But against a backdrop of uncertainty over the future of manager Arsene Wenger and the supporter protests aimed at ousting the Frenchman, the Gunners showed they can still cut it with the best in the division as they fought for a point.
Leroy Sane put the visitors ahead inside five minutes and Sergio Aguero restored the lead for Pep Guardiola's men just 131 seconds after Theo Walcott had levelled.
Shkodran Mustafi headed Arsenal back on terms once more with just his second goal for the Gunners, who remain sixth in the table as a result - seven points adrift of City in fourth.
Tom Collomosse was at Emirates Stadium to assess the key talking points...
Mixed signals from Sanchez
When Arsenal had the ball, their star man Alexis Sanchez was a danger to Manchester City. When they did not, his reaction was interesting – particularly early in the second half. After losing the ball to Kevin De Bruyne, Sanchez knelt with hands on knees rather than tracking back. Twice more in the next 10 minutes, he stood looking frustrated, rather than trying to win back the ball for Arsenal. For a man who is supposed to inspire his team in matches against opponents near the top of the Premier League, Sanchez’s body language at those moments was remarkable. What must Arsene Wenger have thought?
Both teams miss midfield conductors
As Danny Murphy outlined for Standard Sport on Friday, Arsenal have badly missed the control and creativity of Santi Cazorla, who has not played since October due to an ankle injury. For City, the guile of Ilkay Gundogan – who will miss the rest of the season because of a knee injury sustained in December – would have come in extremely handy. As a result of their absence, this was a very untidy game, albeit an entertaining one. Despite the number of high-class players on each side, both Arsenal and City struggled to keep the ball for any length of time.
Since Hector Bellerin signed a new six-year contract with Arsenal in November, the right-back’s form has tailed off – particularly since the turn of the year. Throughout this game, he looked uncomfortable against Leroy Sane. Bellerin was caught flat-footed as Sane scored City’s opening goal in the fifth minute, and had a tough afternoon thereafter as the German attacker was involved in many of City’s most dangerous moments. At 22, Bellerin has many years ahead of him and has rich potential, but his drop in form during the second half of the season has mirrored that of his team.
Fans stay with Arsenal
With protests outside the ground and growing frustration inside it, there was the chance things could get heated inside Emirates Stadium after Sane put City ahead so early in the game – and De Bruyne hit the post five minutes later as the visitors threatened to run away with it. But rather than turn on their team, the majority of Arsenal fans stayed with them. Even when Sergio Aguero scored just three minutes after Theo Walcott had equalised to ensure City led at half-time (above), there were no boos for Arsenal at the interval.
Too flawed to win trophies
City and Arsenal meet again in an FA Cup semi-final later this month, meaning one of them will contest the Final in May. But on this evidence, they appear too imbalanced to overcome either Chelsea or Tottenham in the decisive match. In his programme notes, Wenger offered the view that for both teams recently, “it looks like the attacking philosophy has taken over the defensive security sometimes”. Based on these 90 minutes, Wenger hit the nail on the head. Unless both teams add substance to their undoubted style over the summer, it is hard to see either coming closer to winning the league next season.