Wenger concedes Arsenal are out of the title race before Christmas as Silva lands the knockout blow which sends Manchester City back to the summit

ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger ruled his side out of the Premier League title race after David Silva’s second half goal returned Manchester City to the summit and opened up a mammoth 12-point gap between them and the fifth-placed Gunners.

A compelling encounter was decided in the 53rd minute when Silva just pipped Thomas Vermaelen to the loose ball after Wojciech Szczesny had got down smartly to keep out Mario Balotelli’s powerful low effort.

Arsenal’s attempts to find an equaliser were thwarted by Joe Hart, who made fine stops from Theo Walcott and Vermaelen, and when the England goalkeeper was beaten by Robin van Persie in the 66th minute, the Dutch striker’s effort was ruled out for off-side.

City, themselves, created and spurned a number of goalscoring opportunities but were more than happy to settle for Silva’s solitary strike which saw them regain leadership of the Premier League after Manchester United’s earlier win over QPR, and land a knockout blow to one of their potential title rivals.

“Unfortunately for us it was a game that we couldn’t afford to lose because it puts us too much [behind Man City],” said Wenger, who will be without the suspended duo of Alex Song and Mikel Arteta for Wednesday’s trip to Villa Park.

“If we had won the game we would have come back to six points and with players coming back we will have a better squad in the second half of the season. But now we are too far behind.

“It will be difficult to close the gap but we will try. This is a game we couldn’t afford to lose and that’s why it’s very difficult to take.”

Though the visitors competed admirably, City always carried the greater threat and would have gone in ahead at the break had Sergio Aguero not blasted over when clean through and Balotelli not had a close range effort smothered by Szczesny.

The Pole denied Balotelli again eight minutes after the interval but Silva reacted first to the rebound and turned home the 50th goal of City’s league season.