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  • By Alessandro Schiavone at Etihad Stadium

Arsenal annihilated by Man City in 4-1 trashing as their title hopes are all but over

By Alessandro Schiavone at Etihad Stadium

An out-of-this world Manchester City team have tonked Arsenal 4-1 at the Etihad as the Gunners’ chances of ending a 19-year drought for a first Premier League crown keep fading.

A double by Kevin De Bruyne sandwiched by John Stones’ header followed by a late Haaland goal put the Gunners in their place in a game between two sides from a different hemisphere.

Rob Holding’s well-taken 86th minute goal was purely cosmetic.

Despite being top of the league for quite some time, the north Londoners were unable to lay a glove on England’s best team. Had the superb Aaron Ramsdale not played one of the first halves of his life it could have ended up being a bona fide footballing battering. There’s only one battle that Arsenal won hands-down and that’s the one that saw the ex-Sheffield United stopper and Haaland go head-to-head for bragging rights. The England international thwarted him three times in the first-half and blocked the ridiculously talented Norwegian again on a one-v-one at the start of the second period. There was however nothing he could do though to keep his scuffed angled effort out in injury-time.

Arsenal are still two points ahead of City but Pep Guardiola’s treble-eyeing men have two games in hand and it’s hard to see how they could end up bottling the title.

This was David against Goliath. It looked like human beings trying to hold their own with robots. Man City made Arteta’s young squad look like the Under 12s facing Johan Cruijff's Ajax. De Bruyne, Haaland et al kept firing punches at Arsenal, in purely footballing terms, long after they had thrown them down the canvas. The visitors didn't know what was happening to them. The two teams may play in the same league and contest the same title but they are not from the same world.

Arsenal would have had their fates in their own hands with a win and will probably look back on April 26 as the day the title slipped through their fingers for good. Yet it’s the two dropped points here and there from leading positions such as against West Ham and Southampton that will prove costly ultimately. Arteta refused to see it as a season-defining game but it was hard not to see it that way.

The first-half was a non-contest. Yet the funny thing is that the leading team can feel frustrated at how things went. While Arsenal, trailing 1-0 and totally outplayed, had reasons for optimism.

Despite creating a flurry of chances City were only 1-0 up through De Bruyne before the VAR adjudged Stones to be onside after he headed home a free-kick.

City’s opener took the Etihad’s breath away and was a stark warning to Champions League opponents Real Madrid and the two Milanese giants which would await the Mancunians in the Istanbul showdown. Constantly swapping positions between themselves, Haaland laid the ball off for De Bruyne who wriggled past a couple of Arsenal defenders before driving forward and firing City’s opener into the low bottom corner.

Arsenal barely touched the ball in City’s half.

City had a psychological, tactical and technical strangleholds on the game.

The helpless Gunners were repeatedly stretched. Minutes later, Haaland toe-poked his teammate into space but this time Ben White tracked him and blocked his goal-bound effort. Ramsdale then produced two outstanding point-blank saves from Haaland. City could easily have been 3-0 up and killed this game off as Arsenal hardly showed the form of potential champions.

Their first and probably best chance of the game came in the 35th minute when Saka dragged a first-time s hot just wide. The Norwegian again lacked the golden touch when he fired Gundogan’s cutback at Ramsdale.

The ominous hosts were scary in transition and whenever they broke forward. Yet despite Haaland uncharacteristically missing his fourth chance of the game by slamming his shot wide, Stones nodded home De Bruyne‘s free-kick to all but kill Arsenal’s hopes of a revival after half-time.

After the restart Haaland was again guilty of missing a gilt-edged scoring opportunity when through on goal. He saw his thumping low effort blocked by Ramsdale. But he got his reward in the 95th minute, when despite mis-hitting the ball, he found the back of the net for league goal number 33. Before that his partner in crime De Bruyne marked a perfect evening with a clever finish.

The mood in the red half of north London could hardly be worse after the Gunners took three points from their last four fixtures.

And even though Ramsdale told this outlet that Arsenal have “not yet lost the title” it looks unlikely that they will triumph next month after shooting themselves in the foot in recent weeks.

City may look impossible to stop but Arsenal only have themselves to blame for how things unravelled.


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