Kevin De Bruyne scored twice as Manchester City took a giant step toward retaining the Premier League title with a dominant 4-1 victory over leaders Arsenal in Wednesday’s top-of-the-table clash at the Etihad Stadium.

In what was billed for weeks as the likely title-decider, City were superb from the first whistle with De Bruyne and Erling Haaland terrorising Arsenal’s defence.

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De Bruyne gave Pep Guardiola’s side the lead just seven minutes in with a side-foot finish from 20 yards that beat goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale at his near post. Haaland had several chances to add to City’s advantage before John Stones headed in De Bruyne’s free kick in first-half stoppage time to give the game a scoreline that more adequately reflected City’s superiority.

De Bruyne then added his second and City’s third to put the game beyond Arsenal’s reach with another low finish past Ramsdale nine minutes into the second half. Haaland finally got the goal his play deserved deep into added time, after Rob Holding had scored the merest of consolations for Arsenal.

The goal was Haaland’s 33rd of his debut Premier League season, breaking a tie with Mohamed Salah for the most in a 38-game campaign and putting him one behind the single-season record (over 42 games) of Alan Shearer and Andrew Cole.

Arsenal remain top but now have just a two-point lead over City, who have two games in hand. City, chasing a fifth Premier League title in six years, can now afford to lose one of their remaining seven games and still win the title, even if Arsenal win out.

And, with an FA Cup final against Manchester United and Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid still to come, the prospects of a historic treble-winning season for the blue half of Manchester continue to increase.

There is a very different feeling for Mikel Arteta’s side, who have taken just three points from their past four games as the longtime leaders have faltered at the crucial stage of the season. What’s more, Arteta has now lost all seven games against City since he left his role as Guardiola’s assistant to take charge of the Gunners.

With William Saliba again missing from the centre of Arsenal’s defence, one of the big questions going into the game was how understudy Holding would cope with the record-setting Haaland.

That question was answered emphatically in the first 10 minutes. Haaland easily held off Holding to control a long ball forward and lay it off into the path of De Bruyne. The Belgian continued his surge forward and finished with a low strike that Ramsdale should arguably have done better with.

The pattern continued throughout the first half, with the only mystery being how City did not have more goals to show for their dominance. De Bruyne saw another effort blocked by Ben White, while Haaland had two shots denied by smart saves from Ramsdale and put another one just wide of the post.

Just as Arsenal were thinking they might get into half-time down only 1-0, City finally added to their lead.

Stones, back in the centre of a more traditional four-man defense with Kyle Walker replacing the injured Nathan Ake, was initially flagged for offside as he headed in De Bruyne’s pinpoint delivery to the far post. But a VAR check showed the England international was clearly being played onside, allowing the goal to stand.

There was no letup from the hosts at the start of the second half.

Haaland again had an effort repelled by Ramsdale but, while the Norwegian striker was having an unusually profligate game in front of goal, De Bruyne was in more clinical form. Again set up by Haaland following an Arsenal giveaway, City’s chief creator threaded a low shot through the legs of Holding to catch out Ramsdale and end the game as a contest, if it ever was one.

Guardiola was comfortable enough to give De Bruyne a rest with 10 minutes left. Holding’s well-taken shot past Ederson with four minutes remaining was the smallest of blips before Haaland added an exclamation point to City’s win.

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Manchester City vs. Arsenal – Football Match Report – April 26, 2023 – ESPN