Manchester City pushed Arsenal deeper into crisis as they won with embarrassing ease at Emirates Stadium.
Kevin de Bruyne produced a first-half masterclass as Pep Guardiola’s side cruised into a three-goal lead by the interval with two superb strikes, either side of a perfect pass that laid on City’s second for Raheem Sterling’s simple finish.
It was a harrowing experience for Arsenal caretaker manager Freddie Ljungberg, who was a powerless low-key presence, his minimal impact since succeeding the sacked Unai Emery reflected in a record of one win from his five matches in interim charge.
Arsenal’s lack of inspiration in an Emirates Stadium devoid of life and atmosphere will surely only increase the urgent need to appoint a full-time manager – although at this stage it is still unclear which direction the Gunners hierarchy intends to go.
City, meanwhile, remain 14 points behind leaders Liverpool after this win, which was a classic reminder of the quality the reigning Premier League champions possess.
Arsenal in serious decline
This was as grim as it gets for Arsenal and Ljungberg, a caretaker manager who has not been able to coax an ounce extra out of the squad he inherited after Emery was shown the door.
First things first – this is not all the Swede’s fault, as this was a rot that set in long before Emery’s dismissal, although Ljungberg had a close-up view as a member of his backroom staff.
What has been disturbing, however, is Ljungberg’s lack of impact on Arsenal, exemplified by the manner in which they were treated almost with contempt by Manchester City.
This result leaves the Gunners stuck between the top four and the relegation zone, seven points away from both, and the thousands of empty seats and a game concluded in resigned silence from the home support spoke volumes.
Arsenal had no spark, no creation and no fight – City actually went easy on them in the second half.
And while relegation talk is a stretch, that spark is something they must find soon, whether it is under Ljungberg or a new full-time manager.
City still possess such class
Manchester City’s quest to claim a third successive Premier League title is surely beyond them as they languish so far behind Liverpool – but this team is still a superb sight in full cry.
And at the hub of it all was the brilliant Belgian De Bruyne, who ripped through Arsenal at will in that first half, scoring twice and making another.
De Bruyne’s first goal was a masterpiece of technique, a flashing side-footed finish into the top corner, while his third was precisely placed into the bottom corner.
He created Sterling’s goal with a left-flank run that left the England attacker with the simplest of finishes, and would have scored a supreme hat-trick had Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno not shown great athleticism to fingertip his rising shot onto the woodwork.
This was a very easy day at the office for City as they overran timid opponents. The title may be gone, but they still have the class and firepower to beat any team when they get it right.
Man of the match – Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)
City’s hold over Arsenal rolls on – the stats
- Arsenal have lost their last five Premier League meetings with Manchester City – their longest losing streak against a top-flight opponent since losing five times to Manchester United between September 1983 and August 1985.
- This was the sixth time Manchester City have beaten Arsenal in the Premier League under Pep Guardiola (P7 W6 D1 L0), as many wins as City managed against them in the competition before Guardiola’s arrival (P38 W6 D9 L23).
- Arsenal have gone six games without a win at Emirates Stadium across all competitions (D3 L3); their longest run without a home win since between December 1994 and February 1995 under George Graham at Highbury (eight games).
- Manchester City have scored 25 away Premier League goals this season; the joint most by a team in their first nine away games of a single campaign, matching City’s 25 goals in 2011-12).
- Arsenal conceded three first-half goals in a home Premier League game for only the second time, with the other also coming against City in March 2018.
- Arsenal managed only one shot on target – their joint fewest in a Premier League game at Emirates Stadium (also one v Everton in 2010, Chelsea in 2015 and 2016).
- Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne has been directly involved in 19 Premier League goals in 2019 (seven goals, 12 assists); the most of any midfielder in this period.
- City’s Raheem Sterling netted his seventh away league goal this season; already his joint-highest return away from home in a single campaign (also seven in 2017-18).
- De Bruyne’s opening goal (one minute 29 seconds) was the second quickest that Arsenal have conceded at Emirates Stadium in the Premier League, after David Healy for Fulham in August 2007 (51 seconds).
‘We were better in loss to United’ – manager reaction
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola: “We made an incredible result but the way we played against Manchester United [a 2-1 defeat last weekend] was better in many, many things.
“I know we are judged on the result but I have a duty to judge the performance, not just the result.”
Arsenal interim manager Freddie Ljungberg: “We tried to keep the ball and be the Arsenal we want to be.
“The problem was the transitions, they scored on the counter. De Bruyne is a fantastic player but when they start like that it’s very difficult to get going again and I felt we got low and they got confident.
“I said to the players at half-time it was about pride, you need to show some heart out there and show that you’re proud.”
The Gunners face Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday, 21 December (12:30 GMT). Before that, City play Oxford United on Wednesday, 18 December (19:45) in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup, but return to league action when they host second-placed Leicester City on Saturday (17:30).