Manchester City struck a hammer blow in the Premier League title race as they outclassed leaders Arsenal 4-1 with an electrifying display at the Etihad on Wednesday.
City ran riot as they made it 12 successive league wins against Arsenal with a masterful Kevin De Bruyne scoring twice and Erling Haaland also on target as City seized control of their destiny.
De Bruyne fired City ahead in the seventh minute and City bombarded Arsenal’s goal before John Stones deservedly doubled their lead with a header in first-half stoppage time.
Arsenal, who began the clash five points clear but having drawn three successive games, looked powerless to stop their hosts and when De Bruyne struck again early in the second half it became a damage-limitation operation for the leaders.
Rob Holding grabbed an 86th-minute consolation but it was too little too late for Mikel Arteta’s side and City now look firm favourites to claim a fifth title in six seasons.
Haaland finally got on the scoresheet in stoppage time to take his tally for the season to 49.
City’s seventh successive league win left them with 73 points to Arsenal’s 75, but crucially they have played two fewer games than the Londoners whose hopes of a first title since 2004 now look forlorn after four games without a win.
Guardiola’s City, who have trailed Arsenal for almost the entire season, will go top if they beat Fulham at the weekend.
Arsenal began knowing a first league victory against City since 2015 would put them back in charge of the race after a damaging April in which points were frittered away.
Unlike against Southampton in a frenetic 3-3 draw on Friday they managed to get through the opening minute on Wednesday unscathed.
But the writing was on the wall as Haaland showed great strength to control a high ball and then send De Bruyne racing away into space with a neat pass and the Belgian ran through before nonchalantly curling a skidding shot inside the post.
City sensed Arsenal’s fragility and went for the jugular, tearing through the visitors’ lines at will.
De Bruyne looked poised for a carbon copy of his opener as Arsenal’s high-line defence was again caught out but this time his shot was blocked and minutes later Ramsdale managed to keep out Haaland’s close-range effort after the Norwegian bullied his way through more flimsy defending.
Haaland then forced another sharp save from Ramsdale before Arsenal finally threatened with Thomas Partey shooting narrowly wide. The onslaught continued though and Haaland thought he had scored only to see his left-footed shot flash wide.
Ramsdale denied Haaland again and just when Arsenal thought they might reach halftime only a goal down, Stones rose to head in De Bruyne’s flighted delivery in stoppage time.
The goal was initially ruled out for offside but a VAR check showed Stones was played on by Ben White’s foot.
If Arsenal still harboured any hopes of salvaging something they vanished in the 54th minute when Haaland, who could have had a hat-trick himself, fed De Bruyne for another clinical classy finish past Ramsdale.
City, with eyes firmly on a treble, throttled back slightly and Arsenal gave their fans some late cheer when Holding lashed home a shot from the edge of the area.