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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Manchester City deserving winners over Arsenal despite Wenger's gripes

Premier League's runaway winners create plenty of chances and, with some luck, defeat Londoners who leave Etihad Stadium ruing poor away record

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, left, had a memorable time on and off the pitch on Sunday. Phil Noble / Reuters
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, left, had a memorable time on and off the pitch on Sunday. Phil Noble / Reuters

By the end, Arsenal’s frustration was epitomised by the sight of Mesut Ozil being reduced to bundling into Fabian Delph, World Cup-winning flair player fouling makeshift left-back.

Arsenal were irritated. They had been incoherent and inferior, and, in their own eyes, the victims of injustice.

They ended 12 points behind Manchester City.

“If they have decisions at home like that, they will be unstoppable,” said Arsene Wenger, complaining about the award of the penalty for City’s second goal and the nature of their third, made by a marginally offside David Silva for Gabriel Jesus.

“It killed the game,” Wenger added. “It is the second year [running]. We got two offside goals [against us] here last year and one this year. The 3-1 was an immense relief for them, an unexpected present.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was unhappy with the refereeing at Etihad Stadium. Phil Noble / Reuters
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was unhappy with the refereeing at Etihad Stadium. Phil Noble / Reuters

If he felt history was repeating itself, Pep Guardiola argued otherwise. City’s title challenge could depend upon summit clashes.

“Last season we were only able to win twice against the big teams, at Old Trafford against Manchester United and here against Arsenal,” he noted. “This season, in November, we have already won three times.”

And, much as Wenger disputed the decisions, City were deserving winners.

“We created a lot of chances and almost chances,” Guardiola said, rueing the times when City could not deliver the final ball. There were moments when he cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines.

Such are the problems of being a perfectionist, but City are unbeaten in 23 games in all competitions, winning nine in a row in the league. History is being made.

There was a presentation to Sergio Aguero before kick off. At this rate, the end-of-season awards will be destined for the predictably outstanding Kevin de Bruyne.

Some of City’s past finishers formed a guard of honour for Aguero before when, to commemorate his achievement in becoming their record scorer, he received a blue boot from Mike Summerbee and the daughter of Eric Brook, who had been their most prolific player for the previous eight decades.

Most of those lining up to applaud him were strikers. An exception chipped in with 152 City goals. Colin Bell is often deemed City’s greatest player, a midfielder who scored, created and was known for his running power.

De Bruyne may be his modern-day counterpart, a high-class technician who is always red-faced from the effort he puts in.

His opener was another instant to illustrate De Bruyne’s impact this season. His goals have become scarcer as he has operated in a deeper role, but he has reserved them for the most meaningful matches.

He added a strike against Arsenal to a winner at Chelsea. Petr Cech had parried one crisp strike from the Belgian, but City retrieved possession. De Bruyne swapped passes with Fernandinho and found the far corner of the Arsenal net.

Aguero then added his fourth goal in four games against Arsenal, his eighth in eight for City and his 179th for the club from the penalty spot after Nacho Monreal had nudged Sterling over.

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It came soon after Arsenal squandered a chance to secure parity at the break.

Ederson proved why he is the goalkeeping upgrade City required, thwarting Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman was set up by Alexis Sanchez. He provided glimpses of quality, but City need not rue the one who got away after the breakdown of his £60 million (Dh288m) move in the summer.

“A top-class player,” his suitor Guardiola said. “He was our main headache in the first half.”

Yet it was a generous interpretation. As Wenger conceded: “He had not enough support.”

He led the line because Alexandre Lacazette had been benched. The substitute appeared affronted by his demotion and reacted with a goal in his cameo, showing a striker’s instinct as he latched on to Ramsey’s pass. It was soon cancelled out by another replacement’s goal, Jesus finding the net.

Cue controversy, but Wenger’s gripes should not obscure the reality Arsenal’s wretched away record is an ever greater issue.

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