City were given a mountain to climb after the early dismissal of Dedryck Boyata and sadly they could not pay the kind of tribute to Malcolm Allison that the club’s guiding light in the glory days so deserved.
There were moving scenes before kick off as a memorial service to Big Mal in City Square was followed by a parade of former players and family out on the pitch just ahead of the start.
Unfortunately the game was the not the kind of pure footballing spectacle that had been hoped for but there was drama and controversy aplenty and City made a good fist of it despite their lack of numbers especially before the break.
However, once the second goal came there was only going to be one result and the day ended with the Blues having slipped down the table to fourth.
Emmanuel Adebayor did not get the nod to face his old club as Roberto Mancini elected for the look and feel that had garnered good results against the traditional “big four” residents, Liverpool and Chelsea, when they had visited earlier in the season.
Micah Richards started a league match for the first time since the trip to Wigan in September, so Jerome Boateng moved over to the left-back position where he had quietly impressed for Germany in the World Cup.
David Silva’s fine week nearly continued within a few seconds of the start when he attempted his own version of the deft flick that had brought Carlos Tevez his first goal at Bloomfield Road. Fabianski was alert to the danger, but the record crowd of 47,393 did not have to wait too long for even more drama.
Dedryck Boyata’s afternoon lasted less than five minutes, referee Mark Clattenburg showing the young Belgian a straight red card when, as last man, he caught Chamakh on the edge of the area as the Arsenal striker moved to latch onto a superb pass from Fabregas.
The Consett-born official was the busiest man in the stadium in a feisty opening period, booking Denilson and Barry within 12 minutes of the start but electing to give de Jong and Song nothing more than a talking-to each.
Tempers cooled eventually and the visitors were ahead on 20 minutes. Samir Nasri, linked with a move to City in the past, played a neat one-two with Arshavin and Joe Hart could do little to prevent the Frenchman from putting the Gunners ahead.
The numerical disadvantage and the goal looked to have taken the wind out of City’s sails, but they could have been level had Micah Richards not shot wide after doing the hard yards on a rampaging run into the Arsenal box.
Fabregas, Song and Djourou were all booked as what had promised to be a great spectacle threatened to boil over. But it was certainly dramatic, none more so than when Joe Hart stopped Arsenal from going further ahead before the break.
The visitors were awarded a penalty when Kompany caught Fabregas just inside the corner of the area.
The Arsenal skipper took the spot kick and although the ball came at a nice height it was, in the circumstances, a fine save from England’s number one who stayed still until as late as he possible.
Silva spurned a chance before the break and after it the Spaniard drew a good save from Fabianski with a shot that was going across Arsenal’s keeper. By this point Adebayor had replaced Tevez, who had been struggling with a knock since the first half.
The lead was doubled in the 66th minute when Song latched onto a ball that dropped nicely for him after Bridge, now on as a replacement himself, tried to intercept a pass from Fabregas.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for City, given that the Cameroon international was lucky to be on the pitch having not been booked for a poor tackle on Silva early in the game.
The goal killed off City’s earlier boldness, even when a man down, and it was too much to ask of Mario Balotelli to have an impact in such circumstances when he replaced Gareth Barry in the wake of Song’s strike.
A bad day for City was compounded as time out ran when Bendtner made it three-nil despite the ball having gone out of play when Nasri made the crucial pass.