Alexis Sanchez struggles as Arsenal suffer at Manchester City
Arsenal fell 12 points behind Manchester City as the league leaders swept the Gunners aside in a 3-1 win on Sunday.
Kevin De Bruyne fired City ahead before Sergio Aguero extended their lead from the penalty spot. Alexandre Lacazette then emerged from the bench to fire Arsenal back into the game, before fellow substitute Gabriel Jesus re-established City's two-goal advantage.
Arsene Wenger will doubtless complain about two refereeing decisions that went City's way: the penalty award and an offside call in the build-up to Gabriel Jesus' goal.
However, there was a clear gulf in class between the two teams. Although Arsenal occasionally threatened, City were markedly the better team and might have scored more.
Prior to the game, Arsenal fans probably feared the final scoreline might be even more one-sided. City have the potential to blow teams away, and Arsenal were at least in the game for long periods.
They'll also have been pleased to see Lacazette make his presence felt in a big game. The summer signing is still adapting to the demands of the Premier League, but this goal will help his confidence and acclimatisation
The 12-point gap to the top isn't particularly relevant -- it's been apparent for some time that Arsenal would not be title challengers. However, every point dropped is important in the battle for Champions League qualification. On a weekend in which Liverpool and Tottenham picked up important wins, Arsenal lost ground and tumbled to sixth place in the league.
There will also be question marks over the viability of the 3-4-2-1 system. Wenger stuck with the new formation against City, but it meant dropping Francis Coquelin in as an emergency centre-half. Would he not have been better off going with a back four from kick-off?
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- The selection of Coquelin won't have amused the Arsenal fans -- especially those who saw how terrible the Frenchman was in midweek against Red Star Belgrade. It's also difficult for Wenger to justify the exclusion of Lacazette, given how immediate the Frenchman's impact was after coming off the bench. Whichever way you want to slice it, Wenger left out his record signing and top scorer in his biggest game of the season.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Petr Cech, 6 -- Did well to turn away De Bruyne's first dangerous effort on goal, but was beaten mere seconds later by his angled drive. Did well to prevent an own goal from Laurent Koscielny and had little chance with the other City goals.
DF Laurent Koscielny, 7 -- No centre-half will face City without looking stretched at times, and Koscielny was no exception. The Frenchman would have turned the ball into his own net were it not for an excellent intervention from Cech. However, he did make a couple of vital late interceptions to prevent the match from becoming a thrashing.
DF Francis Coquelin, 6 -- The Frenchman was a surprise selection at centre-half. It's not a position he has ever regularly filled before, but clearly Wenger felt his tackling and mobility would be useful when it came to dealing with City's pace and movement. There were some poor passes, but equally some timely challenges on the edge of his own box. Coquelin didn't last an hour, but acquitted himself relatively well for a player with no experience of the position.
DF Nacho Monreal, 6 -- The Spaniard will be furious that he allowed himself to be gulled into conceding a penalty by Raheem Sterling. The manner in which he went shoulder-to-shoulder with the former Liverpool man was very naive. Sterling was always likely to go down under any contact whatsoever.
MF Hector Bellerin, 6 -- Arsenal's right wing-back tore up and down the flank with typical vigour, but would have hoped to cause more trouble to the out of position Fabian Delph.
MF Granit Xhaka, 6 -- As the game became stretched, Xhaka simply didn't have the legs to live with City's midfield. The Swiss international was booked for protesting City's third, and was withdrawn shortly afterward -- presumably partially due to the risk of a red card.
MF Aaron Ramsey, 7 -- After two goals in his last two Premier League games, Ramsey was always likely to be one of Arsenal's best attacking outlets. It was the Welshman who had Arsenal's best chance of the first half, testing Ederson with a shot towards the near post. He then created Lacazette's goal with a well-timed pass.
MF Sead Kolasinac, 5 -- In the build-up to the game, there was real concern that Kolasinac might not be fit to play. Perhaps he shouldn't have been hurried back, as he didn't enjoy a great match. First he booted the ball upfield, conceding possession in the build-up to City's opening goal. Then he allowed Sterling to run off the back of him and win the penalty.
FW Mesut Ozil, 6 -- Was majestic in his last away outing against Everton, but could not replicate that performance at the Etihad. His frustration began to tell in the final few minutes, as he began committing necessary fouls.
FW Alex Iwobi, 7 -- Selected for his positional discipline and excellent work rate, Iwobi stuck doggedly to his task and was involved in the build-up to Arsenal's solitary goal. However, Lacazette's impact will have fans wondering if he ought to have started ahead of the Nigerian.
FW Alexis Sanchez, 6 -- Much of the prematch discussion surrounded exactly how Sanchez would acquit himself against the team he nearly joined this summer. On the basis of this performance, City wouldn't have felt too disappointed to be without the Chilean. He gave away the ball too frequently and generally cut a frustrated figure.
FW Alexandre Lacazette, 7 -- Came on for Coquelin and flashed home Arsenal's goal.
MF Jack Wilshere, N/R -- Replaced Iwobi but did not make much impact.
FW Olivier Giroud, N/R -- Introduced for Xhaka as Arsenal searched for a way back into the game.
Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.