Manchester City took control of the Premier League title race as Kevin De Bruyne scored twice in a dominant 4-1 win over leaders Arsenal to close in on retaining their crown as English champions on Wednesday.
Arsenal now hold a two-point lead at the top of the table but City have two games in hand, meaning Pep Guardiola’s men can afford to lose one of their remaining seven matches and still claim a fifth title in six seasons.
The Gunners’ challenge to win the league for the first time in 19 years had already come off the rails prior to their trip to the Etihad as Mikel Arteta’s men have now failed to win in their last four games.
But for the first time this season they were truly outclassed as City flexed their muscles.
The arrival of Erling Haaland has brought a new dimension to a side that was already the dominant force of the English game.
Haaland set a new record of 33 Premier League goals in a 38-game season deep into stoppage time to take his tally in all competitions for the campaign to 49.
But the Norwegian showed there is more to his game than goals with a sublime touch that set De Bruyne away to curl the opening goal beyond Aaron Ramsdale after just seven minutes.
Arsenal never recovered from that nightmare start and were fortunate not to be blown away before half-time.
Ben White’s last-ditch block denied De Bruyne an almost carbon copy of his first goal after being set free in behind by Haaland.
Ramsdale then single-handedly kept Arsenal in the game and Haaland at bay with a hat-trick of saves from the towering 22-year-old.
But there was no reprieve when John Stones headed in De Bruyne’s free-kick in first-half stoppage time and a VAR review adjudged the England defender was onside.
Ramsdale continued to win his battle with Haaland after the break when the City striker galloped clean through from Ederson’s long ball.
But Arsenal lost the war as Haaland teed up De Bruyne once more to find the bottom corner via a nutmeg on Rob Holding on 54 minutes.
Holding has been the scapegoat for Arsenal’s defensive woes in recent weeks as he has struggled to replace the injured William Saliba.
Arteta’s men have now conceded 10 times in their last four games and face a huge challenge to raise themselves in the final weeks of the campaign to keep any sort of pressure on City.
Arsenal did at least get on the scoresheet four minutes from time through the unlikely figure of Holding when the centre-back smashed home.
But even if there is an Arsenal response, City look imperious as they close in on not only a third consecutive Premier League title, but a treble.
A meeting with Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals appears the biggest hurdle next month with a FA Cup final against local rivals Manchester United to follow on June 3.
Haaland provided the final flourish with virtually the last kick of the game when he finally got the better of Ramsdale to move past Mohamed Salah’s previous record of 32 Premier League goals in the 2017/18 season.
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