Arsenal floored by balletic brilliance of Pellegrini's men
Man City 6 Arsenal 3
This is Manchester City's Premier League title to lose. No one will come close to them if they can maintain this irresistible form -- and translate some of it to their away matches.
This was power play, football ballet, choreographed ingenuity, off-the-cuff brilliance. And a little bit of hubris as they were caught out, on occasions, by Arsenal's defiance.
For Arsenal this was a result they feared even if they still sit three points ahead to the team who demolished them yesterday. They arrived tired and left exhausted as they felt the tug of being reeled in at the top of the Premier League table. It capped a bad week for them.
Per Mertesacker, the captain, and Mesut Ozil also ended up arguing after the latter's lax pass had gifted City one of their goals. That was claimed by Fernandinho who dominated the midfield -- a midfield in which Mathieu Flamini was swamped, Ozil disappeared and Jack Wilshere was simply petulant and still appeared far from full fitness.
Arsene Wenger brushed aside the dispute but he knew this was a difficult defeat. The sight of Nicklas Bendtner replacing Olivier Giroud, who had run himself into the ground, as Arsenal chased the contest also highlighted the cracks that could easily be exposed in this squad.
This was not a game for the churlish even if there was a display of that by Wenger in defeat. It was a brilliant contest with some outstanding goals and superb individual displays and Wenger will, however, draw comfort from his team's defiance.
Like a boxer on the ropes they came out swinging and scored some fine goals themselves. But like, so often, a boxer who comes out swinging can also hit the canvas. They may have argued, they may have looked in danger of being overwhelmed at times but Arsenal did not give up even if every time they threatened to get close to City their rivals simply surged away again. And could have scored more.
City have the feeling of champions-elect even if it is a curiosity that such a remarkable squad is currently reliant on Costel Pantilimon in goal -- again keeping out Joe Hart. The Romanian made one impressive save, pushing away Wilshere's fierce shot but was unconvincing. It makes for a roller-coaster for Manuel Pellegrini who has demanded excitement but, presumably, not at both ends of the pitch.
Those ahead of Pantilimon could not have been more emphatic. City ripple with a goal threat and their attacking interplay at times is mesmeric with Pellegrini urging them on to keep score more goals. And even more. It was difficult to keep count on occasions as City started at a bewildering, dominating pace and appeared determined to maintain it.
Sensing Arsenal's trepidation, they attempted to blow away their opponents with the kind of performance that will resonate. And lay down a marker. The first goal, scored by Sergio Aguero, was brilliant. And others of similar sheen followed. Martin Demichelis flicked on a corner -- and there was the Argentinian to display wonderful agility and technique to volley home powerfully even if Laurent Koscielny was culpable in failing to track him.
It looked easy for City but then Yaya Toure dallied in possession -- only for Aaron Ramsey to whip the ball away and find Ozil whose one significant positive intervention was to pick out the run of Theo Walcott. His first-time shot skimmed Demichelis's head on its way into the net.
City were stung. Alvaro Negredo wasted two chances and then scored from a superb move as Toure redeemed himself with a clever ball with the outside of his boot which found Pablo Zabaleta. Negredo charged in to meet the low cross and beat Wojciech Szczesny and the hapless Koscielny who departed injured.
The third came as Arsenal self-destructed and Ozil gained another assist as he, unfortunately, picked out Fernandinho, rather than Flamini. The Brazilian strode on and cooly curled the ball around Szczesny. As Arsenal bickered, they bounced back. Giroud wasted three opportunities -- a volley, a diving header and then screwed the ball wide -- before Walcott scored his second.
Wilshere dinked the ball over to Walcott in the penalty area and his curling, looping shot beat Pantilimon. Game on? Not so. Arsenal had also been denied what appeared a clear penalty, as Zabaleta handled, but City struck instead.
Substitute Jesus Navas sprinted to the byline and crossed low for David Silva to open up his body and steer the ball into the net ahead of the wrongfooted Mertesacker. The fifth came as Wilshere, tired, frustrated and out-of-sorts, lost the ball again and Samir Nasri jinked into the area before rolling a pass to Fernandinho. He rode Mertesacker's challenge and prodded his shot past Szczesny.
If Arsenal were close to running on empty by now, if their defensive discipline had gone, then they still had the capacity to hit back and did so with Mertesacker diving to reach Bacary Sagna's cross and head home. It was in injury-time but there were still seconds left for the final goal to restore City's margin.
Substitute James Milner ran into the area, Szczesny tripped him and there was Toure to calmly stroke in the penalty to end what had been a remarkable, resonating encounter.