The Kevin de Bruyne show
Manchester City pushed Arsenal deeper into crisis as they won with embarrassing ease at Emirates Stadium.
Kevin de Bruyne produced a first-half masterclass as Pep Guardiola’s side cruised into a three-goal lead by the interval with two superb strikes, either side of a perfect pass that laid on City’s second for Raheem Sterling’s simple finish.
It was a harrowing experience for Arsenal caretaker manager Freddie Ljungberg, who was a powerless low-key presence, his minimal impact since succeeding the sacked Unai Emery reflected in a record of one win from his five matches in interim charge.
Arsenal’s lack of inspiration in an Emirates Stadium devoid of life and atmosphere will surely only increase the urgent need to appoint a full-time manager – although at this stage it is still unclear which direction the Gunners hierarchy intends to go.
City, meanwhile, remain 14 points behind leaders Liverpool after this win, which was a classic reminder of the quality the reigning Premier League champions possess.
Arsenal in serious decline
This was as grim as it gets for Arsenal and Ljungberg, a caretaker manager who has not been able to coax an ounce extra out of the squad he inherited after Emery was shown the door.
First things first – this is not all the Swede’s fault, as this was a rot that set in long before Emery’s dismissal, although Ljungberg had a close-up view as a member of his backroom staff.
What has been disturbing, however, is Ljungberg’s lack of impact on Arsenal, exemplified by the manner in which they were treated almost with contempt by Manchester City.
This result leaves the Gunners stuck between the top four and the relegation zone, seven points away from both, and the thousands of empty seats and a game concluded in resigned silence from the home support spoke volumes.
Arsenal had no spark, no creation and no fight – City actually went easy on them in the second half.
And while relegation talk is a stretch, that spark is something they must find soon, whether it is under Ljungberg or a new full-time manager.
City still possess such class
Manchester City’s quest to claim a third successive Premier League title is surely beyond them as they languish so far behind Liverpool – but this team is still a superb sight in full cry.
And at the hub of it all was the brilliant Belgian De Bruyne, who ripped through Arsenal at will in that first half, scoring twice and making another.
De Bruyne’s first goal was a masterpiece of technique, a flashing side-footed finish into the top corner, while his third was precisely placed into the bottom corner.
He created Sterling’s goal with a left-flank run that left the England attacker with the simplest of finishes, and would have scored a supreme hat-trick had Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno not shown great athleticism to fingertip his rising shot onto the woodwork.
This was a very easy day at the office for City as they overran timid opponents. The title may be gone, but they still have the class and firepower to beat any team when they get it right.