Manchester City juggernaut maintains momentum as Raheem Sterling scores winner against Arsenal

Goal after just two minutes from England winger earns Premier League leaders 18th win in a row

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There was a time when Mikel Arteta savoured an 18-game sequence for Manchester City. He was Pep Guardiola’s sidekick in the autumn of 2017 when City reeled off a record 18 straight victories in the Premier League. Just over three years later, Arteta had less to enjoy in City’s 18th consecutive win in all competitions.

Arsenal were outclassed in a first 10 minutes when City played with blistering brilliance. The game was decided at the start, by a figure familiar to the Gunners’ manager.

Raheem Sterling became prolific during his time in Manchester, has scored home and away against Arsenal in each of the last two seasons and reprised his role as their scourge. Arteta won the summer’s FA Cup semi-final against his mentor, but Guardiola retains his 100 per cent record in their league meetings.

And yet Arsenal might deem this a missed opportunity. They could rue a sluggish and timid start and a lack of intensity and aggression while failing to take advantage of a second half where City’s standards slipped.

One chance, when Mohamed Elneny volleyed wide, stemmed from one of the season’s most bizarre back passes, with Joao Cancelo needlessly directing an up-and-under from the touchline to Ederson. At such moments, it felt as if City may come to regret failing to turn their initial superiority into a bigger lead.

Initially, this had the hallmarks of a thrashing. Arsenal have rather too much first-hand experience of City’s fast starts for their liking. Guardiola’s men tend to make a statement from the opening whistle at the Emirates Stadium and, for the third consecutive visit, they struck inside three minutes. It was an early exhibition of class.

They led in 77 seconds. Ruben Dias unleashed a pinpoint diagonal pass. Riyad Mahrez marked his 30th birthday by floating in a cross. Sterling jumped above the rather taller Rob Holding to head past Bernd Leno.

The England winger could have had a hat-trick inside six minutes, such were the gaps that City found in the Arsenal defence. Sterling erred by trying to dribble his way past everyone, Leno included, after Kevin de Bruyne found him with a defence-splitting pass. Sterling and Mahrez brought touchline-hugging width, opening up space inside for others. City looked capable of capitalising.

The fit-again De Bruyne started for the first time in a month and, with Guardiola benching his specialist strikers, the Belgian and Bernardo Silva took turns operating as false nines.

The ambition of De Bruyne’s play was apparent in an audacious chip, which dropped wide of the Arsenal goal, and a thunderous volley, which cleared the bar. He was eased back into action by being removed for the final half-hour.

Before then, Leno tipped away a curler from Ilkay Gundogan, who was able to return after missing Wednesday's win at Everton but City's German could not continue his scoring run in the major matches. Later, Joao Cancelo came close with a bold effort with the outside of his right foot, but the time between shots grew.

Perhaps Arsenal lulled City into a sense of complacency with the slow tempo in a match that had the feel of a training game. Both managers made five changes but it suggested City boast the greater strength in depth. Arsenal missed the injured Thomas Partey as City exerted control in a midfield where Fernandinho flourished.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had proved their nemesis in last season’s FA Cup but had a lesser impact in a rematch and accidentally blocked a shot from Bukayo Saka.

Predictably, Saka offered most encouragement for Arsenal, carrying the attack to City, showing a now trademark fearlessness. He was supported by Kieran Tierney, who tested Ederson with a stinging shot. But Arsenal lacked a similar threat on the right and they worked Ederson all too rarely.

Arguably Cancelo, with that wild backpass, caused him most concern but the solidity of John Stones and Dias secured City another clean sheet and, in the process, another win.