MAN CITY 4, ARSENAL 1
Surely Manchester City will be crowned Premier League champions for a third year in a row after their comprehensive victory against Arsenal in what was described as a title decider.
City are now only two points behind the faltering Gunners having played two fewer matches as the Londoners’ capitulation continued – it is just three points from a possible 12.
Pep Guardiola’s side, by contrast, is on its customary end-of-season charge in pursuit of silverware. They have won 14 times and drawn three from 17 games in all competitions since their last loss which was in the league at Tottenham on February 5.
They were in total control in this one-sided contest as Kevin De Bruyne scored twice and provided one assist as he produced an imperious performance.
There were also goals from John Stones and Erling Haaland, his 49th of an incredible debut season and after he had earlier contributed two fabulous assists.
It was also Haaland’s 33rd league goal, the most in a 38-game campaign as he eclipsed Mohamed Salah’s previous best of 32.Embed from Getty Images
“The important thing is that destiny is in our own hands whereas before today I would have preferred to have been in Arsenal’s,” explained Guardiola.
“We are arriving at the end of the season and it is about performance and depends on what we do in the last seven games.
“It was a really good performance and congratulations to all the players and staff. We played very well from start to finish, but they are still top of the league.
“We are two points behind with two games in hand and while not decisive it was important to beat our rivals.
“The next three games will dictate a lot, away to Fulham who have come from the Championship and done amazingly, and then two at home (West Ham and Leeds).
“We feel comfortable at home with the crowd and the next three games will be really important.”
Stones said: “I wouldn’t say total control. We have to give them respect and credit.
“We didn’t play the football we normally do. We had man-to-man pressure and it was very difficult to play our usual passes. The desire and how clinical we were, we could have had a few more. I’m made up with the three points.”
On whether their experience gives them an edge, Stones added: “We’ve been through tough moments and situations. It’s done us so well. We know how to cope in certain scenarios.
“Everyone has been there and has that hunger. Days like today with a lot of pressure on the outside, we know our jobs and it’s about us going out there and doing it. Those situations help in big pressure moments.”
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said: “We have to accept they were the better side and deserved to win. We have to be humble, and we have to be better.
“Credit to this team and what they have achieved in the last nine and a half months. It was predicted we would finish sixth or seventh but where we find ourselves with five games to go.
“We played against an exceptional team, but we are also an exceptional team, but we were not at the races today. They were more aggressive and won all their duels.”
City also continued their remarkable record against Arsenal as this was a 12th straight league win, their longest run against an opponent in their league history.
Guardiola has also not lost to Arsenal in 14 Premier League games while Arteta has now lost all seven league games against City.
Arsenal are the first side to go four consecutive Premier League games winless (D3 L1) while starting the day top for each match since Arsenal themselves in March 2008, drawing four in a row in a season they went on to finish 3rd at the end of the campaign.
The Gunners are also the first side to concede two or more goals in four consecutive top-flight matches in which they started the day top for each match since Manchester United in December 1966.
Riyad Mahrez, who scored a hat-trick in the FA Cup semi-final win over Sheffield United, dropped to the bench as Guardiola makes five changes to the side that started at Wembley.
Ederson, Ruben Dias, Stones, Rodri and De Bruyne all returned.
As well as Mahrez, Stefan Ortega, Aymeric Laporte, Sergio Gomez and Julian Alvarez also reverted to the bench.
One change from the Arsenal side that started the 3-3 draw with Southampton last Friday.
Granit Xhaka was back for Fabio Vieira, who is on the bench.
The Gunners have the best away record in the Premier League after taking 36 points from a possible 48 on the road.
But that was put under threat when City made a seventh-minute breakthrough on the counterattack after the Gunners pinned the hosts back.
Stones launched the ball forward and Haaland’s delicate touch released De Bruyne who burst forward from halfway and curled a low shot from 20 yards wide of Aaron Ramsdale’s outstretched left hand for his eighth goal of the season.
The same pair linked up again in the 26th minute as Haaland again sent De Bruyne scurrying clear only this time for Ben White to get back with a vital block.
That was followed by Haaland bursting through on goal only to be denied by Ramsdale’s full-length diving save.
And the Norwegian was soon thwarted by Ramsdale for a second time as the keeper beat out his angled effort.
Arsenal finally created their first goal attempt in the 35th minute as Thomas Partey curled an effort narrowly wide from the edge of the box.
Haaland was in electrifying form as he charged forward again and crashed a shot just past the upright and then was denied by Ramsdale’s legs as City pressed for a second goal and take a tighter grip on the game.
There was drama in stoppage time when City finally doubled their lead.
Stones headed home De Bruyne’s free kick at the far post, but the assistant’s flag was raised for offside to the disbelief of the defender.
However, a VAR check overturned the decision by proving Stones had not strayed offside so belated celebrations could begin.
There was also controversy in the corner when Ruben Dias kicked out at White and referee Michael Oliver only produced a yellow card and VAR did not intervene.
The second half followed a similar one to the first with City on top.
Haaland was sent clear only for Ramsdale to pull off another big save.
It was only a temporary reprieve as moments later City finally got the third goal their play deserved.
Haaland this time turned provider for a second time as he slipped a pass to his left to release De Bruyne who slotted home a low shot for his ninth of the campaign.
City made their first change in the 71st minute as Ilkay Gundogan made way for Mahrez soon followed by Alvarez for De Bruyne.
Arsenal scored a consolation with four minutes left as Holding remained upfield for a corner which was recycled, and the ball squared for him to slot home from 12 yards.
City made a third change when Grealish was replaced by Phil Foden.
Haaland put the topping on the cake with City’s fourth in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time.
Foden provided the assist as he slipped a sideways pass for Haaland to sweep home his 49th goal of the season.