After a shocking defeat to Newcastle in midweek, Premier League champions Manchester City righted the ship against Arsenal at the Etihad.
Following Liverpool’s surprising draw against Leicester, City have now thrown down the gauntlet to the Reds, who lead by just two points with a game in hand.
They visit West Ham on Monday night in the knowledge that they need a win after City’s 3-1 recovery against Arsenal today. Pep Guardiola’s side showcased some of their absolute best features, with a tremendous team goal and Aguero pouncing like only he can.
Here are 12 quick conclusions from the victory.
1) Hector Bellerin’s absence is already being felt. From left-back, Aymeric Laporte set up Arsenal’s opener as City throttled Arsenal down the right within the first minute. Ally that to Iwobi’s baffling reluctance to clear the ball, and you get a conceded opener in 60 seconds.
2) This narrow formation and back four almost killed the visitor’s chances before long. The gaps left allowed Kevin De Bruyne to exploit the space in between, as Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva ran their respective wings.
3) City even managed to threaten from set pieces. A De Bruyne free kick from the right, saw Laporte score a disallowed header, though the Frenchman was almost played onside by Nacho Monreal on the other flank.
4) Moving Sead Kolasinac further forward on the left is a shrewd move. The usual full-back was always more regarded for his attacking threat, and his presence won the corner that he would go on to take for Arsenal’s first-half equaliser.
5) Still a youngster in his debut Premier League season, Matteo Guendouzi is nonetheless a massive influence in this Arsenal side. Defensive shifts, linking the two ends with tireless runs, even whipping in crosses; the Gunners are heavily reliant on this impressive midfielder.
Guendouzi completed all 22 first-half passes and won the ball back more times than any other Arsenal player. Given how frantic the midfield battle was and the level of opposition, that's hugely impressive for a 19-year-old in his first season.
— James Olley (@JamesOlley) February 3, 2019
6) Arsenal very much grew into the game before half time – as the duo of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had their fleeting moments. The latter was denied by a ruthlessly decisive Ederson who rushed out of his box to clear the danger. Though the right side was criminally culpable for the two conceded goals, Lichsteiner, Alex Iwobi and even Guendouzi on occasion caused problems for City.
7) That flank left Sterling acres of space for City’s second goal, however. It allowed the winger to play a gorgeous give-and-go with Ilkay Gundogan with Aguero pouncing for the finish.
8) Gundogan’s wonderful pass is evident of the playmaking ability that City’s midfield possesses outside of the obvious duo of De Bruyne and David Silva.
9) Many City fans on social media were calling for Leroy Sane to come on in place of Sterling, but he was a critical part of City’s win. Attacking Arsenal’s right side, the 24-year-old assisted two goals, with Aguero’s third almost all down to Sterling’s eminent dribbling threat.
10) Arsenal didn’t settle into a damage limitation mindset. After City’s third, they took on much more possession than the 70/30 split they encountered early on, but were unable to make headway into a defence that contained the versatile Fernandinho.
11) The introduction of the on-loan Denis Suarez from Barcelona had little impact on proceedings. In truth, it was asking a lot of the Spaniard to turn around a game that long-since looked beyond the Gunners.
12) Now mired in sixth, Arsenal face an almighty battle to finish in the top four for the first time since 2017 despite being just three points behind Chelsea.