Mikel Arteta lauded the maturity of Arsenal after they sent a message with a first Premier League win over Manchester City since 2015.
Gabriel Martinelli’s deflected effort in the 86th minute ended the Gunners’ run of 12 consecutive top-flight defeats to Pep Guardiola’s side.
It helped Arsenal leapfrog City in the table to finish the weekend as joint leaders and while Guardiola insisted his champions are happy to chase again like they managed successfully last season, it felt like a potentially decisive early blow had been landed between these title rivals.
“A great feeling. You could sense it’s been so many years without beating them. Today I think we beat the best team in the world without a question of a doubt,” Arteta said.
“We did it in a great way because there were moments where we had to suffer and moments where we showed real desire, determination and belief to beat them, so I’m really happy.
“Certainly it sends a message to the team to keep believing in what they’re doing because they’re a fantastic group of players.
“The way they try and the chemistry that they have, you need it to be there. So, I’m really proud.
“The team showed a real maturity today, that comes from experiences. Sometimes you need that to become a better team.”
Arsenal’s winner was created by Arteta’s substitutes, with Thomas Partey’s cross-field ball headed down by Takehiro Tomiyasu to Kai Havertz, who teed up Martinelli and the forward’s first-time effort deflected off Nathan Ake and past Ederson.
It ensured the post-match narrative shifted away from Mateo Kovacic after the Manchester City midfielder was fortunate to avoid a first-half red card.
The VAR checked his late tackle on Martin Odegaard in the 29th minute but decided against upgrading a caution and referee Michael Oliver kept his cards in his pocket six minutes later when Kovacic caught Declan Rice.
Arteta added: “I saw the action live and it looked like a big challenge. I haven’t seen the replay.
“I’m not bothered actually. I just want to enjoy the win. I’ll hear if we talk about it and I understand if we have to do something about it but we won the game, thankfully.”
Opposite number Guardiola said: “Well for the reaction from everyone for a separate action? I don’t know.
“I’m pretty sure he was not sent off because it was not a sending off. I am pretty sure he would have sent him off if it was a sending off.”
Defeat for City makes it back-to-back Premier League losses – which last happened in December 2018 – and three in four in all competitions after going down to Newcastle in the Carabao Cup, Wolves and now Arsenal.
Lynchpin midfielder Rodri, out due to suspension, has been a big miss in those defeats but Guardiola says his team are comfortable being behind the eight ball right now – with Tottenham and Arsenal holding a two-point advantage – in pursuit of a record fourth Premier League crown.
He said: “Rodri is a really important player, like the other ones, for the fact that last year he plays a lot of games.
“Yeah, Carabao Cup was a little bit different but of course against Wolves it was important and today as well. We know it and as a manager I have to find the moment he is not there, the way to do it.
“I have gratitude for the guys, they give everything, they fought and I know how disappointed they are because we are not used (to losing) but it is football, it happens.
“No team ever won four in a row, so for the statistics it didn’t happen, but we are in October and sometimes it is good to go behind.
“It is not the first time we are behind and the contenders are up front. Last season we were much, much behind than here, but the season is long.”
Guardiola was more coy on an incident at full-time between Erling Haaland, who failed to have a single shot, and Arsenal set-piece coach Nicolas Jover.
Words were exchanged between Haaland and Jover, with staff from both clubs involved after the full-time whistle.
“I know what happened but I won’t say anything. They (Arsenal) know it,” Guardiola smiled.