Shambolic Arsenal exposed as pretenders, not contenders, by rampant Manchester City

The Gunners remain top of the league but their title credentials look flimsier than ever after they shipped six goals against Manuel Pellegrini's free-scoring side
By Peter Staunton at the Etihad Stadium

"We are top of the league", the away fans sang, but even they must not truly believe the message after this damaging defeat. Arsenal did not play like a team fighting for the title as they became the latest team to be routed by Manchester City at home. With the attacking talent on display, it was always likely to be entertaining but City never really looked like they would be outgunned by Arsene Wenger's men.

That is 35 goals at home for City now this season; Hull City, back in August, were the last visitors to escape with fewer than three conceded. Whatever their form on the road, displays like this mean that it is unlikely any visiting team will take points from the Etihad Stadium.

City did, in truth, enjoy an cosier build-up to this fixture. Arsenal have now played three huge matches in six days and are, again, counting the cost of injuries. Manuel Pellegrini's side, by contrast, had the luxury of resting their most important players in midweek and that freshness showed.

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Vincent Kompany was impressive in carrying the ball out from the back, sparking enthusiasm and affection from the stands with his power and style. One uncharacteristic slip aside, Yaya Toure was in charge in midfield and more than made amends for giving the ball away for Theo Walcott's opener. Samir Nasri prompted and probed and set the tempo in City's attacks while, before another injury, Sergio Aguero was roving and dangerous.

But, for all City's strengths, it was deficiences in the Arsenal system which helped set this tie in their favour.
The Gunners simply do not possess the requisite organisation and competence of a side capable of winning the Premier League title. City do, whatever the league table says. 

There was nothing complicated about their first goal as they converted early pressure to a tangible lead. A corner kick from Nasri was whipped via the forehead of Martin Demichelis to the back post, where Aguero finished expertly ahead of a leaden-footed Laurent Koscielny. A failure to defend set-pieces adequately cost Wenger's side dearly - as it had done at Old Trafford in November.

With an equaliser that they did not merit, Arsenal surrendered parity as quickly as they gained it. Easy come, easy go. The story of their season to come. 

Toure atoned for his error with a delightful clip of the ball to the rampant Pablo Zabaleta, who weakened Nacho Monreal throughout. His cross was met eagerly by Negredo, who showed more fight than Koscielny. The goal was a double blow for Wenger, who lost his French defender to a deep laceration on the knee in that exchange.

The key issue, however, was not Koscielny; it was Jack Wilshere, named in a left-sided position but who did not show any inclination to track good runs from the full-back. The England midfielder looked frustrated throughout and his gift of possession to Nasri late in the day for Fernandinho's second goal was the low point of a sloppy display.

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There was self-inflicted harm, too, on the third; a baffling decision from Ozil saw him play the ball loosely to Mathieu Flamini in an area where he did not want it. It ran away from him to Fernandinho and the Brazilian furnished a supreme performance with a well-taken strike.

Mertesacker was not close enough to Silva - hardly a centre forward in his own right - as Arsenal coughed up another and Wojciech Szczesny got in on the act when he brought James Milner down in injury time. Folly after folly.

City, at the moment, are limitless with regard to their potential for causing damage to fellow Premier League teams at home. They do not need a helping hand. But this was the day that Arsenal showed weakness and vulnerability and cast doubt on the notion that they can stay the course.

Pellegrini's side may still be three points behind in the league table but it is their three-goal advantage on Saturday that will ultimately tell in the title race.