By Richard Clarke
This was the day when Arsenal gave their Premiership rivals a bunch of fives.
Five different goal-scorers gave the rampant Gunners a 5-1 win at Manchester City. And this result, coupled with Manchester United's draw at Bolton, means Arsène Wenger's side are now five points clear at the top of the Premiership with 10 games to go.
Dennis Bergkamp put the visitors ahead in the fourth minute then Robert Pires, Thierry Henry and Sol Campbell all added further goals in the following quarter of an hour as the visitors enjoyed the freedom of Maine Road.
Patrick Vieira stroked home another seven minutes after the restart but, after that, goalkeeper Stuart Taylor took centre stage as City rallied.
The 22-year-old, replacing the injured David Seaman, pulled off some spectacular saves before Nicolas Anelka tapped home a consolation goal in the final two minutes.
There were two other changes to the Arsenal side that drew 1-1 with Ajax in midweek. Gio van Bronckhorst replaced Ashley Cole (groin) while Martin Keown had recovered sufficiently from his bad back to slot in alongside Campbell with Pascal Cygan dropping to the bench.
Within four minutes, Arsenal were ahead. An innocent-looking pass from Sylvain Wiltord threaded its way to Dennis Bergkamp just outside the six-yard box and the Dutchman prodded the ball past City keeper Carlo Nash from close range. It was only his third Premiership goal of the season.
Immediately afterwards, Bergkamp nearly threaded a ball to the unmarked Henry on the edge of the area. Then, in the 12th minute, the French forward provided a simple chance for compatriot Robert Pires. Henry danced down the left-hand touchline and cut the ball back for the skilful midfielder to tap home from close range.
City were stunned and Arsenal soon went for the knockout punch in the 16th minute. From the corner of the area, Henry killed Keown's high punt forward with one touch of his left foot and adjusted his feet before steering home a shot inside the far post with the other. It was a sublime finish from a player with incredible technique.
It was also Henry's 105th goal for the club, surpassing Michel Platini's tally during his spell with Juventus. That means Arsenal's No 14 now holds the goal-scoring record for a French footballer playing for a foreign club.
Henry's strike was the cue for the Arsenal fans to start a party in the away end. They grabbed a fourth in the 18th minute when Campbell arrived unmarked at the far post to head home Henry's corner. Like a couple of the goals, it was a combination of incisive Arsenal attacking and poor City marking.
The home fans got the briefest glimmer of hope when Campbell hacked Fowler's low cross over his own bar and, just before the interval, Taylor saved well from Fowler.
But, in reality, Arsenal might have had more. Even though their accelerator pedal was pushed flat on the floor in the opening stages but half time they had eased off a little. Yet they still created chances.
An unmarked Henry miscontrolled Wiltord's cross five yards out and then the latter beat the keeper but just failed to find Bergkamp in front of goal.
Seconds after the restart, Campbell's weak defensive header let in Anelka but the former Arsenal striker slid his shot past the post.
However, in the 52nd minute, normal service was resumed. Vieira burst clear and tucked his shot under Nash.
Perhaps with on eye on the trip to Ajax in midweek, Wenger brought off Bergkamp, Wiltord and Pires. It also allowed City to have ample possession but Campbell and Keown won header after header.
Fowler and substitute Shaun Wright-Phillips both tested Taylor in this period. The young keeper was forced into a spectacular one-handed stop in the 79th minute when Fowler unleashed a rocked shot from 25 yards. He then tipped over from Eyal Berkovic's fierce rising drive.
He was eventually beaten in the 88th minute when Anelka tapped home from close range.
By then, though, the points were already on their way back to North London.
Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source
26 May 2004
Dennis opens the scoringDennis Bergkamp celebrates after scoring the first goal
BUY THIS PICTUREDennis celebrates his strike
BUY THIS PICTURERobert Pires slams home number twoPires celebrates scoring our second
BUY THIS PICTUREThierry scores a cracker for our thirdHenry celebrates his strike
BUY THIS PICTURESol Campbell heads in our fourth
BUY THIS PICTUREVieira rounds it off with the teams fifth
BUY THIS PICTUREOur captain celebrates a rare goal