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Manchester City 3-1 Arsenal: Sergio Aguero nets hat-trick as Pep Guardiola’s side bounce back and climb within two points of title challengers Liverpool

How impressive is that? Well, consider the context. As of Monday morning Aguero has scored as many league hat-tricks as Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Mo Salah, Eden Hazard, Dennis Bergkamp and Eric Cantona – combined. Take Drogba out and put Steven Gerrard in, and he’s got more.

Aguero’s hat-trick on Sunday wasn’t spectacular but it was the striker’s art encapsulated – yes, even the one that shouldn’t have been allowed. All three were from close range, the result of an innate understanding of where the ball would arrive. That sort of talent is instinctive. 

‘I turned up and the ball turned up,’ Jimmy Greaves once recalled. ‘I didn’t know what made me go there.’ That is what happened to Aguero. He turned up and the ball turned up: three times, the sum total of his scoring attempts. Each time he found a way to get it across the line – by fair means or foul. If that makes him sound duplicitous, rest assured the foul play was unintended. 

Aguero was trying to complete his hat-trick legitimately when fortune intervened. What should have been deemed handball went unnoticed, and Aguero took the game beyond Arsenal’s reach. To be fair, he also had what looked a justified penalty appeal denied, and City would probably have won anyway. 

Arsenal did not have a shot on target in the second-half, despite trailing 2-1. It was their most toothless 45 minutes since a first half against Manchester United in May 2015. Make no mistake, City were very much worth the three points.

MATCH FACTS AND STATS

MANCHESTER CITY (4-3-3): Ederson 7, Walker 7, Otamendi 7, Laporte 7.5, Fernandinho 8, Gundogan 7, Bernardo Silva 7, De Bruyne 8 (Mahrez 88′), Silva 7, Sterling 8.5, Aguero 9 (Gabriel Jesus 81′)

SUBS UNUSED: Danilo, Stones, Delph, Sane, Muric

BOOKED: Gundogan

GOALS: Aguero 1, 43, 60

MANAGER: Pep Guardiola 7

ARSENAL (4-4-2): Leno 7, Mustafi 6, Koscielny 6, Monreal 6, Lichtsteiner 5.5, Torreira 7, Guendouzi 6, Kolasinac 5(Denis Suarez 66′ 5), Iwobi (Ramsey 66′ 6), Aubameyang 5.5, Lacazette 6.5

SUBS UNUSED: Cech, Elneny, Ozil, Mavropanos, Nketiah

BOOKED: Torreira

GOAL: Koscielny 10 

MANAGER: Unai Emery 6.5

REFEREE: Martin Atkinson 5

ATT: 54,483

MOTM: Aguero

It was a sign of their comfort that when, after 66 minutes, Arsenal coach Unai Emery decided to introduce new loan signing Denis Suarez, late of Barcelona, Pep Guardiola took four steps sideways to pat his countryman on the back and wish him well. A manager doesn’t do that if he feels greatly worried about what is going to happen next. City were where they had hoped to be by then – two points off Liverpool, who have a game in hand at West Ham tonight. Just imagine. Had they won at Newcastle, City would be leading the league by now. 

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