Kevin de Bruyne: Manchester City 'at our best' in emphatic win over Arsenal

 

Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City and Thomas Partey of Arsenal in action during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal FC at Etihad Stadium on April 26, 2023 in Manchester, United Kingdom.

Kevin de Bruyne said Manchester City were at their best in the 4-1 win over Arsenal on Wednesday night, a result which has tipped the Premier League title race in the defending champions’ favour.

De Bruyne scored twice at the Etihad – the first a superb low finish – either side of providing the free-kick for John Stones to head home City’s second after a VAR review.

Rob Holding pulled one back for Arsenal, before Erling Haaland added another record to his debut season, his 33rd goal setting a new milestone for most goals scored in a 38-game Premier League campaign. It was the Norwegian’s 49th goal in all competitions.

A seventh straight league victory moves City to within two points of leaders Arsenal with two games in hand, and very much on course to retain the title.

“When they play man to man we just have to go a little bit longer because there’s no place for short passes. The first half we were really good,” De Bruyne, 31, said. “We could have scored more, but luckily the second goal wasn’t offside and it changed the game.

“In the second half it was probably about 50/50 and I think we didn’t give much away to them. They’re a class team and hard to play against. We had to be at our best today and we were.

“We set up a little differently. I had more freedom today to go where the space was, depending who was putting pressure from them.”

While City are now firm favourites for the title and are firmly on track for the treble – Pep Guardiola’s side face rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup final and Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals – De Bruyne insisted now is not the time to lose focus.

“It’s too long left. It’s so hard,” the Belgian midfielder said. “A lot of things can happen. It’s still seven games, that’s a lot of points and we’re still behind them.

“I know this team and we will not give in until it’s mathematically done. Our schedule is hectic, there’s a lot of things going on and now we need to prepare for Sunday and Fulham.”

City manager Guardiola had previously been keen to stress that Arsenal were title favourites, given the Gunners had secured the points regardless of City’s games in hand. But he admitted after Wednesday’s win that City are right where he wants them to be.

“It depends on us. Until today I prefer the position for Arsenal because if Arsenal beat us it is in their hands. Now it is in our destiny,” Guardiola said. “I have a feeling the next three games will dictate a lot.

“Fulham have come from the Championship and this season have been amazing. We play at home against Leeds and West Ham. We feel comfortable here with the crowd. The next three games will be really important.

“The most important thing is the destiny is in our hands. When you arrive at the end of the season, most important thing is it depends on us. We still have seven games.”

Reserving special praise for “master” Haaland, who assisted both of De Bruyne’s goals, Guardiola said he was delighted with his entire team.

“Kevin is so important. When we can find Kevin and run, he is unstoppable,” he said. “Jack [Grealish] and Bernardo [Silva] found the momentum to punish them, but Kevin told me he had some niggles in his legs, so I made a substitution.

“I don’t underestimate Arsenal for one second. I know how good they are. I give incredible credit to what they have done. I prefer to think they didn’t have their best level because we were really good.

“If we play like today we are an incredibly competitive team but there are many good teams around the world.

“To have this mentality, this is the most satisfaction I have as a manager. Of course we want to win but how they behave, I am really impressed because I know how difficult it is.”

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