Arsenal’s poor record away to the top six continued as Raheem Sterling’s first-half strike condemned them to a second defeat of the season.
Sterling undid the visitors’ strong start with an opportunistic strike when Bernd Leno parried Phil Foden’s effort into his path.
The Gunners stuck to the task and made Manchester City work for the victory with an impressive performance but ultimately left the Etihad Stadium empty-handed.
Mikel Arteta’s game plan had to be altered slightly as Rob Holding picked up an injury in the warm-up and was replaced by David Luiz. Kieran Tierney was available following his coronavirus situation but there was no place for Thomas Partey in the starting XI.
Alexandre Lacazette had to make do with a place on the bench again as Willian filled in as a false nine.
The Etihad has been an unhappy hunting ground for Arsenal in recent years but a solid start gave hope that things would be different.
City started with great intent and Riyad Mahrez went close with an effort that curled narrowly wide in the opening minutes. However, that proved to be the only danger moment in a relatively comfortable opening 20 minutes.
Arteta’s plan would have been to keep the shape and his players did that but the one time they went to press aggressively in the final third, City carved through the team with a great pass from Mahrez and when Leno parried Foden’s shot, Sterling was there to slam home the rebound.
Arsenal’s response was positive with Bukayo Saka turning his way inside the City box before forcing Ederson into a good save before Nicolas Pépé struck wide with a free header.
But Mahrez, who was proving troublesome, could have doubled the hosts’ lead when he got past Tierney and Leno, once again, parried his shot. Arsenal seemed to lose their shape and discipline and City started to dominate.
In previous years Arsenal heads would have dropped but there was no sign of that this time as Kieran Tierney and Saka fought to create a chance for the latter, but again Ederson came out on top.
Saka, who made his England debut over the international break, was proving to be Arsenal’s key man and Xhaka sent him into space but his low cross was cleared out. From the resulting corner, the Gunners were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty for a high foot from Kyle Walker.
Arsenal took the game to City in the second half but they found Ederson in inspired form. The final ball was continually lacking with too much power or a City leg or head on the end of it.
Lacazette replaced Willian shortly after the hour mark and Arsenal continued to attack but to no avail.
There was a first appearance for Partey who came on for Xhaka while Eddie Nketiah replaced Pépé but City held out for the win.