City thrashes Arsenal 6-3 to throw open title race

Manchester City delivered another devastating attacking display

to beat Premier League leader Arsenal 6-3 in a wild shootout on

Saturday, leaving the chastened leaders in range of the chasing

pack in the title race.

After putting four goals past Manchester United and six past

Tottenham at Etihad Stadium this season, City dismantled another of

its main rivals for an eighth straight home win that showed just

why Manuel Pellegrini’s freescoring team is most pundits’ favorites

for the title.

Arsenal, weary after a grueling Champions League defeat at

Napoli on Wednesday, was breached by prolific strikers Sergio

Aguero and Alvaro Negredo in the first half and disintegrated after

the break as Fernandinho (two), David Silva and Yaya Toure

plundered more goals.

Pellegrini’s players are living up to their tag as the Premier

League’s entertainers – they have scored 35 goals in eight matches

at the Etihad and are now just three points off Arsenal.

”At times the tempo was frightening,” City captain Vincent

Kompany said. ”It is a real fortress here.”

Arsenal arrived in Manchester with the league’s stingiest

defense and left with its title credentials back under the

microscope.

Theo Walcott scored twice, to make it 1-1 and 3-2, with Per

Mertesacker grabbing the Gunners’ other goal in second-half

stoppage time. But they were ripped apart by City’s sparkling

forward department, reviving memories of their 8-2 loss at

Manchester United in August 2011.

This was Arsenal’s third high-intensity match in the space of

seven days, having drawn 1-1 with Everton last weekend, and they

have clearly taken their toll. Thankfully for the creaking leaders,

they have a much-needed nine-day break before playing Chelsea

next.

”Our strength until now was our defensive discipline and that

went as the game went on,” said Wenger, who refused to use the

short turnaround from the Napoli game as an excuse.

”It was 6-3 but what hurts me more is that we had an

opportunity to put Man City at nine points (behind). It’s three

tonight and that’s difficult to swallow.”

City’s confidence couldn’t be higher at the moment – even its

second-choice team beat reigning champion Bayern Munich 3-2 in the

Champions League in midweek. And goals are coming from all areas,

with Brazilian defensive midfielder Fernandinho finding time to

maraud forward and join the party here.

”For me, it’s very important to be an entertaining team,” City

manager Manuel Pellegrini said. ”There are managers who prefer to

score one goal, hold their team back and try to counter attack. Our

philosophy is to continue trying to score more goals. That’s the

best way to win.”

With its away form slowly improving, City appears to be the team

to beat in what is proving to be an open, exciting title race. The

only negative was the sight of Aguero hobbling off with a right

calf injury at the start of the second half. He will have a scan on

Sunday.

The omens weren’t good for Arsenal from the very first minutes,

with the visitors pinned back in their own half and City’s

overpowering midfield sharper both in possession and off the

ball.

Fernandinho delivered arguably his best performance since

joining from Shakhtar Donetsk in the offseason and the return from

injury of playmaker Silva added even more guile.

The last thing Arsenal’s tired backline needed was to deal with

a sprightly Aguero and the Argentina striker continued his

brilliant scoring run by volleying in expertly in the 14th minute

after Samir Nasri’s corner was flicked in at the near post by

Martin Demichelis. It was Aguero’s 19th goal in 20 matches in all

competitions.

Walcott equalized against the run of play in the 31st, meeting

Mesut Ozil’s cut-back with a sidefooted shot that took a slight

deflection off Demichelis.

Back came City, though, Negredo guided home a cross by the

galloping Pablo Zabaleta in the 39th. Worse for Arsenal, key

defender Laurent Koscielny sustained a deep laceration to his left

knee as he attempted to cut out the cross and was carried off on a

stretcher.

Aguero hobbling off in the 48th didn’t hamper City, with

Fernandinho making it 3-1 within two minutes after Mathieu Flamini

failed to collect Ozil’s pass across the face of the area. The

Brazilian seized on the mistake and curled in a fine finish from 25

yards for his first City goal.

Walcott, making his first start since September, curled a

brilliant shot past Costel Pantilimon from an angle in the 63rd

minute but City wasn’t to be denied as Jesus Navas set up fellow

Spaniard Silva for the fourth in the 66th and Fernandinho made it

5-2 in the 88th.

Mertesacker replied at the start of injury time with a header

but Toure had the final say, sweeping home a penalty after James

Milner was tripped by Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.