Manchester City midfielder Rodri ready to face Arsenal

Rodri set his sights on Arsenal after helping Manchester City strike back after a difficult week off the field with an unbridled performance.

City were rocked last Monday when they were charged with multiple breaches of the Premier League’s Financial Fair Play rules.

That prompted a rallying cry from manager Pep Guardiola and the players duly responded as the champions cruised to a 3-1 victory over Aston Villa at a gritty Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

The result also put City firmly back on the map after last week’s setback at Tottenham Hotspur by cutting Arsenal’s lead at the top to three points.

Guardiola’s side could now displace the Gunners with a victory at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.

Midfielder Rodri, who scored the opening goal after four minutes, said: “We have a huge chance to be at the top of the table, but we don’t have to think much about this. Just try to be ourselves, show personality in a very difficult stadium and show that we can be a better team than them.

“They’ve been better so far, but we’re going there to give the best of ourselves.”

Cheered on by a passionate crowd, City dominated from the start against Villa and had numerous other chances to add Rodri’s early header before Erling Haaland set Ilkay Gunodgan for second after 39 minutes.

Manchester City celebrates against Aston Villa

City proved too strong for Villa (Martin Rickett/PA)

Riyad Mahrez added a third from the penalty spot to nearly complete the win before the break.

“From the first minute we showed how good we are,” said Rodri.

“From the start, although we changed the tactics a bit, the involvement of the team has been incredible.

“We could have scored more than two or three goals. We are happy because of the goals and because we did a great first half.

“We controlled the second half a little less, but sometimes that’s what you have to do to take a step forward. It’s always good to come back after a defeat.”

Rodri thanked the fans for their role.

“When they are like that, they inject us with extra energy,” said the Spaniard.

“We love them and sometimes we need them to behave like that because we really feel them on the pitch.”

The disadvantage for City was that striker Haaland did not show up after a knock in the second half.

Guardiola is hopeful the problem is not serious, but the prolific Norwegian will be judged for Wednesday’s crunch clash.

Ollie Watkins

Ollie Watkins scored Villa’s consolation (Martin Rickett/PA)

Villa had no complaints about the result, which was their second successive defeat and first away from home under new manager Unai Emery.

Ollie Watkins, who scored their consolation in the second half, told VillaTV: “I think we were a little weak in the first half.

“We knocked out early doors with the set piece and then we found it difficult to get back into the game against a world class team.

“We came out and were a lot more positive (in the second half). There was some more fighting about us.

“I think we were unlucky not to score a second goal, but it is actually a deserved result.”

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