Arsenal came into Manchester knowing that the match against City represented a serious test of their title credentials. Ninety minutes later, Arsenal saw their lead at the top of the table cut to three points. A Premier League trip to the Etihad has been a death sentence for every side this season, and the Gunners were no exception, going down 6-3 to a majestic City display.
The hosts had the better start, but the first real chance of the game actually fell to Arsenal. Theo Walcott, starting in place of Santi Cazorla, wriggled past former teammate Gael Clichy and into the box. His far-post cross should really have been converted by the unmarked Jack Wilshere, but the midfielder mis-hit his effort so thoroughly that it turned into a second cross, by which time the opportunity was gone.
Arsenal would pay for the wasted chance almost immediately. Laurent Koscielny did well to clear for a corner as Alvaro Negredo looked to sneak onto a ball over the top, but from the set piece he completely switched off, allowing Sergio Aguero a free run onto Martin Demichelis' flicked header. The ball was a bit behind Aguero, but he doesn't miss those chances, sending an acrobatic volley fizzing past Wojciech Szczesny and in for a 1-0 lead.
Negredo should have doubled City's advantage shortly thereafter. Vincent Kompany won the ball high up the pitch and immediately picked out the striker, but Negredo's attempted near-post finish found the side netting rather than the goal. Minutes later, Negredo was found in a similar position by David Silva. This time he opted to go with a chip at the far post. That didn't work much better.
And between those chances, the Gunners drew level. Yaya Toure was robbed by Aaron Ramsey, but the Welshman hit the ball out to the hitherto anonymous Mesut Ozil. Instead of driving at goal himself, Ozil waited for the play to develop, eventually choosing a cutback to Walcott. His first-time strike wasn't hit particularly well, but Demichelis wasn't able to head it clear and the clearly-unsighted Costel Pantilimon didn't even bother trying to save it.
City had had their guests on the ropes for much of the match, but their failure to kill off Arsenal meant that they had more work to do. Their response was emphatic. Yaya Toure set up their second with a deft pass to Pablo Zabaleta, whose low cross was turned in by Negredo. Fernandinho then made it a little more comfortable just after halftime with a lovely long-range strike, curled just outside of Szczesny's reach.
Injury had been added to insult for the Gunners. Koscielny managed to injure himself during the Negredo goal, picking up a deep cut on his knee that ruled him out of the rest of the match (and perhaps beyond). Their healthy players weren't much happier: Olivier Giroud in particular was struggling, missing a slew of clear-cut chances in fairly embarrassing fashion. Combine those misses with Martin Atkinson missing what looked like a clear-cut penalty, and it would have been understandable if Arsenal's heads had dropped.
Instead, the Gunners continued to throw themselves forward, and eventually found themselves rewarded with Walcott's second of the game. Ramsey was the architect with a delightful ball over the top. This time Walcott didn't give Pantilimon the chance to make an error, smashing into the top corner to give the Gunners life, only down by one.
Any hope of a fightback, however, was quashed more or less immediately. Nacho Monreal was once again pegged back on the right flank, a forward was again unmarked, and a low cross was rather inevitably turned past Szczesny, this time by David Silva. 4-2.
Jesus Navas, Samir Nasri and Fernandinho all had opportunities to turn the scoreline into a rout (Nasri might have had a hattrick in the final ten minutes alone), and with Arsenal pushing up in a desperate attempt to retrieve something from the match the fifth goal was inevitable. It came through Fernandinho, who won the ball off Wilshere, played a one-two with Nasri, and finished in off the post.
Per Mertesacker grabbed a consolation header past Pantilimon during injury time before Szczesny hacked down James Milner in the box to hand City a penalty. With the final kick of the game, Yaya Toure made it 6-3. Not too shabby from the hosts.
Manchester City starting lineup (4-2-3-1) : Costel Pantilimon; Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis, Gael Clichy; Fernandinho, Yaya Toure; Samir Nasri (Javi Garcia 90'), Sergio Aguero (Jesus Navas 50'), David Silva ; Alvaro Negredo.
Goals: Aguero 14', Negredo 38', Fernandinho 50' 88', Silva 66', Yaya Toure 90' (p).
Arsenal starting lineup (4-3-3): Wojciech Szczesny; Bacary Sagna, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny (Thomas Vermaelen 41'), Ignacio Monreal; Mathieu Flamini , Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere; Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud (Nicklas Bendtner 76'), Theo Walcott.
Goals: Walcott 32' 63', Mertesacker 90'.