Arsenal 2, Manchester City 1: Walcott and Giroud pounce as Gunners stake title claim

 
Ross McLean
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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger revelled in his side’s “exceptional life” after the Gunners bolstered their Premier League title-winning credentials with victory over floundering Manchester City at Emirates Stadium last night.

First-half strikes from Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud – his 15th goal of the season – powered Arsenal into a commanding lead before the Gunners were forced to hold off a late City rally after Yaya Toure’s intervention.

Victory moved second-placed Arsenal to within two points of table-toppers Leicester but four ahead of City, who are winless in their last five Premier League away matches, having not won on the road since a 1-0 success at Crystal Palace on 12 September.

“You can see there is an exceptional life in this team,” said Wenger, who confirmed that Alexis Sanchez would remain on the sidelines until at least 10 January.

“When we had not the legs anymore, we relied on the spirit and that got us through in the end. We have shown our talents of spirit, organisation and brilliance.

“Every win strengthens your belief and when it is a big game of course even more. We have something really special there. We are very ambitious but this league is very difficult and that makes you cautious as well.”

City had lost on just one of their six previous visits to Emirates Stadium and threatened shortly after the half-hour mark as a clever touch from the returning Sergio Aguero saw Kevin de Bruyne bearing down on goal, only for the Belgium to drag his shot wide.

Arsenal had barely troubled City goalkeeper Joe Hart but surged into the ascendency moments later. Centre-half Laurent Koscielny and playmaker Mesut Ozil combined to find Walcott, who curled a sumptuous effort beyond Hart from the edge of the penalty area.

The Gunners doubled their lead in first-half stoppage time as Giroud drilled low past Hart after Walcott capitalised on an errant Eliaquim Mangala pass to find Ozil, who duly delivered his 15th assist of the campaign.

But City halved the deficit with eight minutes remaining to set up a tense finale as Toure exchanged passes with Bacary Sagna before guiding the ball into the top corner of Cech’s net, ruining the stopper’s bid to set a new Premier League record of 170 clean sheets.