Manchester City are top of the Premier League after a 3-1 victory over Arsenal in north London.

Jack Grealish and Erling Haaland scored the second-half goals that proved the difference in an entertaining top-of-the-table clash.

Kevin De Bruyne’s opportunistic finish midway through the first half had opened the scoring before Arsenal levelled through a controversial penalty shortly before the break.

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The champions responded in the best possible manner to put a marker down in this year’s title race.

We now have 51 points from 23 matches and a positive goal difference of 36 with Arsenal on the same points tally and a goal difference of 26 having played one game fewer.

What happened

Ruben Dias was pivotal in the opening exchanges, twice stepping in front of Eddie Nketiah shots to deny the young striker.

City’s first opening of the night came in the 16th minute as Erling Haaland latched on to a sumptuous Riyad Mahrez cross. However, the Norwegian was caught between finding a team-mate and attempting to score himself.

Nketiah, who was introduced to this Arsenal team earlier this season following Gabriel Jesus’ injury, had his third chance of the night when he met Oleksandr Zinchenko’s cross with a glancing header that went wide of Ederson’s post.

For all of City’s careful passing in the face of intense Arsenal pressing, it was a long Ederson ball that created the chaos that led to Kevin De Bruyne’s opener midway through the first half.

Takehiro Tomiyasu, forced to sprint back towards his own goal under pressure from Jack Grealish, played the ball in the direction of Aaron Ramsdale but it didn’t have the necessary power to reach the Arsenal goalkeeper.

De Bruyne spotted the narrowest of windows and with one stroke of his left boot cleared Ramsdale and curled the ball inside the near post.

Tomiyasu had the chance to make amends for the home side almost immediately but his left-footed volley went over Ederson’s goal.

Arsenal were back on level terms in the 42nd minute after referee Anthony Taylor awarded the hosts a penalty for a collision between Nketiah and Ederson following a shot from the Arsenal striker.

England winger Bukayo Saka completed the job from the spot, sending our goalkeeper the wrong way.

That wasn’t the final chance of the half, with Rodrigo heading a free-kick on to Nathan Ake’s toe that deflected up on to Arsenal’s crossbar.

Premier League
1 Manchester City Manchester City Man City 32 22 7 3 76 32 44 73 DDWWW
2 Arsenal Arsenal Arsenal 32 22 5 5 75 26 49 71 WDWWL
3 Liverpool FC Liverpool Liverpool 32 21 8 3 72 31 41 71 DWWDL
Last updated: 17 April 2024

The second period began as the first ended; with both teams intent on finding a second goal.

City appeared to have a penalty just before the hour mark when Haaland was hauled down by Gabriel. Referee Taylor pointed to the spot but a VAR investigation ruled the Norwegian offside.

Manuel Akanji’s arrival in place of Mahrez saw City move to a more traditional back four for the final 30 minutes.

The Swiss defender was introduced to strengthen our back line but his first impact on the game was in the opposition’s box, digging out a shot that was cleared off the line.

The substitution also saw Bernardo Silva move to the right wing, where he started the move that ended with City’s 72nd minute second.

He flicked the ball through to Haaland who rolled it across the 18-yard line and into the path of Grealish, after a clever dummy from Ilkay Gundogan.

The England attacker stepped on to the ball and hit a piledriver that took a slight deflection on its route beyond Ramsdale.

It was three in the 82nd minute when Gundogan rolled De Bruyne in. Instead of shooting, the Belgian found Haaland, who took one touch and swept the ball home with his right foot for his 26th Premier League goal of the season.

Arsenal responded desperately but City saw the closing stages out for a statement of intent in the 2022/23 Premier League title race.

Teams

CITY XI: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Ake, Rodrigo, De Bruyne (Phillips 87), Gundogan (c), Bernardo, Mahrez (Akanji 61), Grealish (Foden 77), Haaland

Subs: Ortega Moreno, Laporte, Alvarez, Gomez, Palmer, Lewis

ARSENAL XI: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu (White 83), Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Jorginho, Xhaka (Vieira 83), Odegaard (c), Saka, Martinelli (Trossard 76), Nketiah

Subs: Turner, Tierney, Kiwior, Holding, Nelson, Cozier-Duberry

Man of the match

Kevin De Bruyne - The difference maker.

The Belgian wasn’t necessarily involved throughout the game – instead looking to find pockets where he could most affect play at the crucial moments.

His finish in the first half was one of those. Spotting that Tomiyasu was penned into a corner, De Bruyne looked to shut off the Japanese defender’s passing lane to his goalkeeper.

It paid off when that ball was undercooked. What happened after that was down to the individual magic that our No.17 possesses and a goal that very few players anywhere in the world could score.

His composure to set Erling Haaland up for the goal that sealed the points summed up the Belgian’s ability to impact major matches at vital moments.

Dominant Dias

How good it is to see Ruben back to full fitness.

The Portuguese defender is a natural leader, both vocally and by example.

Our No.3 set the tone early on with two blocks to shut out Eddie Nketiah and his performance didn’t drop off for a single second of the 90 minutes.

He made another key intervention shortly after we took the lead for a second time to deny Arsenal a route back into the match when the result was still hanging in the balance.

Incredible head-to-head form

This victory made it 11 Premier League wins in a row against our title rivals.

That run covers almost the entirety of Pep Guardiola’s reign at City. The last time we failed to beat Arsenal in the league was the April 2017 draw in London, the second game between the sides after Guardiola’s arrival.

Pep Guardiola reaction

“Now we are top of the league but they have one game in hand. It’s a long road.

“There are plenty more games to play. Coming here and winning against that team, second half we were much much better. The second half was excellent.

“I decided something new, and it was horrible! Second half we were more comfortable.

“We let them play in the first half. We adjusted a little bit, Ruben was really good, being aggressive to Odegaard. Erling helped us a lot in one v ones. He used his power to keep the ball. We struggled a lot in the middle in the first half.”

Erling Haaland reaction

“We can all agree they have been the best team this season, so to come here and play is not easy. We played an amazing game.

“I’m so happy, I don’t know, I’m just so happy with everything. We needed this one. Now we need to go on a run.

“It’s already gone 20 minutes since I got my last goal, I have to keep working.”

What it means

City move to the top of the Premier League table on goal difference after 23 matches of the 2022/23 season. We have 51 points from 16 victories and three draws so far.

Arsenal, who are also on 51 points, have one game in hand on City having played 22 times.

Next Fixture

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What’s next

City are on the road again this weekend, this time to the City Ground to face Steve Cooper’s Nottingham Forest.

Forest have enjoyed an upturn in form recently, winning three of their last five Premier League matches.

We beat Forest 6-0 at the Etihad Stadium back in August, with Erling Haaland scoring a hat-trick.

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