance in the second half and no more. The first goal they scored was from a mistake in our build up. The third was from a corner when we were 5-2. If I review what we did I think we had at least four to six chances more.
“Every time you beat an important team it’s a big result but we must continue to try and win away and have more points than Arsenal because they still have three more points than us.”
With the Champions League round of 16 draw made on Monday, Pellegrini admitted that any team would be a challenge, he said: “There are no easy teams in the round of 16. They are all big teams, especially the Spanish ones. Manchester City won’t be scared but every match will be a challenge.”
City were given the freedom of the Etihad in the opening quarter of an hour and duly scored the first goal in an all action encounter against league leaders Arsenal. The Gunners arrived hoping to dent City’s formidable home league record at the Etihad but City didn’t capitalise on their early dominance until the 14th minute when they failed to defend Samir Nasri’s corner. The former Arsenal man sent in a training ground set piece which Martin Demichelis raced onto from deep and flicked the ball on nicely for Aguero who peeled away from his marker, Laurent Koscielny, to volley the opener from six yards out.
Costel Pantilimon, still in the side despite rumours that Joe Hart would replace him this week, spilled an Arsenal cross but recovered before Olivier Giroud could react shortly after Aguero’s goal.
Theo Walcott gave Arsenal a sniff at goal when his set piece cross on the half hour was parried away by Pantilimon and bounced nicely for Mesut Ozil but the German was too slow to react and Toure reacted first to clear the loose ball.
It was a warning that City didn’t heed though as the Gunners levelled the game a minute later when Toure gave the ball away in midfield. Arsenal wasted no time in getting it to Ozil wide on the left and he cut it back for Walcott whose shot went in past Toure, who was tracking back, and Demichelis leaving Pantilimon inexplicably rooted to the spot.
City worked hard to retake the lead however, and on 34 minutes Silva threaded another trademark pass through to Negredo who beat the offside trap and attempted to bend the ball around Wojciech Szczesny but saw his effort just drift wide.
The warning shot had been fired and Arsenal failed to heed another City attack, allowing Toure to sweep the ball to Pablo Zabaleta who had lost his marker Nacho Moreal. Zabaleta’s cross was just right for Negredo to gobble up at the near post with a sliding strike with Koscielny trailing in his wake. It was the Frenchman’s last action of the game as he was stretchered off with a deep cut and his left knee heavily bandaged and was replaced by Thomas Vermaelen.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had complained of their punishing schedule with the Gunners having to play at the Etihad on lunchtime Saturday after an away Wednesday game in the Champions League and perhaps fatigue had crept into the Arsenal performance with a poor clearance from his defence effectively handing the game to City in the 50th minute.
Fernandinho was gifted the ball by a loose Arsenal clearance to Mathieu Flamini got away from him leaving the Brazilian with the ball and in plenty of space so he picked his spot and curled the ball past Szczesny for 3-1.
To their credit, the Gunners never gave up. Olivier Giroud passed up three great chances to the amusement of nearby City fans while there was a penalty shout after a ball hit Pablo Zabaleta in the arm after bouncing off his thigh which was waved away by referee Martin Atkinson.
Walcott reduced the arrears once again in the 63rd minute when he received a lofted pass from Ramsay just in front of the defence and curled the ball past Pantilimon who was off his line.
At 3-2 with 25 minutes to go the scoreline suggested a game on the knife edge but City were far better than that and went on to sink the flagging Gunners with attacking verve.
Jesus Navas, on as a substitute for the injured Sergio Aguero, raced through the Gunners’ defence and picked out Silva in space between Vermaelen and Mertesacker in the 66th minute. The Spain international couldn’t miss from close range.
Pantilimon reminded everyone he was still there with a one handed save from Jack Wilshere’s drive but City only responded by stepping up a gear and pushing Arsenal onto the back foot and carving out chance after chance.
Navas hit the side netting when he could have crossed for an unmarked Negredo at the back post. Yaya Toure started surging forward unchecked from midfield and even Vincent Kompany had earlier taken a break from his defensive duties to find himself upfield having beaten several demoralised Arsenal men on his way. There was even time for two pieces of sublime skill from Negredo and Toure earlier in the game which would have provided Silva a goal worthy of plaudits if his shot hadn’t been blocked,
Fernandinho had another chance parried away by Szczesny before he finally got on the scoresheet again with two minutes to go after Wilshere lost the ball in midfield and the Brazilian exchanged passes with Nasri before beating Szczesny and seeing his shot go in off the post.
Arsenal sub Niclas Bentdner thought he had scored a consolation goal just before normal time was up which was ruled out for offside before Mertesacker’s diving header from Bacary Sagna’s injury time cross beat Pantilimon but City had the last word deeper into injury time when Szczesny upended substitute James Milner in the penalty area and Toure subsequently sent the Polish keeper the wrong way to finish off another goalfest at the Etihad.