LONDON (Reuters) – Arsenal landed a meaty blow in the Premier League title race with a 2-1 win at home to rivals Manchester City on Monday that swept away a few more doubts about their title credentials.
Arsene Wenger’s side certainly had the swagger of potential champions as they picked City apart with first-half goals from Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud while the visitors looked forlorn until Yaya Toure netted with eight minutes remaining.
Toure’s goal sparked a late resurgence from Manuel Pellegrini’s side, but they could not find a leveller, meaning City have now not won away in the league since September and have lost three of their last five on the road.
Arsenal, who have not lost at home in the league since their first match of the season, stay second in the table, two points behind surprise trailblazers Leicester City, but four clear of Pellegrini’s side.
“I believe we have shown… spirit, organisation, brilliance and altogether they gave us the three points,” a beaming Wenger told Sky Sports.
“You could see that there is exceptional life in this team and when we did not have the legs anymore, we relied on spirit and that got us through in the end.”
City have now lost five games and no side has won the title having suffered so many league defeats before Christmas since Everton in 1986-87, although Pellegrini was unruffled.
“It was an important game but we have 63 more points to play for so I think we have the same option to win the title,” said the Chilean who claimed his side played better than Arsenal.
The goal the game needed arrived after 33 minutes, but only after City had wasted their only chance of the first half.
Kevin De Bruyne, who was freed down the right flank by Sergio Aguero, back after a four-match injury lay-off, cut in on goal but could only flash his shot wide, prompting an exasperated look from David Silva who was waiting for a cross.
That decision was punished less than two minutes later when Mesut Ozil fed Walcott on the left edge of the penalty area and the England forward turned and curled the ball exquisitely into the far corner.
Arsenal’s second arrived in first-half stoppage time as a defensive error from Eliaquim Mangala gifted possession to the hosts who, via Ozil again, worked the ball to Giroud.
The Frenchman had little goal to aim at but fired his left footed effort low beneath England keeper Joe Hart for his 10th league goal of the campaign.
Defensive lapses have been commonplace for City this season, especially in the absence of injured captain Vincent Kompany, whose presence was again sorely missed.
“We took more risks and created chances but you cannot make mistakes in these important games,” Pellegrini told the BBC.
Arsenal should have put the contest to bed early in the second half but Joel Campbell blazed a great chance over and then stubbed an effort at Hart while Aaron Ramsey was also thwarted by the City keeper.
City pulled a goal back when Toure powerfully found the top corner with his left foot, prompting a late surge from the visitors. But Arsenal held firm and go into the hectic Christmas period with confidence booming.
(Writing by Toby Davis, Editing by Martyn Herman)