Kevin De Bruyne produced a masterclass as Manchester City breezed to a 3-0 win over a listless Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Sunday. (More Football News)
The Belgium midfielder scored two high-quality goals and provided an assist for Raheem Sterling in a one-sided victory for City.
Defending champions City are 14 points behind leaders Liverpool and four behind second-place Leicester City.
Arsenal remain in ninth – seven points off Chelsea in fourth spot – in a defeat that will have done little to enhance interim boss Freddie Ljungberg's prospects of landing the job on a permanent basis.
Gunners forward Gabriel Martinelli brought an early save out of City goalkeeper Ederson but Pep Guardiola's side began the rout in the second minute.
An intelligent pass from Fernandinho released Gabriel Jesus down the left flank, and he cut the ball back for De Bruyne, who side-footed a clinical half-volley high into the net.
City strengthened their grip on the game when De Bruyne rounded off a brisk counter-attack with a low ball across the box – via a slight deflection – that Sterling steered home from close range.
De Bruyne curled in City's third from outside the box five minutes before half-time after a smart pass from Phil Foden, on his first league start of the season.
Only a spectacular fingertip save from Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno, on the stroke of half-time, denied De Bruyne a first-half hat-trick.
The second half was largely a non-event as City dominated possession and Arsenal, who managed one shot on target in the contest, chased shadows.
Boos and jeers from the home supporters at half-time and near silence at full-time at the Emirates summed up the current mood of the Arsenal fanbase while the visitors chanted De Bruyne's name.
3 - Arsenal have conceded three first half goals in a home Premier League game for only the second time - the other was also against Man City in March 2018. Familiar. #ARSMCI pic.twitter.com/eFxM99zF60— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 15, 2019
What does it mean? City rediscover swagger
Liverpool have been near flawless as the Premier League season closes in on its mid-point while City have stuttered and stumbled in their wake.
On their day, though, Guardiola's side are still capable of some mesmerising football. Against Arsenal they regained some of their swagger as they rebuilt confidence following last weekend's chastening Manchester derby defeat.
City are clinging onto the coattails of Liverpool, and this was a reminder to Jurgen Klopp's side that, despite their strong position, they will need to keep glancing over their shoulder.
Masterful display from majestic De Bruyne
Afforded the freedom of the Emirates, De Bruyne produced a peerless midfield display. He showed superb technique with his right and left feet for his two goals.
A first Premier League hat-trick was the only thing missing from an individual showing among the best from any player this season.
Ozil among AWOL Arsenal players
The list of pitiful performances by Arsenal's players was a long one: Matteo Guendouzi, Calum Chambers and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were all dreadful.
However, a traffic cone may have provided more impetus in attack than Mesut Ozil against City, such was his anonymity. He cut an equally unenthusiastically figure as he trudged off the pitch when substituted just before the hour, before kicking his gloves in frustration.
Key Opta Facts
6 - Arsenal had just six shots in their 3-0 defeat to Manchester City - their fewest in a home Premier League game since December 2008 against Liverpool (also six). Limp. #ARSMCI pic.twitter.com/sP8KkPZujx— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 15, 2019
- Arsenal have lost their past five Premier League meetings with Manchester City – their longest losing streak against an opponent in the top flight since losing five against 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 the Citizens 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 (eight games).
- Arsenal managed just one shot on target against Manchester City – their joint-fewest in a Premier League game at the Emirates (also one versus Everton in 2010, Chelsea in 2015 and 2016).
- Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne has been directly involved in 19 goals in the Premier League in 2019 (seven goals and 12 assists), the most of any midfielder in this period.
Manchester City head to Oxford United in the quarter-final of the EFL Cup on Wednesday before they return to Premier League action with a key home fixture against Leicester on Saturday. Arsenal head to Goodison Park next Saturday in the day's early kick-off.