Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says he is surprised by his side’s imperious run of form “when everyone is suffering in this world” as they extended their winning run to 18 games with victory at Arsenal.
The Premier League leaders have not dropped a point since 15 December and have taken control of the title race as they sit 10 points clear at the top of the table with 13 games remaining.
Like other teams, they have had to deal with a congested fixture list as well Covid-19 cases within the club as the world continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Guardiola said: “I’m surprised and impressed and so when everyone is suffering in this world, all the teams in the league are dropping points, we were consistent over the past two months and I did not expect [that].
“People talk and talk about the record and the victories but to do this you have to win these types of games many, many times.
“It is not always about winning by three or four because that is not possible.”
City looked confident right from the outset at Arsenal, taking the lead with just two minutes on the clock as Raheem Sterling somehow managed to outjump Rob Holding to head in Riyad Mahrez’s cross.
The visitors had four shots to Arsenal’s none in the opening quarter of an hour and it looked as if the Gunners were in danger of being on the end of a heavy defeat as Guardiola’s side poured forward at every opportunity.
To Arsenal’s credit, they weathered that early storm and grew into the game as Kieran Tierney tested Ederson with a strong effort from distance, while there were glimpses of a threat on the break through the pace of Bukayo Saka.
City failed to kick on after the break although still looked the most likely to add to their lead as Kevin de Bruyne – making his first start in more than a month – lifted an effort just wide while Ilkay Gundogan saw a shot saved by Bernd Leno before Joao Cancelo clipped a lovely strike inches past the post late on.
In the end, a second goal was not needed as City took the three points to ensure they stay in control at the top of the standings.
Arsenal, meanwhile, are 10th and six points off the top six.
Impressive City keep run going
City have been back to their free-scoring best this season and had bagged 18 goals in their six previous Premier League games going into this fixture.
It looked like another high-scoring game was on the cards when they took a very early lead through Sterling, with Guardiola and his former assistant coach Mikel Arteta having barely finished exchanging pleasantries on the touchline when the ball was being picked out of the Arsenal net.
But the additional goals failed to materialise as City were uncharacteristically not at their best in the final third, with Gabriel Jesus launching well over late on after a quick counter, while Gundogan and De Bruyne could arguably have done better with their opportunities.
While it was a narrow win in the end, it was one that never really looked in doubt, with Ederson making just the one save all game.
This was City’s 23rd clean sheet of the season, more than any other team in the top five European leagues or top four divisions in England, while they have not been behind in any of their past 17 Premier League games.
The victory also equalled a club record 11 successive away wins in all competitions. Impressive statistics for City, worrying ones for any side hoping to somehow deny them a third league title in four seasons.
Saka shines as Arsenal recover from worrying start
Arsenal had gone into this game having lost in their past seven league meetings with City, so a victory against Guardiola’s in-form side always looked a tall order.
Their dreadful start, when they were completely overpowered by their opponents, suggested this was not just going to be another defeat, but also a hefty one.
While Ederson was never really troubled in the City goal, Arsenal had their moments with Saka once again particularly lively.
The 19-year-old’s pace on the counter meant City could never truly relax and perhaps accounted for why the visitors failed to go on and win by a bigger margin.
Saka was lining up on the left, despite having got more goals and assists on the right this season, so could arguably have provided even more of a threat if he had started this game in that position.
Regardless, while Arteta will be unhappy that his side did not threaten Ederson’s goal more, he can be happy that they did not at least crumble after their poor start.
“When we conceded the first goal it put us in a difficult situation,” Arteta said.
“It was tough. With the formation and the players they use they are really comfortable.
“We got something wrong. We didn’t do it in the first 10 minutes. It’s a cross and Raheem Sterling cannot head a ball there.”
Towards the end of the game, Arsenal used a concussion substitute for the first time in the Premier League when Holding went off after he had collided with Cancelo. He was replaced by David Luiz.
Sterling scores on the road again – the stats
- Arsenal have now lost each of their past eight league games against Manchester City – their joint-longest run of consecutive league defeats against an opponent, along with an eight-game run versus Leeds United between 1973 and 1976.
- Arsenal have lost their past four Premier League games against Manchester City without scoring a goal. This is the first time in their history they have failed to score in four consecutive home league games against an opponent.
- Manchester City are unbeaten in their past 25 games across all competitions (W22 D3) – their second-longest run without defeat under Guardiola, after a 28-game spell between April and December 2017.
- This was Manchester City’s 15th clean sheet in the Premier League this season – the most by a team after 25 games of a top-flight campaign since 2008-09, when both Manchester United (19) and Chelsea (15) had as many.
- Since the start of last season, no player has scored more away goals than Sterling in the Premier League (20). Indeed, Sterling’s total is twice as many as Manchester City’s second-highest away scorer in this period (Gabriel Jesus, 10).
- Manchester City’s Sterling is the third player to score in three consecutive away games against Arsenal in the Premier League, after Nicolas Anelka (four games ending in May 2009) and Ian Harte (three games ending in May 2003).
- Manchester City’s opener after 75 seconds was the first time they’ve scored in the opening two minutes of a Premier League game since December 2019, which was also away at Arsenal (Kevin de Bruyne after 89 seconds).
Manchester City switch their attention to the Champions League as they face Borussia Monchengladbach in Budapest in the last 16 on Wednesday, 24 February (20:00 GMT), while Arsenal play Benfica in Athens in the second leg of their Europa League last-32 tie (17:55 GMT).
- 2BellerínBooked at 87mins
- 16HoldingSubstituted forDavid Luizat 82′minutes
- 25ElnenySubstituted forCeballosat 86′minutes
- 34XhakaBooked at 53mins
- 19PépéSubstituted forSmith Roweat 73′minutes
- 11ØdegaardSubstituted forLacazetteat 73′minutes
- 17Cédric Soares
- 23David Luiz
- 32Smith Rowe
- 27CanceloBooked at 64mins
- 3Rúben Dias
- 17De BruyneSubstituted forGabriel Jesusat 63′minutes
- 20Bernardo SilvaBooked at 51mins
- 9Gabriel Jesus
Match ends, Arsenal 0, Manchester City 1.
Second Half ends, Arsenal 0, Manchester City 1.
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Dani Ceballos (Arsenal).
Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal).
Rúben Dias (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by David Luiz (Arsenal).
Foul by Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City).
Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by David Luiz (Arsenal).
Attempt missed. Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Oleksandr Zinchenko following a fast break.
Foul by Fernandinho (Manchester City).
Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Raheem Sterling (Manchester City).
Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Manchester City. Conceded by David Luiz.
Héctor Bellerín (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.