A cracking Theo Walcott goal, a customary Olivier Giroud strike and an even more predictable couple of assists from Mesut Ozil and it was job-pretty-well-done for Arsenal, who outsmarted, outthought, outfought, outplayed and outfinished Manchester City at the Emirates on Monday.

With Leicester City pulling a little further away with their victory in the English Premier League over Everton on Saturday, neither Arsenal nor Manchester City, second and third in the table, could afford to drop points, let alone all three of them in this big match at the Emirates.

It was always going to be a night about taking your chances and just showing that cutthroat ability so essential for potential champions. Arsenal did that and more in front of their own fans, with Walcott curling a delightful opener in the 33rd minute, before the that-should-be-good-enough-shouldn't-it goal was added by Olivier Giroud in first half stoppage time.

The 2-0 win was, in a way, so comfortable for Arsenal, and it could, and probably should, have been a lot more, as the home team created chance after chance in the second half, hitting, but just failing to hurt, Manchester City on the counter-attack.

However, Arsenal were nearly made to pay for their wayward finishing in the second half, with those butterflies and jitters hitting them at full throttle after Yaya Toure scored one of the goal of the season contenders, purely for its sheer genius, with a little under ten minutes remaining. However, Arsenal stayed strong enough to pick up a 2-1 victory and the crucial three points.

Manchester City, despite waves and waves of possession, barely troubled Petr Cech, with their best chance coming a minute before the opener went in. That chance was spurned by Kevin De Bruyne, with the Belgian, having been put through on goal by a delightful touch from Sergio Aguero, who did little else other than that, deciding to go for a shot across Petr Cech, and missing, instead of trying to find an unmarked David Silva at the far post.

Right after that, Arsenal went ahead, and what a goal it was too. Ozil played a simple ball to Walcott on the left channel. The Arsenal forward took a touch towards his right foot, set himself up and then smashed in a Robert-Piresesque curler that Joe Hart could do absolutely nothing about.

There was little Hart could do about the second goal either. It was all City's own making, with Eliaquim Mangala playing a poor ball to Fernandinho, which freed up Ozil in space. And you know when the German has space and time to pick out a pass, pick out a pass he well. Ozil duly did that to Giroud, who put his foot through the ball and through Hart's legs and into the back of the net.

With City having little choice but to attack, Manuel Pellegrini, whose days look unfortunately numbered with a certain Pep Guardiola waiting in the wings, brought on Raheem Sterling for Fabian Delph at halftime, but it was Arsenal who created most of the chances.

Had it not been for iffy finishing from the otherwise excellent Joel Campbell and Aaron Ramsey, this match would have been done by the hour, but with just two goals in it, Manchester City kept their hopes up right until the end.

However, for all their possession in the second 45, they just could not carve out enough open chances, with Sterling and Yaya Toure resorting to a bit of let's-go-down-cheaply-and-hope-we-get-a-penalty tactics, which referee Andre Marriner saw right through.

Toure, though, showed that other side of his – his ridiculous talent – scoring an absolute wonder goal with his left foot from the edge of the box in the 81st minute to bring City right back into it.

However, Arsenal just about clung on, despite a sudden rise in City's attacking threat and they deservedly clinched those three points, which looked as easy as they come for about 80 minutes.

It is back to two points now between Arsenal and Leicester City, while Manchester City are now six points adrift of the top.