Manchester City breeze past Arsenal to remind the Premier League they are title favourites for good reason

Manchester City 3 Arsenal 1: Arsene Wenger was determined for his side to avoid a mauling but City were superior from the outset and fully deserved their win

Mark Critchley
Etihad Stadium
Sunday 05 November 2017 17:18

A half-century of goals before Bonfire Night's first firework. A 3-1 scoreline hardly qualifies as high-scoring at the Etihad any longer and this was not the type of emphatic victory that Manchester City have treated their home supporters to in recent months, but it was a reminder to Arsenal and the rest of the chasing pack that Pep Guardiola's side are the Premier League favourites for good reason.

Arsene Wenger's side came here determined not to suffer the maulings they have often suffered at the hands of other Premier League clubs and their performance, though poor, was not quite as abject as those past, but City's superiority was clear from the first whistle.

Kevin de Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus scored either side of a Sergio Aguero penalty to secure the three points, with Arsenal only momentarily threatening when Alexandre Lacazette pulled one back against the run of play.

Arsenal began in a tight, restrictive shape off the ball and made a purposeful start, but even so, City had the better of the opening chances. Barely a minute had passed on the clock before Sergio Aguero was handed an opportunity to add to his 178 goals for the club. City's newly-crowned all-time leading scorer was slipped in by De Bruyne after the game's first rapid counter only to fire well over.

Sterling, a prolific scorer himself in recent times, spurned a far simpler chance shortly after, failing to get a toe to Leroy Sané's cut-back across the face of the Arsenal goal. The Etihad groaned but, given the ease with which Guardiola's players were now cutting through the visitors, it also sensed that the breakthrough was only around the corner.

It came after a prolonged, attritional City spell in opposition territory, as Arsenal tried and failed again and again to clear their lines.

De Bruyne opened the scoring

Petr Cech parried one De Bruyne pot-shot unconvincingly, allowing the loose ball to be worked back towards the Belgian. This time, his attempt at goal was more considered, with the shot driven low into the corner after a neat one-two with Fernandinho. It was City's 50th goal of this young season already.

Wenger now needed to chase the game but the early promise his side had shown in attack had evaporated. This may well go down in memory as Alexis Sanchez's first appearance for Manchester City, so wasteful was his use of the ball. Arsenal's reactive set-up did not help the Chilean, subject of two bids by City in the summer, but his lethargic movement and tendency to drift into useless positions suggested he was utterly uninterested.

Sterling wasted a second glorious City opportunity just after the half-hour mark when his woeful pass failed to find Sané after yet another ruthless counter up field. The hosts were particularly enjoying their afternoon against Francis Coquelin. Almost three years on from his breakthrough display on this ground, the Arsenal midfielder made his first start of the league season in a unfamiliar centre-half role and did not look comfortable until taken off in the second half.

Sergio Aguero added to his now record goalscoring tally

By that point, City had doubled their lead. Nacho Monreal was penalised and cautioned for barging Sterling in the box and Aguero converted the spot-kick, the ball rebounding in off Cech's left-hand post. 179 and counting.

Wenger turned to Lacazette and he in turn took advantage of a moment of slack defending by the hosts. It is, if anything, their one remaining weakness – a clumsiness and a tendency to switch off after long spells of domination. Nicolas Otamendi was the culprit this time, with the Argentine allowing Lacazette to drift in behind the backline unsighted and finish through the legs of Ederson.

Any hope of a tight contest was snuffed out nine minutes later, however, with Aguero's replacement Jesus restoring City's two-goal advantage. David Silva received the ball in an offside position but was not flagged and, while every Arsenal defender took a few moments to protest, he squared for his Brazilian team-mate to tap in. The goal would stand.

The Etihad ended the afternoon by greeting every completed City pass with an 'olé', their players in complete control of proceedings and perhaps also the Premier League title race.

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