Slick Man City heap more misery on Arsenal and Wenger
Sorry Gunners blown away in first half as ruthless Leroy Sané cuts hosts to ribbons
Manchester City’s Leroy Sane celebrates scoring his side’s third goal against Arsenal. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA
Arsenal 0 Manchester City 3
The countdown has started. Manchester City now need just five wins from their remaining 10 games to secure a third Premier League title in seven years. If everything goes as serenely as it has done for most of the season, they could sew it up at Tottenham on the night of Saturday April 14th. Circle it in your diary. It would be the coronation of a superbly slick and worthy champion team and the latest layer to Pep Guardiola’s managerial legend.
As for Arsenal, a more macabre countdown is in train. Arsène Wenger has pledged to fight into next season – the last on his managerial contract – but nobody believes he can last beyond the summer. On this evidence, his players are the principal naysayers.
After the 3-0 humbling at City’s hands in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, they needed a performance to restore a measure of pride. Instead they got another one of those 90 minutes when their fragility – especially at the back – was exposed glaringly.
Inspired by Leroy Sané, City devoured them in the first half. The winger helped to set up goals for Bernardo Silva and David Silva before scoring the third himself, and Arsenal were left to consider a 30 point chasm in the table between themselves and City. They have lost their way.
It had felt like an unwanted early round cup replay at kick-off time – the Emirates barely half-full and the atmosphere muted. Yes, the biting cold was a factor but this, on paper, was one of the season’s showpiece fixtures. The attendance laid bare the supporter disenchantment at Arsenal.
As in Sunday’s final, Wenger’s team had actually started well. With Aaron Ramsey prominent, they hustled and probed. From Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s pass, Ramsey cut back a dangerous cross that hit Vincent Kompany and forced Ederson into a smart save. Mesut Özil teed up Mkhitaryan and he also worked Ederson.
But it took only one flicker from City and they were in front. Very quickly, Arsenal’s confidence disintegrated and it truly felt as though the champions-elect would score with every forward thrust. The home fans came to watch the lightning breaks through the lattices of their fingers.
Sané was the catalyst. Showing his wonderful balance, control and acceleration, he left three Arsenal players for dead before working it wide for Bernardo Silva in space. The winger was confronted by Sead Kolasinac, the left-back who Wenger prefers to play at left wing-back and he decided to show him inside – onto Silva’s favoured left foot. He promptly curled into the far corner.
Arsenal continued to try to look forwards. They had half-chances in the first half. There was even a moment midway through the period when the home support tried to get behind them. But they were cut to shreds on the counterattack and if it was easy to wince at the defending, it was also pertinent to scrutinise the lack of defensive midfield cover. Arsenal were grotesquely open.
That said, City’s cohesion and ruthlessness was really something. Sané was the architect of the second goal, dropping his shoulder to destroy Shkodran Mustafi before squaring for Sergio Agüero. He touched through for David Silva, who fired high inside Petr Cech’s near post. City’s third came with indecent haste. Agüero spun clear and the visitors worked the ball with venomous precision via Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker to Sané, who had got in on Héctor Bellerín’s blindside. He finished almost apologetically. Wenger shook his head sadly.
Agüero ought to have added a fourth before the interval, only to be denied by Cech and, by then, it was merely about waiting for the boos at half-time, which duly arrived. A small section of the Arsenal support chanted that their players were not fit to wear the shirt.
Arsenal’s determination to finesse the agony of their fans extended to a penalty miss early in the second half. After Nicolás Otamendi – who was on a booking – fouled Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang took a straight run-up and always looked likely to open his body for the right-footed effort to Ederson’s left. The goalkeeper read it and saved.
Cech stopped Agüero again in the 78th minute and, in the closing stages, Wenger’s name rang around the stadium. The only problem was that it was the City fans who said they wanted him to stay. Wenger looks finished, and the few Arsenal supporters who stayed beyond full-time jeered the players as they left the field.