Two fine goals and an assist for Kevin De Bruyne inspired Manchester City to a 3-0 win over a woeful Arsenal in the Premier League on Super Sunday.
The Manchester City of old turned up in the first half, racing into a 3-0 lead before the break, largely down to a De Bruyne masterclass. He put City ahead with a brilliantly controlled rebounded half volley (2), before squaring for Raheem Sterling to double their lead (15).
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De Bruyne made it three with a low curling effort from 20 yards (40), then saw another bending long-range shot hit the post via Bernd Leno's superb stop.
It was another of those days for Arsenal, who looked overawed throughout, while Mesut Ozil took criticism from the home fans as he walked slowly off the pitch when substituted at 3-0, prompting him to kick away his gloves in frustration.
The result leaves Manchester City 14 points behind leaders Liverpool, but now four points from Leicester after their slip against Norwich on Saturday, while Arsenal sit ninth, seven points off the top four.
How Arsenal fell to The De Bruyne Show
In their last home match before Christmas, Arsenal were carved open with ease and conceded from Manchester City's first two attacks.
Arsenal made two changes from the win at West Ham as the injured Xhaka and Tierney dropped out, replaced by Kolasinac and Guendouzi.
Phil Foden made his first Premier League of the season for City, with David Silva out injured. Bernardo, Angelino and the injured Stones were also replaced by Mendy, Gundogan and Otamendi.
Gabriel Martinelli nearly put the Gunners ahead in the first minute, piling into the box and seeing Ederson save from a tight angle on the left of the box, but just moments later the atmosphere in the Emirates was flattened by a stunning De Bruyne strike.
Gabriel Jesus' cross-shot from the left of the box was parried away by Leno, falling to De Bruyne on the edge of the box, and though it came to him fast and slightly off the ground, De Bruyne controlled his half volley beautifully, powering into the net with Leno rooted.
And it was 2-0 within 15 minutes as City moved through Arsenal's lines with ease. Phil Foden found De Bruyne, who showed fine strength to travel 40 yards into the box and square for Sterling from the left, and the England man finished with ease into the empty net from close range.
The De Bruyne show continued as he made it three just before the break, collecting Foden's pass and curling left-footed into the bottom left corner from 20 yards as Arsenal stood off the brilliant Belgian. He could have had a first-half hat-trick if it weren't for Leno, who superbly fingertipped De Bruyne's curling effort from 25 yards onto the post.
Arsenal had 10 men for the third goal, with Sead Kolasinac injured and Bukayo Saka not ready to come on, with interim boss Freddie Ljungberg explaining after the game: "That's something we need to learn, to get ready quicker, but also when you are injured, you need to stay down until players are ready, so we can get ready."
It was an all-too-familiar sight for Arsenal fans as their defence fell apart again, prompting jeers from the home fans at half-time.
Things didn't get much better for the hosts after the break. Ozil was brought off before the hour mark, trudging off the pitch too slowly for Arsenal fans' liking, and they reacted in frustration at the German before he reacted by kicking his gloves away.
Ljungberg explained that he made the substitution to bring more energy to the team, saying: "You should be annoyed when you come off, but I'm the coach and take the decision that I want more energy in the team. We want possession, but sometimes we want to run, tackle and win the ball back."
Jesus nearly made it four, pouncing on Calum Chambers' mistake to find himself one-on-one with Leno, but the Arsenal stopper pulled off a good block to keep the score down.
The Emirates was half empty even with 10 minutes remaining, epitomising the apathetic mood in these parts at present, but for the champions this was a much-needed confidence boost as they look to chase down a seemingly impossible 14-point chasm between themselves and Liverpool.
What the managers said...
Arsenal boss Freddie Ljungberg: "I've said to the club, it's a great, great honour to do this. But of course, Per [Mertesacker] is an academy manager, and is doing two jobs at once. I think it needs to be cleared up to make a decision, so everybody knows, but that's up to the club.
"I'm very honoured, and try to do things as good as I can, but I think as well it would be good to make a decision, regardless of what it is."
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City boss Pep Guardiola: "We played much better against United. And we had more chances than today.
"Kevin is an extraordinary player. He sees passes and actions that normally human beings cannot see. He has a special vision.
"'You have to score more goals, you have to score more goals!' We speak about that with him always. But today he scored two incredible goals and made an assist."
What the pundits said...
Jamie Carragher on Super Sunday: "From Arsenal's point of view, it's so bad. Every time I watch them play, every time the ball comes in on the attack they just drop off. Remember the Norwich goal where [Shkodran] Mustafi and [David] Luiz let [Teemu] Pukki get it and turn?
"It's something that needs to change on the training ground. Keep the line and press. I said on commentary about it. They drop off when they should press, they press when they should drop off. It's like they don't know what they're doing.
"But Kevin De Bruyne is the best in the world at the offensive midfield player, inside right. I don't think there's anyone better, I look at him and think the way we're going to be speaking about David Silva between now and the end of the season about being one of the Premier League's best imports, we're going to be speaking about De Bruyne like that whenever he leaves.
"He's a cut above anyone in the Premier League or Europe in that position."
Woeful Arsenal - The stats
- Arsenal have lost their last five Premier League meetings with Manchester City - their longest losing streak against an opponent in the top flight since losing five against Manchester United between September 1983 and August 1985.
- Arsenal have gone six games without a win at the Emirates across all competitions (D3 L3); their longest run without a home win since between December 1994 and February 1995 under George Graham (eight games).
- Arsenal conceded three first-half goals in a Premier League home game for only the second time, with the other also coming against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City side in March 2018.
- Arsenal managed just one shot on target against Manchester City - their joint-fewest in a Premier League game at the Emirates Stadium (also one vs Everton in 2010, Chelsea in 2015 and 2016).
Arsenal last fixture before Christmas is a trip to Everton on Saturday in the Premier League at 12.30pm, while Manchester City go to Oxford in the Carabao Cup quarter-final on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports Football at 7.45pm, before hosting Leicester on Saturday Night Football, live on Sky Sports Premier League at 5.30pm.