By Andy Hampson, PA
Rodri set his sights on Arsenal after helping Manchester City hit back from a difficult week off the field with a rampant performance on it.
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 powered to a 3-1 win over Aston Villa at a raucous Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
The result also put City firmly back in the title picture after last week’s setback at Tottenham by cutting Arsenal’s lead at the top to three points.
What a header from Rodrigo! 🚀 pic.twitter.com/1dDGvB2pV1
— Manchester City (@ManCity) February 12, 2023
Guardiola’s side could now supplant the Gunners with victory at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
Midfielder Rodri, who scored the opening goal after four minutes, said: “We have a massive chance to be on top of the table but we don’t have to think much in this, just try to be ourselves, show personality in a very difficult stadium and show we can be a better team than them.
“They have been better until now but we are going to go there to give the best of ourselves.”
Roared on by a passionate crowd, City dominated from the outset against Villa and had numerous other chances to add to Rodri’s early header before Erling Haaland set up Ilkay Gunodgan for their second after 39 minutes.
Riyad Mahrez added a third from the penalty spot to all but wrap up victory before the interval.
“From the first minute we showed how good we are,” said Rodri.
“From the start, even though we changed the tactics a bit, the involvement of the team was unbelievable.
“We could have scored more than two or three goals. We are happy because of the goals and because we did an amazing first half.
“We controlled a bit less the second half, but that is sometimes what you have to do to make a step forward. After a defeat it is always good to come back like this.”
Rodri thanked the fans for playing their part.
“When they are like this they inject us with extra energy,” the Spaniard said.
“We love them and sometimes we need them to act like this because we really feel them on the pitch.”
On the downside for City, striker Haaland did not reappear for the second half after taking a knock.
Guardiola is hopeful the problem is not serious but the prolific Norwegian will be assessed before Wednesday’s crunch clash.
Villa had no complaints about the result, which was their second successive loss and first away from home under new manager Unai Emery.
Ollie Watkins, who scored their second-half consolation, told VillaTV: “I think we were a bit soft in the first half.
“We switched off early doors with the set-piece and then we found it hard to get back into the game against a world-class team.
“We came out and we were a lot more positive (in the second half). There was a little bit more fight about us.
“I think we were unlucky not to get a second goal, but it’s a fair result, really.”