THE NOTEBOOK: Guardiola upgraded when he let fringe duo go

THE NOTEBOOK: Pep Guardiola upgraded when he let fringe duo Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus leave, Ben White’s defensive lapse proves costly… and Man City knew they’d triumph all along

  • OLIVER HOLT: Title shootout? No, this was an EXECUTION by City’s firing squad
  • Neither Jesus nor Zinchenko was more than a squad player under Guardiola
  • Premier League trophy – with blue and white ribbons – was on Etihad pitch

Manchester City struck a hammer blow in the Premier League title race as they outclassed leaders Arsenal 4-1 with an electrifying display in a seismic clash of the top two at the Etihad on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola’s relentless side ran riot as they made it 12 successive league wins against Arsenal with a masterful Kevin De Bruyne scoring twice and Erling Haaland also on target as City seized control of their destiny.

De Bruyne fired City ahead in the seventh minute and John Stones deservedly doubled their lead with a header in first half stoppage time.

De Bruyne struck again early in the second half it became a damage-limitation operation for the leaders as Rob Holding grabbed an 86th-minute consolation.

Mail Sport’s DANIEL MATTHEWS takes a look at some of things you may have missed.

Arsenal’s Oleksandr Zinchenko struggled to get on the ball or offer any creative thrust

Pep upgraded when he let fringe duo go

There have been some suggestions recently, as this new-look Arsenal have scaled new heights, that Pep Guardiola might live to regret selling Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus to a Premier League rival.

There can be no doubting their transformative effect on Mikel Arteta’s side: the technical brilliance, the tactical flexibility, the winning mentality.

On Wednesday night, though, when faced by this City juggernaut, the truth is they looked exactly as they always did here: anything but stand-out. 

Neither Jesus nor Zinchenko was more than a squad player under Pep Guardiola. And neither looked like they would improve this City side. 

That says more about City than them, by the way. Zinchenko struggled to get on the ball or offer creative thrust —after an hour he had the fewest touches among Arsenal’s back four and just five more than Aaron Ramsdale. 

Jesus, meanwhile, had just one touch in City’s box and 28 in total — as the map below shows. He was, though, given a standing ovation by home supporters after being taken off late on.

White’s lapse proves costly

Pity poor Nicolas Jover. 

After John Stones headed in Manchester City’s second goal and the flag went up, Arsenal’s set-piece guru (once of this parish) stood on the edge of the technical area – as he always does at dead-ball situations – and gave a huge thumbs up to his players. 

Praising them, his other hand signal suggested, for holding their defensive line. He must not have spotted Ben White, either. 

He was certainly out of eyeshot by the time VAR intervened.

Mascots enjoy their night 

Mascots from both teams were led in to the press conference room two hours before kick-off, sat at the top table and posed for pictures. 

Thankfully, no one asked the boy in Arsenal colours how friendly he found the players. A touchy subject after the squad — unfairly, Arteta insisted — were accused of ‘ignoring’ a young girl when signing her shirt. 

A cynic may suggest City sniffed a PR opportunity, too. As players made final preparations, mascots had a kickabout on the pitch — not a privilege usually afforded. 

At least the lone Arsenal representative was allowed to join in. 

Not a privilege they’re usually afforded. The lone Arsenal representative was at least allowed to join in.

Amateur dramatics

This place was a sea of noise and flailing limbs after Kevin De Bruyne’s superb opener.  The steward sitting behind Aaron Ramsdale’s goal, however, was left open-mouthed. 

For Pep Guardiola, meanwhile, was driven to a frenzy. 

While his players celebrated, the manager was on the pitch, manically dishing out instructions to goalkeeper Ederson.

He crossed that white line again shortly after, too, after a foul was given against his side. 

City knew they’d triumph all along

A cruel example of: here’s what you could have won? Or the ultimate two fingers to fate and the risks of temptation? 

The Premier League trophy – fit with blue and white ribbons – was exhibited on Etihad pitch

Ahead of the game, the Premier League trophy — fit with blue and white ribbons — was brought on to the Etihad pitch. 

On this evidence, they won’t need to change those decorations over the next few weeks. 

Ex-City winger Shaun Wright-Phillips certainly seems confident. 

He tweeted his father, Gunners legend Ian Wright, before full-time and asked: ‘How’s things? Just checking in… hope you’re ok dad’. 

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