Manchester City 1 Arsenal 0

The title race challengers were as excited as a kid at Christmas after Roberto Mancini's men lost 2-1 at Chelsea last week having just gone out of the Champions League. And, had City failed to win yesterday, the doubts would have increased about their ability to stay the course. But David Silva's 52nd-minute winner ensured normal service was resumed and that arch-rivals Manchester United enjoyed a mere four hours at the top of the table following their success at QPR. Of course it is the same reward of three points as from any other victory � but it felt like this was worth so much more. Two months ago beating Arsenal was nothing to boast about, everyone was doing it. But the Gunners had taken 22 points from the previous 24 available since losing to Spurs to drag themselves back into contention at the top. Now, as manager Arsene Wenger admitted, they are too far adrift to be in with a realistic chance of the title. "We couldn't afford to lose," said Wenger, who had cause to complain about two crucial decisions which went against his side. Skipper Robin van Persie, a �30million target for City, clipped home four minutes after City's goal but was just offside. And Van Persie berated referee Phil Dowd for rejecting penalty claims when Micah Richards blocked Laurent Koscielny's cross with an arm. Meanwhile, right at the death, England keeper Joe Hart sprang to tip over Thomas Vermaelen's strike from the edge of the box and Vermaelen was also inches wide with a curling 25-yarder. This is a much better Arsenal team than the one which started the season and, considering they are without four injured full-backs, they have tightened up markedly. Koscielny was excellent, Per Mertesacker is finding his way and Alex Song gets better and better. If only they had a bit more on the bench when they need to change the game. Andrey Arshavin was an absolute disgrace when he replaced Theo Walcott for the final 20 minutes. Walcott, ineffective though he was, threw a little strop as he trudged off, probably because he knew Arshavin would not try a leg. The Russian was scandalously wasteful every time the ball came his way. And Marouane Chamakh, who is apparently a striker, might as well not have bothered coming on for the last eight minutes. He is just not up to Premier League standard and Wenger must know it. The sponsors gave the man-of-the-match award to ex-Arsenal man Samir Nasri � but surely that was out of devilment. Nasri did well in the face of some fierce abuse from Gunners fans but his captain Vincent Kompany was immense and is becoming the league's best centre-back. It might have been a more comfortable afternoon for City if Sergio Aguero had taken his opportunity from Pablo Zabaleta's cross. The Argie controlled well but amazingly blazed over the top from eight yards. Fantastic player though Aguero is he does have the occasional aberration in front of goal. He missed a great opportunity at Chelsea after working hard to create the opening. But having Hart in goal gives Aguero and City real assurance that, as long as they keep mounting attacks, the odds are they will win in the end. Hart got lucky when he scrambled Gervinho's shot round the post but, from the corner, he got down well to turn Aaron Ramsey's shot away. His opposite number Wojciech Szczesny was equally impressive. The Pole saved superbly when Mario Balotelli cleverly brought down Richards' cross when he was between Johann Djourou and Mertesacker and still got his shot in. Szczesny saved again from Aguero but was finally beaten seven minutes into the second half. Nasri picked out Balotelli who had acres of space and fired in from the left. Szczesny blocked the shot but, as Aguero and Mertesacker challenged for the loose ball, it popped out for Silva to finish at the far post. Provided they beat Stoke on Wednesday night, City are guaranteed to be top of the tree at Christmas for the first time in more than 80 years. There are no presents for sitting merrily on high in December but City are not going to be chopped down easily. STAR MAN � VINCENT KOMPANY (Man City) MAN CITY: Hart 8, Richards 7, Kompany 8, K Toure 7, Zabaleta 7, Barry 7, Y Toure 6 (De Jong 5), Silva 7, Aguero 7, Nasri 7 (Dzeko 5), Balotelli 7 (Milner 5). Subs not used: Pantilimon, Lescott, Johnson, Savic. Booked: Barry, Aguero. ARSENAL: Szczesny 7, Djourou 6 (Miquel 6), Koscielny 7, Arteta 6, Mertesacker 6 (Chamakh 5), Vermaelen 7, Song 7, Ramsey 6, Walcott 5 (Arshavin 4), Van Persie 6, Gervinho 8. Subs not used: Almunia, Rosicky, Frimpong, Benayoun. Booked: Song, Koscielny, Arteta.