Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola praised his side’s “amazing” run of form after they outclassed Arsenal to open up an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
City have won nine consecutive league matches, a club record for a single season, have progressed to the knockout stage of the Champions League and are through to the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup.
“We cannot deny the last two months have been amazing,” Guardiola said. “We knew how important this game was and we prepared well. The players gave an amazing performance.”
Kevin de Bruyne’s driven finish and a Sergio Aguero penalty put City in command and, even though substitute Alexandre Lacazette pulled one back for Arsenal, Gabriel Jesus sealed victory for the home side from close range.
Arsenal were aggrieved at the penalty awarded for Nacho Monreal’s challenge on Raheem Sterling and both Jesus and David Silva appeared to be offside for the third goal, but the visitors did not deserve to take anything from the game.
“It is unfortunate that the game finished the way it finished,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “You can accept it if City win in a normal way, but this is unacceptable.”
Still, the Gunners would have been beaten by more had it not been for the saves of goalkeeper Petr Cech and the wastefulness of the hosts.
City go into the two-week international break with an extended advantage over second-placed Manchester United, who were beaten 1-0 at Chelsea.
Arsenal slip to sixth, 12 points behind City, and face a battle to regain a place in the Champions League.
City march on
City have now won 15 consecutive matches in all competitions, including an EFL Cup victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers on penalties.
Their 11-game haul of 31 points and +31 goal difference is a Premier League record, built on some breathtaking attacking play. This win was no different, even if they were hampered by their lack of ruthlessness in front of goal.
City were particularly dangerous on the counter-attack, their pace, movement and precision passing a constant threat. Just behind the front three of Aguero, Sterling and Leroy Sane, De Bruyne was the orchestrator.
Aguero and Sterling could have both scored before De Bruyne broke the deadlock, the Belgian playing a one-two with Fernandinho and angling the ball inside the far post via Cech’s fingertips.
City could have been further ahead by the break, a Silva ball across goal should have been finished, while Sterling was unable to feed Sane when Arsenal were outnumbered at the back.
Only when Aguero converted a penalty off the post, early in the second half, was the result beyond doubt.
The visitors complained that Monreal’s tangle with Sterling should not have penalised, but the Arsenal defender hauled down the England forward without winning the ball.
Some sloppiness crept into City’s play – home keeper Ederson almost dropped Alex Iwobi’s long-range shot into his own net and they were carved open for Lacazette’s goal.
But substitute Jesus’ tap-in, fed by Silva from the right when both men could have been flagged offside, was no more than Guardiola’s side deserved.
Arsenal left lagging behind
It was to Arsenal’s credit that they did not capitulate – as they have done so often in the past – but this was a stark reminder of how far they lag behind the Premier League’s top clubs.
In away league matches against the rest of the ‘big six’ since the start of the 2014-15 season, Wenger’s side have won only once (a 2-0 win at City in January 2015), losing 10 and drawing seven.
Though they started brightly, the Gunners were soon pushed back by wave after wave of City attacks, a central defensive trio that included Francis Coquelin continually stretched.
Going forward, they lacked the incision and creativity of their opponents. Alexis Sanchez, pursued by City in the summer, was tireless in his efforts as a lone striker, but an isolated figure.
Sanchez was preferred up front to Lacazatte, the £46.5m pre-season arrival, and it was only when the France striker was introduced that Arsenal looked like taking anything from the game.
The visitors came down the inside-right channel, good work from Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey fed Lacazette, whose shot went through the legs of Ederson.
Even then, though, the prospect of Arsenal earning a point seemed unlikely and they needed Cech to deny Jesus and De Bruyne before the third City goal made the scoreline a fair reflection of the game.
Man of the match was Kevin de Bruyne.