LONDON: Pep Guardiola has now won eight and drawn four of his duels with Unai Emery after a hat-trick from Sergio Aguero fired Manchester City to a 3-1 win over Arsenal and enabled the Premier League champions to maintain the pressure on leaders Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp’s men can reclaim a five-point advantage by winning at West Ham before City play again, at Everton on Wednesday.

Arsenal slipped three points adrift of the top four after a defeat watched from afar on TV by their owner Stan Kroenke. He was in Atlanta where his Los Angeles Rams were preparing to contest the NFL Super Bowl.

No side have retained the Premier League title since Manchester United won three in a row from 2007 but Guardiola had not felt the need to go into the transfer market ahead of City’s challenges in Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup Final (against Chelsea on February 24).

Arsenal would like to have City’s ‘problems’. Yet they paid £2.25m in midweek to secure a four-month loan of Barcelona midfielder Denis Suarez when it appeared that their priority should have been strengthening defence.

Emery considered that the Gunners’ last league victories over Chelsea and Cardiff had seen an improvement at the back. But they were the only league side  yet to register a clean sheet. On top of that Sokratis Papastathopoulos with out ankle trouble and Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding for the rest of the season with knee issues.

Arsenal had not won in 20 away games against Big Six teams and were the only league side yet to register a clean sheet. In matches between the Big Six Arsenal have conceded the most goals, including five at Anfield in their last away game against major opposition.

Hence going north could not have come at a worse possible time to confront one of the world game’s most fearsome attacks.

The hosts proved the point after only 46 seconds when Aguero dived-headed them in front after Aymeric Laporte robbed Alex Iwobi on the edge of the penalty box. Aguero enjoys played against Arsenal. This was his eighth goal in 12 games against the Gunners as well as City’s 250th league goal under Pep Guardiola.

Aguero had thus scored the two fastest Premier League goals within four days after striking against Newcastle in the midweek defeat was after 24 seconds.

City were threatening to swamp Arsenal. Laporte was denied a goal by an offside flag and then City should have had a penalty when Shkodran Mustafi pulled back Aguero. Instead referee Martin Atkinson waved play on and Arsenal, totally against the run of play, equalised.

Captain Laurent Koscielny, a doubtful starter after a facial injury, headed home from close range after a left-wing corner by Lucas Torreira.

City, after the Newcastle defeat, looked determined to make amends not only in attitude but in tactics with a three-man defence and a host of attacking players. Arsenal sought to counter with the ususual choice of 4-4-2 by Emery. They had even started to look the stronger when it was City’s turn to spring a surprise.

Three minutes before half-time Sterling exchanged passes with Ilkay Gundogan and squared for Aguero to score again his 218th goal for the club and 13th in the league this season.

Fifteen minutes into the second half and Aguero completed his 14th hat-trick in his seven and a half years with City. It was probably one of his scruffiest goals. Sterlin crossed from the left and the ball ricocheted off Leno’s fingers, against Aguero’s elbow and into the net. Arsenal protested in vain. VAR, next season, will certainly be invoked.

No  matter.

Aguero was granted by a standing ovation by the stadium when he was substituted 10 minutes from the end. His 10 league hat-tricks lift him within one of Alan Shearer’s Premier record.