ACTION STATIONS: Manchester City's Vincent Kompany and Arsenal's Theo Walcott (right) in action at The Emirates
MANCHESTER CITY cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win over Arsenal to keep a grip on their Premier League crown.
With Manchester United taking all three points against Liverpool earlier in the day it was crucial for Roberto Mancini’s men to respond. That they did was due to an early red card for Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny and a competent performance by the men in light blue.
The opening ten minutes of the match were a nightmare for Arsene Wenger’s men. Koscielny saw red for pulling back Edin Dzeko who had a goal scoring opportunity according to referee Mike Dean.
Arsenal’s luck held momentarily when Dzeko’s resultant spot kick hit Sczesny’s outstretched leg then hit the post with the ball rolling into the grateful keeper’s arms.
James Milner was to give the visitors the lead on 21 minutes when he fired home a cross shot that gave the Arsenal custodian no chance.
Dzeko was to get himself a goal on 32 minutes when he tapped home from close range with the Arsenal defence was all at sea again.
Arsenal’s only effort of note came on 35 minutes when Lukas Podolski hit a shot that did not overly trouble Joe Hart in the City goal.
Manchester City had gone 27 league matches without a win at Arsenal. Their last league victory came at Highbury in the old Division One on 4 October 1975. They were put that right today with a convincing win against a lacklustre home side.
City had not scored on their last five league visits to the red half of north London. The last City scorer was DaMarcus Beasley, who scored in the 3-1 defeat in April 2007.
Arsenal faced the Premier League champions having won four of their last five league games. There was no sign of that form as Arsene Wenger’s men continue to drop points to put their Champions League place in jeopardy.
Abou Diaby returned to the first team with Arsenal’s midfield general, Mikel Arteta, missing because of a knock he picked up in training.
But this was a case of which Arsenal would turn up for this game, though? The free-scoring version which managed 17 goals in their last five home games, including seven against Newcastle? Or the rather lacklustre, uninspiring Arsenal that drew at Southampton on New Year's Day? That was a performance openly criticised by manager Wenger.
Sadly for the majority of the 60,000 or so who braved the weather it was the lacklustre version of the Gunners that was on display. They may not have conceded in the second period but it was another poor home showing by Arsenal.
Ref Dean appeared to even things up when he showed City captain Vincent Kompany a straight red card for what appeared to be a two-footed tackle on the rampaging Jack Wilshere.
Mancini will be disappointed to lose his leader and talisman for three games in a match in which his team were always in charge.
The win leaves City seven points behind United and full of hope. The defeat adds even more pressure on an increasingly frustrated Wenger.