Arsenal drowned Manchester City in a thoroughly entertaining game at the City of Manchester Stadium in what was a must-win fixture for Arsenal to keep Chelsea within touching distance.
The early sending off of Dedryck Boyata helped Arsenal's cause. Marouane Chamakh was the chief architect behind Boyata's sending off—which was the right decision for denying a goal-scoring opportunity.
As the game progressed Arsenal deservedly scored the opener through Samir Nasri on 20 minutes. The Frenchman played a quick one-two with Andrey Arshavin before blasting the ball into the net. Arsenal's fit-again captain Cesc Fabregas could have added the second in the first half when penalty was awarded for a foul by Kompany on Fabregas. However, the Spaniard failed to beat Joe Hart from the spot.
In the second half, Alex Song scored the second goal for Arsenal to put the game to bed. He was quick to latch on to a mistake from Wayne Bridge and finished with aplomb.
Later, it was the turn of substitute Nicklas Bendtner to round off an incisive performance with a third goal.
Nasri provided the through ball after doing well to keep the ball in play when it seemed like the ball had gone out of play. Bendtner took full advantage and clinically slotted home from close range. That, being Bendtner's first goal of the season, will boost his already sky-high confidence level.
One must also take a note of Lukaz Fabianski's splendid performance in goal denying City on numerous occasions. This performance might also suggest the end of Manuel Almunia.
David Silva tested Fabianski from the very start to the very end but with little success; the diminutive Spaniard's promising display was the only bright spot for Roberto Mancini from an otherwise uninspiring defeat.
What this win will also do is propel Arsenal as the major title contender after Chelsea. This thumping win also serves as a fitting birthday gift to Arsene Wenger, who couldn't have asked for anything better from his young team. Maybe he could have asked for a little more from Johan Djorou, who was vulnerable in the first half.
Surprisingly, Arshavin worked harder than usual. After being dropped from the midweek European tie against Shakhtar Donetsk, he should have realized the importance of working hard on the field for holding on to his place in the starting eleven.
That doesn't mean it was a good performance from him. Arshavin's body language was positive and worked hard until he was substituted. Working hard and failing is one thing but failing without trying is another; on this occasion, Arshavin did the former so well done to him.
Nasri, Arsenal's best player of the season thus far, showed again why he's rated highly by Wenger. He was the best player on the field once again (how many times have I said it this season!) scoring one and creating another. He popped up on every part of the field and worked tirelessly to help the Gunners ease to a memorable victory in the blue half of Manchester.
Nasri's early season form reminds of his Olympique Marseille heyday. He has found the knack of scoring goals this season—which was lacking from his game for the past few years—that has done wonders to his overall play.
Alex Song relishes getting forward of late, and it's no wonder that he has scored again following his midweek goal agains Shakhtar Donetsk. He's also making giant strides in his development. Last season, he was one of the best defensive midfielders in the league, whereas this season, he's showing that he can also score goals from a deeper position besides his defensive duties.
Chamakh led the Arsenal attack in style and showed his strength against a solid team. It can't get any more solid than City when you take into account that all three of the midfielders that Mancini fielded today were defensive minded.
Fabregas also had a good game but should have done better in front of goal. His feeble shots didn't trouble Hart much. That's not the type of finishing you would expect from Fabregas; what you saw today was Xavi-esque finishing.
Denilson's fine display shouldn't go unnoticed. The Brazilian may not catch the eyes of spectators when you have the likes of Nasri and Fabregas around, but he did a remarkable job today. His neat passes and intelligent play went a long way in making the path as easy as it turned out to be in the end. He has worked on his physique and looks a much better player in comparison to the Denilson of 2009/10.
I am sure nobody has noticed the absence of Abou Diaby. The competition for places is rife which is healthy for Arsenal. Fabregas, Theo Walcott, and Bendtner looked in good shape after their recent injury concerns, and with the likes of Robin Van Persie (hope fans still remember him!) and Thomas Vermaelen to return in the next couple of weeks, it can only get better for Arsenal.
So, finally it seems Arsenal are ready to challenge the big boys and the long wait for trophies, most likely, will end come may if Arsenal play this sort of football away from home on a regular basis.