Denis Suarez came on for his debut but could do nothing to prevent us from slipping to defeat against Manchester City on Sunday.
The game could hardly have got off to a worse start as the hosts scored after 46 seconds, Sergio Aguero heading in from close range after we gave the ball away on the edge of the area.
It was a maddening mistake but we did well to ride out the blue storm and work our way back into the game, even if Bernd Leno was forced to make a flying save to deny Raheem Sterling.
But we stood firm and got our reward as Laurent Koscielny, once more in fine form at the back, found himself in the right place at the right time to head in the equaliser after Nacho Monreal had flicked on an inswinging corner.
Now we had a game, and while the home side dominated possession, the tigerish Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi were a ball of energy at the base of the midfield, working overtime to frustrate their opposite numbers.
We were showing fierce commitment, but just as we established a foothold in the game, we were dealt another blow as Aguero poked in his second from close range on the stroke of half-time.
City started the second half eager to try to kill off the game, and Leno had to make three sharp low saves to deny Kevin De Bruyne in the space of the first 10 minutes.
But the German goalkeeper could not prevent Aguero from completing his hat-trick just after the hour mark, the Argentine bundling the ball in from close range.
Suarez was introduced off the bench shortly afterwards for his debut, but it was always going to be a mountain to climb to try to affect a game against the champions from 3-1 down.
Leno was called into action twice more in the closing stages, but there was to be no late comeback as we left the Etihad Stadium empty-handed.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
We’re back in action next Saturday, as we travel north once more to take on bottom-of-the-table Huddersfield Town.
We beat The Terriers in the reverse fixture back in December, with Lucas Torreira scoring a late winner, and were last at the John Smith’s Stadium in May for Arsene Wenger’s final game in charge.
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