The champions and leaders won the reverse fixture 5-0 in August, and started off marginally better in the capital. However, in a fast-paced start, a flowing attack led to Martin Ødegaard going down in the area after a challenge from Ederson. A VAR check saw fierce protests for a penalty waved away, before a venomous cross from Raheem Sterling then glanced narrowly wide by Rúben Dias with Aaron Ramsdale advancing.
Next, it was the in-form Kevin De Bruyne’s turn to come close, curling just wide of Ramsdale’s top left-hand corner. Awakened by that near-miss, Arsenal, without manager Mikel Arteta on the touchline due to Covid-19, made the breakthrough just after the half-hour mark. An incisive break led to Kieran Tierney drifting forward, and the left-back picked out Saka, who swept home from around 12 yards after finding himself unmarked, thanks to a run from Alexandre Lacazette that blocked off Nathan Aké.
Early in the second half, referee Stuart Attwell was called to the pitchside monitor after Bernardo Silva went to ground in the box following a shirt tug by Granit Xhaka. The game was initially allowed to play on, but Attwell eventually gave the decision and Mahrez duly sent Ramsdale the wrong way. Arsenal should have retaken the lead immediately when a mix-up between Aymeric Laporte and Ederson saw the Spain international head the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper. Aké got back brilliantly to scramble off the line, before Martinelli blasted the follow-up over when he should have scored.
The second period continued to produce moments of madness, as Gabriel was then sent off for a second yellow after raising his hands to knock over Jesus, having been booked for scuffing up the penalty spot prior to Mahrez’s leveller. Things became slightly more cagey after that, with City pushing for a winner and Arsenal trying to catch them on the break. De Bruyne had a key say in the winner, lofting a pass into the danger area. Rodri headed down for Laporte, whose effort fell into the path of his compatriot, who fired home before celebrating in front of the irate ‘Gunners’ fans.
Pep Guardiola’s men now sit 11 points clear of Chelsea, who face fellow title challengers Liverpool in a pivotal clash at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, while Arsenal are still four points clear of West Ham United in fifth, but having played a game more than the ‘Irons’.