This was not quite the final nail in Arsenal’s coffin, but it feels like their title charge is dead.
Manchester City outclassed them at the Etihad Stadium, winning 4-1 to cut the Gunners’ lead at the top of the Premier League to two points. City have two games in hand on Arsenal and, if they win at Fulham on Sunday, they will be top of the table.
On this evidence, Pep Guardiola’s side will be worthy champions as they dominated Arsenal. At times, it really was men against boys.
City were two goals to the good at half-time thanks to Kevin De Bruyne and John Stones, but truth be told it could easily have been five or six.
In the end City only added two in the second-half, with De Bruyne scoring eight minutes after the break and Haaland finding the net right at the death. Arsenal pulled one back four minutes before the end through Rob Holding, but by that point the contest was over.
A draw would not have been a bad result for City, however the first few minutes showed how they had come here for the win and a knockout blow to Arsenal’s title hopes.
Twice in the opening three minutes, they had penalty shouts waved away and the Gunners were penned in their own half.
City’s press was relentless and organised, hounding Mikel Arteta’s side and nullifying their attack. Arsenal did not manage a shot on target in the first-half.
In contrast, the hosts were rampant as they pulled Arsenal apart. Holding and Thomas Partey were particularly culpable as they tried but failed to stop the link-up between Erling Haaland and De Bruyne.
The pair were at their devastating best, combing for City’s opener after seven minutes. Haaland took down a long ball, fending off Holding and feeding De Bruyne. Partey did not track the Belgian and he weaved past Gabriel before curling the ball home from outside the box.
A second looked just around the corner, however Arsenal somehow clung on for as long as they could. Ben White flung himself to block a De Bruyne shot, Aaron Ramsdale twice saved from Haaland and the Norwegian also fired wide when you expected the net to bulge.
OH Kevin De Bruyne! 🎯— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 26, 2023
A great takedown from Erling Haaland who passes to De Bruyne for a stunning run and finish! 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/Ex4pyouHVJ
When Arsenal’s resistance did break again, it came in painful fashion right on the stroke of half-time. Partey gave away a needless free-kick outside the box and John Stones headed in De Bruyne’s delivery. He was originally flagged offside, but VAR intervened to send the Etihad wild.
De Bruyne was running the game and eight minutes after the break, he had his second. Moments before Haaland had been denied by another good save from Ramsdale, but the Arsenal goalkeeper could do nothing about this one.
Martin Odegaard gave the ball away in midfield and De Bruyne played it to Haaland. The Norwegian retuned the favour and De Bruyne found the bottom corner, nutmegging Holding as he did.
The game hadn’t really felt like much of a contest all night, but it certainly didn’t after that goal. Arteta tried to change it by bringing on Jorginho and Leandro Trossard, however his side just couldn’t keep hold of the ball.
The game appeared to be meandering to a meek end as and even the atmosphere tailed off, but it came alive in the final minutes.
First, Holding pulled one back for Arsenal in the 86th minute - however then Haaland finally got his goal. It was no more than the Norwegian deserved on a night when he and De Bruyne blew Arsenal away.