Arsenal beware, Man City are fully charged! Comfortable 3-1 win over Aston Villa keeps Premier League title race wide open
- Rodri, Gundogan & Mahrez on target
- Reigning champions take all three points at the Etihad
- Trip to the Emirates next on the agenda
TELL ME MORE: The reigning champions are now just three points adrift of leaders Arsenal and will move to the summit, albeit on goal difference and having played a game more, if they can topple the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday. There were no signs of the punishment threats hanging over City being a distraction during their meeting with Villa, as Rodri glanced home from a corner inside the opening four minutes. By the 15-minute mark, Ilkay Gundogan – who scored twice against the Villans on the final day last season to wrap up another title triumph – saw one effort saved and another that hit the net ruled out for a foul by Erling Haaland on Emi Martinez. Jack Grealish also went close against his former club as the home side – in front of vocal and passionate support – relentlessly knocked on the door without forcing it open again.
A further breakthrough was, however, only a matter of time, and it duly arrived in the 39th minute when Gundogan got his customary goal against Villa after being teed up by Haaland – who passed up the chance to shoot himself after beating Martinez to a bouncing ball. It was three before half-time when Jacob Ramsey felled Grealish inside the box and Riyad Mahrez made no mistake from the penalty spot. City were always likely to take their foot off the gas a little - with Haaland withdrawn at the break - and Ollie Watkins did pull one back for Villa with half-an-our left on the clock as he raced through a gaping hole in the Blues’ defence to roll beyond Ederson, but the end result was never in doubt despite Jhon Duran striking the crossbar late on.
THE MVP: Pep Guardiola has been bullish in his response to the charges levelled against City, with the Catalan coach suggesting that his big-spenders have been unfairly singled out by some of their domestic rivals. He was always going to have his side fired up for a first outing on home soil since the Blues fell under the monetary microscope, and everybody was pulling in the same direction at the Etihad. The fans made their feelings clear prior to kick-off, with Guardiola given a rousing reception when he emerged from the tunnel, and the most demanding of managers had little to complain about as his team ran riot at times against opponents that rather stumbled out of the blocks. With another challenge ticked off, City will want to put down another serious marker when they head to north London in midweek.
THE BIG LOSER: Hardly a loser, with City doing more than enough from back to front, but the sight of Erling Haaland failing to emerge for the second half will have concerned some home supporters. The Norway striker appeared to take a knock to his thigh when pulled up for the collision with Martinez that initially denied Gundogan a first-half goal. He played on to the interval, setting up Gundogan's eventual goal in the process, but no risks were taken with his fitness after the points were all-but sealed. With Arsenal up next, Guardiola is eager to ensure that his 31-goal top scorer is firing on all cylinders against the Gunners.
MATCH IN THREE PHOTOS:
WHAT NEXT? Having rarely had to get out of first gear against Villa, while being in a position to rest Haaland as required, City will be feeling pretty good about themselves ahead of a visit to Arsenal. The Gunners have been warned about what is heading their way, but can they do anything to disrupt Guardiola’s troops after seeing an “us against the world” mentality adopted in Manchester?
MATCH RATING (OUT OF FIVE): ⭐⭐⭐⭐