Manchester City utterly dominated Arsenal to win 4-1 in Wednesday’s Premier League title showdown.
Mikel Arteta had spoken before the game of expecting a tactical surprise from Pep Guardiola, while planning his own. Alas, the Gunners’ tricks failed to appear as they were dazzled by Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne’s link-up play.
The Norwegian’s plot of dropping deep to open up space in behind for his captain to attack worked a treat, carving Arsenal open for a seventh-minute opener as De Bruyne slotted home a superb finish from outside the box.
Arsenal were without an answer at either end, failing to penetrate the hosts’ backline while looking flimsy against counter-attacks.
Arsenal’s three consecutive draws had swung the momentum back in Manchester City’s favour and the home crowd seemed to sense opportunity from the outset. Holding struggled to cope with Haaland throughout and it was critical to the opening goal.
The striker held off the centre-back and with Thomas Partey failing to track the run of De Bruyne beyond the back line, the Belgian had time to pick out the corner of the net. It looked easy. It was not. Amid the tension, De Bruyne had the coolest head of them all.
Kevin De Bruyne scored two and set up the other for John Stones with the irrepressible Erling Haaland, who assisted both of De Bruyne’s goals, finally getting the goal that his performance deserved by adding the fourth in stoppage time.
Rob Holding had scored late on for Arsenal but the gap is down to two points and, crucially, City still have two games in hand. Talk of the treble will only increase now. For Arsenal, their first defeat since February is also their fourth game without a win. Hopes are fading.