Arsenal’s hopes of claiming a first Premier League title since 2003/04 suffered a huge blow as they were taken apart by title rivals Manchester City, losing 4-1 at the Etihad.
Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions often fly out of the traps in big games at the Etihad, and that is exactly what happened here, with the home side taking the lead after just six minutes. Erling Haaland laid a long ball off to Kevin de Bruyne just inside the Arsenal half, with the brilliant Belgian then driving forward and firing an inch-perfect low drive into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
As the first-half went on, it became clear that Man City were in dominant form and Mikel Arteta’s Gunners were simply holding on for dear life. On 25 minutes Benjamin White pulled off a superb block to deny De Bruyne, before Haaland surprisingly missed a couple of chances when the prolific Norweigan looked destined to score.
Then, on the stroke of half-time City found that crucial and deserved second goal. Kevin de Bruyne curled in a beautifully flighted free-kick from out wide on the right and John Stones rose unopposed to coolly head home.
10 minutes into the second period and the final nail was put into the Arsenal coffin when Haaland played in De Bruyne and the 31-year-old playmaker clinically curled past Aaron Ramsdale.
Kevin de Bruyne has scored 8 goals vs Arsenal in 11 games — his most scored against opponent. ✨🇧🇪 #MCFC
➕ Two assists tonight for Haaland. pic.twitter.com/JybrB3k05G
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) April 26, 2023
The Gunners grabbed themselves a consolation five minutes from time, much-maligned centre-back Rob Holding curling home from the edge of the area after some good work from Leandro Trossard.
City weren’t done yet though, with Haaland putting the icing on the cake with his 49th goal of the season in injury time.
Arsenal remain two points ahead of City at the top of the Premier League table, although Guardiola’s side have two games in hand and tonight’s defeat felt ominous for Arteta’s men.
Speaking afterwards Arsenal boss Arteta made no excuses, admitting his side had been outplayed and deserved to lose.
“The better team won the game,” Arteta told BBC Sport. ”They were probably at their best and we were nowhere near our level. The first 30 minutes all the basic things you have to do against a top team we didn’t do it and we got punished.
“At the start of the season they said we’d finish sixth or seventh. The players deserve a lot of credit to be where we are after nine months against this team.
🔙 Arsenal have officially qualified for the Champions League next season for the first time since 2016
Brighton’s defeat confirms their spot ✅ pic.twitter.com/6PlhJpPAFc
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) April 26, 2023
“We played against an exceptional team. But we’re an exceptional team as well – but today we weren’t at the races.
“They were better in every department. They won every duel. We conceded from a set-play, from a throw-in.
“We wanted to tweak a few things but they scored an early goal. We have to be loyal to what has brought us all this way. We have to look in the mirror to see what we could do better.”
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