Manchester City 0 // Arsenal 3
MANCHESTER // If this was to be the day that Manchester City were to underlined their title credentials with a fifth consecutive Premier League victory, Arsenal had not read the script as they produced the kind of clinical display they have too often lacked against their rivals in recent times.
Admittedly City played with a man down for 85 minutes after Dedryck Boyata's dismissal, yet Arsenal exploited the advantage ruthlessly through goals from Samir Nasri, Alexandre Song and Nicklas Bendtner, and would have won more handsomely but for Joe Hart's penalty save from Cesc Fabregas.
It was a sweet victory for the Londoners, whose credibility as challengers had been called into question by defeat at Chelsea three weeks ago, and lifted them second in the table, ahead of City and Manchester United on goal difference. Arsenal had taken just two points from their previous nine league games against City, Chelsea and United, but Arsene Wenger, their manager, believes his side "have matured".
"It was under special circumstances maybe," Wenger said, "but for us it was important to get a win in a big place to strengthen belief and continue our march forward. We did that today with time, intelligence, and overall the performance needed to play against 10 men."
Wenger's satisfaction contrasted with Roberto Mancini's unhappiness with the decision by Mark Clattenburg, the referee, that so disadvantaged his team.
City had threatened a first-minute goal when David Silva's flick from Carlos Tevez's cross drew a save from Lukasz Fabianski, yet the hosts' optimism vanished with Boyata's sending-off.
When Fabregas sent Marouane Chamakh accelerating clear, the Belgian teenager's lunge felled the Arsenal striker on the edge of the box. Mancini claimed that Clattenburg should have shown a yellow, arguing "if there is a clear opportunity to score, it is a red card but when Chamakh touched the ball, the ball was [going] out to the goalkeeper".
Arsenal profited as the impressive Nasri struck in the 20th minute. Picking up a ball from Bacary Sagna in the inside-right channel, he paused a moment, then, quick as a flash, conducted a one-two with Andrey Arshavin that left both Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure flat-footed and Nasri free in the City box to beat Hart.
Arsenal should have made it two in the 39th minute when Vincent Kompany tripped Fabregas, but Hart thwarted the Spaniard with a diving save to keep out his penalty kick and suddenly City had hope.
After a bad-tempered first half, it seemed City's best hope of parity would come through a red card for one of the four Arsenal players already on yellows.
"It was important for us not to get a second yellow and I asked the players at half-time to focus on playing in a positive way and try to get a second goal rather than just defend our advantage," said Wenger.
City's hopes diminished further as Tevez limped off with an apparent thigh strain in the 52nd minute yet they summoned the spirit to threaten an equaliser.
Silva flashed in a shot which Fabianski turned past the far post. Then, from a corner, substitute Emmanuel Adebayor headed over after outjumping Fabianski.
Song made sure of Arsenal's win in the 66th minute, however. When City substitute Wayne Bridge stuck out a leg to stop Fabregas's pass reaching Chamakh inside the home area, Song pounced on to the loose ball and sent a first-time drive into the top corner.
This was Arsenal's afternoon and Bendtner, another substitute, iced the cake when, released by Nasri, he steered a shot across Hart and inside the far post.
• Keeper Joe Hart made an excellent penalty save from Cesc Fabregas in the first half, but was always going to be under pressure once City went down to 10 men. B
• Defence Not a great day for City’s back four. Dedryck Boyata, impressive against Chelsea, was sent off while Vincent Kompany, usually so assured, could have joined him. C
• Midfield Overrun by the Gunners and did not have much of a chance after Boyata’s red card. Yaya Toure carried the fight well and showed why he cost so much. C
• Strikers Carlos Tevez toiled to no avail up front, but Emmanuel Adebayor was far more dangerous once he replaced the Argentine. C
• Manager After having a man sent off inside five minutes, there was not much Roberto Mancini could do against a dangerous Arsenal side. C+
Overall Grade: C Arsenal
• Keeper Lukasz Fabianski had little to do, given his side had the man advantage, but the much-maligned Pole is starting to look more assured between the posts. B
• Defence Playing against 10 men allowed Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy to fly forward at will. Adebayor caused some problems in the second half with his height. B+
• Midfield Arsenal’s passing was breathtaking at times. The sending off changed the game, but the way Arsene Wenger’s midfielders played was impressive nonetheless. A+
• Strikers Marouane Chamakh is staking a claim to be Arsenal’s full-time first-choice striker. His movement caused City problems. B
• Manager The hard work was done in training by Wenger. Yesterday he picked his best midfield and watched them destroy City. A
Overall Grade: A