The Gunners have only lost four games all season, but two of them have come against City, the ultimate test.
Manchester City hammered Arsenal 4-1 on Wednesday to closing in on becoming English champions for the sixth time in six years in a game billed as a Premier League title decider. City has yet to take the lead, with Arsenal still two points ahead. However, the momentum of the championship battle appears to have dramatically switched in Pep Guardiola’s favour, as they have the opportunity to break away into the distance with two games remaining. The Gunners have only lost four games all season, but two of them have come against the ultimate test in City.
When the teams met in February, the game was determined by razor-thin margins. It was a breeze this time.
“We lost in a very different way at the Emirates,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta explained. “Today’s performance quality was very far from what we are capable of.”
A shaky Arsenal defence, missing the stabilising presence of William Saliba, couldn’t stop Erling Haaland’s strength, even though it took until the last assault of the game for the Norwegian to score his 49th goal of the season.
Instead, Haaland turned provider twice, allowing Kevin De Bruyne to score early in both half.
In the meanwhile, Arsenal’s vulnerability in set-piece defence was revealed when John Stones rose highest to head home De Bruyne’s free-kick in first-half stoppage time.
Before the game, Guardiola praised his former assistant Arteta for lifting the bar at Arsenal and putting them in contention for their first Premier League championship in 19 years.
However, Arteta is still unable to defeat his old employer, as Arsenal has now lost 12 straight league games versus City.
The cost of three draws –
Arsenal’s title campaign was unexpected and, in some ways, premature for the league’s youngest side.
They haven’t even qualified for the Champions League in the last six years, but they are already certain to do so next season.
But that doesn’t take away the disappointment of having failed when the pressure was turned up in the run-in.
With three successive draws, the damage was done before Arsenal ever stepped foot on the Etihad.
Arteta’s men squandered 2-0 leads to lose points against Liverpool and West Ham before drawing 3-3 at home against bottom-of-the-table Southampton.
Those results had already planted the seeds of doubt, and City capitalised with a masterclass that put the youthful Gunners in their place.
De Bruyne and Haaland had a particular relationship from the start of the season, but the roles were flipped as Haaland had two assists and De Bruyne was deadly in front of goal.
Arteta confessed that the margin of loss could have been considerably larger had Haaland not been kept at bay by a string of saves by Aaron Ramsdale.
Haaland ultimately made it through in stoppage time, by which time he had appropriately let his hair down.
City still has work to do not just to maintain their crown, but also to become only the second English side to win the Premier League, Champions League, and FA Cup in the same season.
Conquering Europe for the first time remains the hardest obstacle, especially with champions Real Madrid waiting in the Champions League semi-finals.