The gulf in class was evident yet again, as Manchester City eased to victory at The Etihad, with premier marksman Sergio Aguero bagging a hat-trick.
Arsenal were not expected to pick up anything in this game. The Gunners have failed to win an away match at one of the top6 since 2015, and the run continued with the second half especially showing what a mountain we have to climb in order to be considered challengers once again.
Injuries to Granit Xhaka and Ainsley Maitland-Niles defined changes to the lineup, and it was one of their replacements that would give City the leverage they would need to gain an advantage.
The first half got off to the worst possible start, and it was Aguero who scored yet another early goal, after scoring in the opening minute against Newcastle last week.
We had initially cleared an attack, but Iwobi dithered on the right of the box, giving Aymeric Laporte the opportunity to snaffle possession and put in a tantalising cross for a diving Aguero to head home.
It put us on the back foot, but credit to us, we didn’t just soak up pressure, we seemed intent on going forward when we did have possession. Much of that was credit to Matteo Guendouzi, who was hungry for possession and always on the front foot, despite constant City pressure.
City were on the front foot and perhaps should have had a penalty just minutes after the goal, with Aguero running into the box and being held back by Mustafi, but the referee didn’t spot it and we seemed to have escaped punishment.
Then, Leno saved well from a long range Sterling shot, and we were on the rack. There seemed no escape, but just as we looked to be on the ropes - we scored!
A corner was whizzed in by Torreira, and a great run allowed Monreal to flick on at the front post. This was well read by Koscielny, who was lurking inside the six yard box with intent and headed past Ederson.
That came from nowhere, and seemed to give City pause for thought. although the opportunities didn’t dry up. The difference was that the swagger they had wasn’t quite so evident. We were also creating, but it looked like the first half would remain even, until a quite brilliant second goal.
A ball over the top was well weighted for Gundogan, who should never have reached it if Lichtsteiner had tracked him. Instead he watched as the ball went over him and Gundogan put a fantastically precise ball across goal for Aguero to tap home just before the half time whistle - and restore the psychological advantage they had enjoyed previously.
The second half was a desperate affair for Gooners. No chances created, no avenues for optimism - it was one-way traffic and City were enjoying themselves. There was room for a third - but it should never have stood. Aguero bundled home using his arm, although pundits and commentators alike seemed to be of the opinion that taking the goal away would have been harsh…
The agenda continues.
We did get to see the debut of Denis Suarez, but perhaps we could have named one or both of Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil for this game? Their genius around the box could have made a big difference - but in the end it is unanswerable.
All we are left with is questions, and City rode out the second half ridiculously comfortable. We didn’t stretch them, we had precious little width and our stellar frontmen had scraps to feed on.
Bright spots? Our tactics weren’t to blame - it wouldn’t have mattered if we had 12 men on the field. Torreira and Guendouzi were giving City a tough time, and Mustafi showed he is more than a bag of walking mistakes.
We will bounce back, and we still have the top4 in our sights, but we can’t make many more errors.