Joao Cancelo was shipped off under mysterious circumstances and Raheem Sterling departed before the season began - apparently leaving in frustration due to his lack of game-time. If there was any season for City’s stranglehold on the Premier League title to soften, it’d be this one - especially when you consider the magnitude of the charges hanging over them like an anvil.
Arsenal have had an entirely different season in comparison. The disappointing 21/22 campaign has well and truly been put behind the Gunners, and wins over Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester United have made the red half of North London more optimistic than ever. Despite having the youngest average starting XI in the entire league, Mikel Arteta’s side have all shown a title-winning level of resilience and calmness.
Aside from their past three games, of course, where Arsenal have lost twice and drawn once. The Gunners were bitterly disappointing against Everton, below-par against Brentford, and were outclassed in the second half by Manchester City despite having 64% possession.
For Arsenal, the defeat to City could mark a line in the sand when it comes to their title hopes. For City, their gritty and resilient performance could be the start of their bid to win a third Premier League title on the bounce.
How City Got The Better of Arsenal
Manchester City looked rather poor (by their standards) in the opening 45 minutes and, for a while, it looked like the Sky Blues were going to deliver the kind of lethargic performance they dished out at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last week. Haaland barely got a sniff of the action, Grealish was starved of the ball, and Pep Guardiola looked less-than-impressed on the sidelines.
It’s in games like this where moments count for everything, and this was perfectly demonstrated by Takehiro Tomiyasu’s poor backpass to Aaron Ramsdalde. The Japanese star gave possession to Kevin De Bruyne in the process, the City legend lobbed a wonderful finish over Ramsdale to make it 1-0.
Arsenal stuck to their principles and brought the game to City, equalizing via a Bukayo Saka penalty three minutes before half-time. Guardiola was visibly frustrated at the end of the first half and would later comment that ‘’there was only one team on the pitch’’ after the first 45 minutes, displaying a level of disapproval not often seen during his six-and-a-half years in charge.
City knew that disrupting Arsenal’s build-up would be the key to victory - and it paid off. Their second goal came as a result of the Gunners failing to clear their lines, and Haaland’s goal put the finishing touches on a much-different second-half City.
Arsenal may have had the lion’s share of possession, but the vast majority of their passes were short. City were far far more direct in comparison, and their second goal started life as a long Ederson clearance. It wasn’t tiki-taka, but it got the job done.
Iconic Premier League Title Races
The battle between City and Arsenal is just the latest installment in the Premier League’s many title races, let’s take a look at some of the others:
Newcastle United vs Manchester United (95/96)
Kevin Keegan’s swashbuckling Newcastle side is still fondly-remembered by football fans, but their collapse stands as a cautionary tale for those who let pressure get to them.
The Magpies were 12 points clear of Manchester United at Christmas, but a disastrous run of five defeats from eight games allowed United to overtake them at the final hurdle. Despite the form of Les Ferdinand and Kevin Keegan’s iconic post-match rant, the Magpies had to settle for 2nd place in one of the most famous title races in the history of English football.
Arsenal vs Manchester United (97/98)
Arsene Wenger became the first foreign manager to win the English top flight as his Arsenal side overtook Manchester United in dramatic fashion.
The Gunners seemed to be down-and-out by Christmas and slid as low as sixth of the table before going on a ten-game winning streak to overcome Manchester United and deliver a first league title to North London in the Premier League era.
Manchester City vs Liverpool (18/19)
Perhaps English finest title-race in terms of pure quality, Manchester City and Liverpool achieved 98 and 97 points respectively in 2018/19.
The difference between the two sides ended up being separated by literal millimeters. On 3 January 2019, the two sides met in perhaps the greatest game in Premier League history, and John Stones cleared a goal-bound effort off the line at the very last second. Had the entirety of the ball gone in, then Liverpool would’ve finished the season unbeaten.
City won 14 games in a row following a loss to Newcastle and wrapped up the title with a 4-1 win over Brighton on the final day. Liverpool fans were crestfallen, though the pain was softened a bit by the Reds’ Champions League win a few weeks later.
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