Manchester City 6 Arsenal 3 match report: Magnificent City run riot to stun leaders

Arsenal are hit for six in classic style as Pelligrini’s men dominate with five different scorers to serve notice that the title is still up for grabs

Etihad Stadium

The scoreline tells only half the story of the game of the season and of how it telegraphed to the rest of the Premier League what an incredible force this Manchester City team are.

The really breathtaking part was the way that Manuel Pellegrini’s side came at Arsenal again and again, grinding them down to the very end, and to hell with consequences. Someone said that the last time the team played like this was in 2001, when Kevin Keegan was manager, though that would be to forget the all-round power and invention of this team.

FOLLOW ALL OF SUNDAY'S NEWS AND UPDATES HERE

A paradigm of the afternoon’s performance was the display of James Milner, who has become an symbol of drab, unambitious football in recent years, yet who arrived as a substitute here and went at Arsenal just as he did against Bayern Munich four days ago. His football has been elevated by Pellegrini, and the joke here yesterday was that he is “Milnerino”. Though Arsenal showed City’s defence is breachable, good luck to any who seek to score more than City do.

The complaints of Arsène Wenger, whose record in the city of Manchester now reads one victory from 17 fixtures, felt very lame last night. Offsides, handballs, tiredness, opportunities lost: it was vintage Wenger. The Arsenal manager had been determined that there would no repeat of the stasis which beset his team in defeat at Old Trafford five weeks ago, but it was still there.

Yes, Arsenal had only enjoyed a solitary day’s warm-down after the midweek exertions in Naples, while City looked freshened by eight changes from the team who beat the European champions, Bayern Munich. But none of that makes a material difference to the complexion of the Premier League table today. What matters is that City made a huge statement of intent, with Yaya Touré, Fernandinho, David Silva and Samir Nasri providing a level of creativity Arsenal could not touch.

To acclaim the combination of silk and steel in Touré’s football is not original, but it has to be restated here. He is the most complete midfield player in the Premier League by a considerable distance. In one 15-minute first-half period alone he made Aaron Ramsey aware of his thundering presence by dispossessing him on the touchline, then executed an intricate flick with the outside of his boot to send Silva off on one of his myriad runs.

Arsenal were not helped by the positional failings of Nacho Monreal, who was at fault for both City’s first- half goals, and by Bacary Sagna’s calamitous pass which allowed the home side a third. But Wenger’s justifiably celebrated midfield were not able to make the same impact as their opposite numbers, nor match the same deadly quality of pass.

Fernandinho led the way in a man-of-the-match performance Fernandinho led the way in a man-of-the-match performance  

Sergio Aguero’s sublime volley put them behind after Monreal’s failure to track Martin Dimichelis’s 20-yard cross-field ball proved crucial, as the Argentinian flicked on Nasri’s corner into Aguero’s line of fire. There were brief incursions into home territory from Mathieu Flamini but passes were misplaced, players outpowered and there was no attacking width. Sagna is capable of delivering a beautiful cross, but the first one of any danger, headed narrowly wide by Olivier Giroud, came an hour into the match.

The Mesut Özil threat flickered intermittently, but there was no getting the ball through to him. Arsenal had barely threatened before Ramsey pounced on a rare Touré moment of indecision and did manage to feed Ozil, who levelled for Theo Walcott to place a shot deflected in by Dimchelis’s attempted diving header on the half-hour.

But City eased back ahead, Touré atoning for his mistake by delivering a gorgeous 20-yard crossfield pass for Pablo Zabaleta, whose supply was turned straight in by Alvaro Negredo. Sagna’s moment of ignominy – a pass across his own area which Flamini could not seize – allowed Fernandinho to pounce and curl in his first City goal. It was well worth the four-month wait.

Walcott responded with something of equal merit, arcing a shot from inside the area over Costel Pantilimon’s 6ft 7in frame. Joe Hart enthusiasts had their knives out in that moment, though a shot which defied the laws of physics is not one Pantilimon could take serious blame for.

The debate about this being the game of the season was spent by the time Fernandinho played in Navas for City’s fourth. Then Nasri – whose final 20 minutes were another tour de force – stole the ball from Wilshere and supplied a return pass to Fernandinho, allowing the Brazilian to cut inside Per Mertesacker for City’s fifth.

Arsenal showed some resilience,  and substitute Nicklas Bendtner’s goal was wrongly ruled offside just before Sagna crossed for Mertesacker to head in Arsenal’s third. But Milner, skipping around Wojciech Szczesny, drew the penalty which Touré converted for City’s sixth.

 Vincent Kompany, poised and aggressive, was massively influential throughout. His languid feint past Ramsey in the first half was just one of his vignettes. He is another player lifted to new levels by Pellegrini.

Jack Wilshere’s finger gesture threatened to dominate the post-match narrative, though in the scheme of things it is an insignificance. The story is City’s. They have amassed 16 goals in thumping Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. It is not even the season’s halfway mark, but we can say with impunity that they will take some stopping.

Line-ups:

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy; Fernandinho, Touré; Silva (Milner, 71), Aguero (Navas, 49), Nasri Garcia, 90); Negredo.

Arsenal (4-4-1-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny (Vermaelen, 42), Monreal; Ramsey, Flamini (Gnabry, 72), Wishere, Walcott; Özil; Giroud (Bendtner, 76).

Referee: Martin Atkinson.

Man of the match: Fernandinho (Manchester City)

Match rating: 9/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'