By Richard Clarke at Etihad Stadium
Arsenal stumbled to a 6-3 defeat in a pulsating game at Manchester City on Saturday.
Sergio Aguero and Theo Walcott swapped goals in the first half-hour. However the home side would steal a crucial advantage when Alvaro Negredo and Ferdandinho struck either side of half-time.An excellent second from Walcott revived Arsenal’s optimism. However David Silva stabbed home at the near post to restore a two-goal advantage for the home side.Arsenal continued to press for a route back into the game. But Manchester City not only held them off but pushed for more themselves. Fernandinho clipped home in the dying minutes. Per Mertesacker reduced the arrears in injury time but Yaya Toure’s penalty made it six almost immediately.As good as Manchester City were, the Ivorian’s strike tilted the scoreline too much their way.The home side were worthy winners but the visitors had their moments this afternoon.
Despite this incredible game and incredible scoreline, Arsenal are still top.And now they have nine days to lick their wounds before Chelsea come to Emirates Stadium in another crucial game in the race for the Premier League title.
A bad day for Wenger's men but the table still makes for decent reading.
SEETTING THE SCENE
Both sides had undertaken arduous away trips in the Champions League in midweek – albeit with different results.
Most observers expected changes but maybe not to the level that transpired.
Wenger made five changes. Both of the full-backs at Napoli, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson, were omitted from the squad. Bacary Sagna and Nacho Monreal came in.
Walcott made his first start since September. Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey returned in midfield.
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky dropped to the bench.
Manchester City made eight changes themselves as they tried to extend their perfect Premier League record at the Etihad Stadium.
An away victory would leave the home side nine points off their visitors this afternoon.
Manchester City made a sprint-start and camped in the Arsenal penalty area for the first five minutes. They won a number of corners and caused a couple of alarms. But Wojciech Szczesny was largely untroubled.
In fact the first chance came to Arsenal.
After 10 minutes, Walcott clipped over a ball from the right invitingly for Wilshere. Unfortunately he could only scuff a volley wide.
However first blood would go to Manchester City. In the 14th minute, Samir Nasri’s corner was flicked on by Martin Demichelis at the near post and Aguero expertly volleyed in.
It was all the incentive the home side needed. They tried to go for the throat. Quick feet from Vincent Kompany released Negredo in the right-hand channel. He drove dangerously in to the sidenetting.
It was all Manchester City.
But then Arsenal scored out of nothing.
On the half-hour, Ramsey robbed Yaya Toure in midfield and spread the ball wide to Mesut Ozil.
His cut back was sidefooted home by Walcott. It was his first Premier League goal of the season.
Manchester City should have regained the lead almost immediately when Negredo burst clear in the right-hand channel. He nudged his shot wide of Szczesny and, fortunately for Arsenal, the far post as well.
The visitors looked lively and inventive now. However, this was not turning out to be a predictable game and Manchester City would soon retake the lead with a goal of quality.
Pablo Zabaleta, up on the right, cushioned a lofted ball from Toure with one touch and crossed low into the area with his next.
Negredo beat Koscielny to slide the ball home at the near post.
After the goal, the French defender got to his feet but then went to the floor in pain. He was stretchered off with a deep cut. Thomas Vermaelen came on.
Demichelis headed over and Silva blasted wide as the home side ended the half on top.
Manchester City extended their lead five minutes after the restart. Mathieu Flamini’s slip allowed Ferdandinho to advance a curl his effort beyond Szczesny.It was a huge and somewhat unneccessary blow but Arsenal immediately sought redress.They had pressure and might have scored when Giroud met Sagna’s cross at the near post and diverted his header inches wide.Then Arsenal had strong claims for a penalty when Zabaleta seemed to control Wilshere’s throughball with his hand as Walcott looked to pounce.The visitors suddenly looked the stronger side and were asking all the questions.In the 63rd minute, they found a goal. Ramsey dinked a ball to Walcott, who curled a gorgeous shot over Pantilimon and into the top corner.The game was back in the balance. But three minutes later Manchester City would score again to tip it their way once more.Jesus Navas crossed low into the area from the right-hand side and Silva steered the ball home at the near post.
Arsenal were far from finished. Wilshere’s rocket-fuelled effort was turned aside by Pantilimon.Then Wenger brought on Serge Gnabry and Nicklas Bendtner in search of a riposte.However, by now, the hosts were the more likely scorers. Navas drove into the sidenetting and Ferdininho forced Szczesny into an unconvincing tip over.The Brazilian did find the net two minutes from time.Mertesacker stooped to head Arsenal back in touch in injury time but Manchester City went down the other end and grabbed a sixth.Szczesny clipped Milner and Toure scored from the spot.A tough end to a truly tough day for Arsenal.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
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