PEP GUARDIOLA had to rip up his ‘horrible’ tactics as Manchester City shoved Arsenal off the Prem summit.
After a feisty first-half in which Kevin De Bruyne had a touchline bust-up with Guardiola’s old No 2 Mikel Arteta, the Etihad chief made key tactical changes at the interval to spark the surge to a 3-1 win.
Goals from Jack Grealish and Erling Haaland sent the champions to the top of the table for the first time since November on goal difference from the Gunners.
When asked what frustrated him, Guardiola, who switched Bernardo Silva’s position at half-time, replied: “My tactics!
“Because I decided something new and it was horrible. We suffered.
“There was only one team on the pitch after we scored our first goal and that was Arsenal.
“We couldn’t connect with a pass, we were just playing long balls, no-one was moving and no-one wanted the ball.
“We were soft and my plan was not good.
“We allowed them to play comfortably but in the second-half we were more aggressive and that’s when the quality of our players made the difference.
“This result is so important because we could have come here a few weeks ago eight or nine points behind them and if we lost it would be almost over.
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“Because they have dropped some points it has given us the chance to get closer.
“But the reality is that I still consider Arsenal to be top of the league because they have played one game less than us.”
Disappointed Arsenal boss Arteta complained: “We are all feeling very down because we had the game in our control until we conceded that second goal.
“We had the feeling we could beat them but we gave them three goals and you just cannot make those errors at the level this match was played at.
“The difference was in the boxes. They had three chances and put them away. We had big opportunities and we didn’t take them.
“That’s the disappointment. It’s exceptionally difficult to play at the level City require you to play at.
“But if you give them three goals in the way we did, the margin for error is almost zero. It’s a shame because we really had them.”
De Bruyne, who pushed Arteta after he kicked the ball away, fired City ahead before Bukayo’s Saka’s first-half penalty levelled it for the Gunners.
Grealish and Haaland then struck to put the Etihad club in top spot.
Haaland now has 26 league goals — equalling Sergio Aguero’s best Prem tally, from 2014-15, with 15 games still to go.
He said: “We are the champions. We made some small adjustments at half-time.
“We have to play a little bit more like this at times and that’s exactly what we did. I am so proud of every single guy here and I’m so happy to be here.
“We needed this one but we have to go on a run because that’s what City should do.”
When asked can City now go on a winning run, Haaland added: “I’ll do my best and I’ll make sure everyone else will too.”
Fellow scorer Grealish said: “It was massive. It’s a great night and that’s what I’ve wanted to do.
“I feel like I’ve been playing well. To score here tonight was so important and I’m absolutely buzzing.
“I was going to take my top off but I realised I was already on a yellow card so good job I didn’t.
“We had to win. Everyone was so concentrated and was in the mood and staying off my phone.”
Arsenal are now winless in their last four games in all competitions — and have also lost their last 11 Prem games against City.
Captain Martin Odegaard said: “The game is decided in the boxes and we were not sharp enough, in front of the goal and in our own as well. They were better.”