Mikel Arteta and Arsenal have themselves to blame after bottling a sizeable lead at the top of the Premier League table to Manchester City. The Gunners had their five-point gap at the summit further cut down to two after a disappointing 4-1 loss to Manchester City at the Etihad on Wednesday night. Goals from Erling Haaland, John Stones and a brace from Kevin De Bryne despite a consolation strike from Rob Holding sinked hopes of winning a first ever Premier League title since 2004.
Arsenal are in a quagmire at this point of the season, leading the defending Premier League Champions, Manchester City with a narrow two-point lead at the summit, however, the latter have two games in hand. This implies that all things being equal and City putting on their best, they would go four points clear of The Gunners at the top of the table if they record wins in both.
Arsenal were all out to win the league this season and at certain points had Manchester City buried in their tracks. But a woeful, dreadful March meant Arteta"s men surrendered league dominance and superiority to their counterparts. Three consecutive draws, 2-2 to Liverpool and West Ham respectively, 3-3 to Southampton succeeded by the heavy loss at Etihad sees the Gunners gasping for air as Manchester City breath down their necks.
Deja-vu it is
Last season, Liverpool were vying to achieve a seemingly impossible, highly phenomenal task by winning all four major competitions they participated in. From the Premier League to the EFL and FA competitions to the UEFA Champions League, Jurgen Klopp"s men had dreams of a perfect quadruple on their radars.
The EFL title came first as the Reds beat Chelsea 11-10 on penalties to win the final in that season. Few months later, Jurgen Klopp"s men had a repeat in the FA Cup final at Wembley, London, beating Chelsea 6-5 on penalties to win the trophy for the first time since 2006.
The Champions League was in sight with the final between The Reds and Carlos Ancelotti"s Madrid set to be played on May 28. Liverpool would eventually go on to lose 1-0 thanks to a 59th minute effort from Los Blancos" Vinicius Jr.
The Champions League aside and six days before a miserable night in Paris, the English Premier League was set to close for the season.
Matchday 38; the final verdict
Liverpool were in hot pursuit of Manchester City at the top of the table just like they had done in the 2018/19 season in which they had been unsuccessful in catching up with The Citizens. Now just like then, they trailed by a single point; with 89 points compared to City"s 30. The Reds had so much momentum, they believed, The Kopites believed, fans and players alike. On the final matchday which typically held all ten fixtures across ten different locations at the same time, Liverpool were set to take on Wolves while Manchester City had Aston Villa to contend with.
Wolves went ahead through Pedro Neto in the third minute but Sadio Mane cancelled out the lead, equalising in the 24th minute and being assisted by Thiago Alcantara.
Finally, here came the news The Reds were hoping for. City had conceded a goal at the Etihad Stadium. Villa were 1-0 up courtesy of Matty Cash"s 37th minute strike. Liverpool were on par with their rivals, however, slightly behind in terms of goal difference.
Things got even worse for Guardiola"s side in the second half of play. Philippe Coutinho"s effort in the 69th minute put the leaders two goals behind. Now just a goal from Liverpool would have gotten the job done. Manchester City were probably panicking, maybe. They were on the verge of capitulating in the dying minutes of the Premier League season.
Guardiola had made some tactical decisions which were eventually going to pay off on the long run prior to The Villains doubling their lead at the Emirates. Zinchenko and Gundogan were brought on in the 46th and 68th minutes respectively.
Liverpool had not yet responded and what happened next turned the tide around in City"s favour. IIkay Gundogan struck in the 76th minute assisted by Sterling, it was not yet over.
Two minutes later, Rodri scored the equaliser for City helping The Citizens move back to 91 points while Liverpool remained on 90 at the time. City soon found their winner via Gundogan again in the 81st minute to make the score 3-2 while The Reds were still tied at 1-1.
Liverpool did win the game but their response came awfully late, an 84th minute strike by Salah and an effort by Robertson five minutes later. The Reds had won the game but not the league. They tailed their rivals to the end but City had simply proved a tough nut to crack.
The precarious situation for Arsenal
Arsenal find themselves in a similar situation this season. Reading from the current progression in the league, its almost inevitable to see City leading the race with a four-point advantage when they play their outstanding matches (Brighton and West Ham) which appear to be relatively simple.
That apart, Guardiola"s men have fixtures against Leeds, Fulham and Everton and Brentford till the season runs out. The story looks well articulated for the Citizens when their schedule is compared with Arsenal"s(who have Chelsea, Newcastle, Brighton, Nottingham Forest and Wolves).
We may see Arsenal fall behind in the coming days in the race for the title. The Gunners would close their season with a match against Wolverhampton Wanderers just like Liverpool did last season. We may see them strive to regain the lead at some point but eventually fizzle out just the way it happen last season, a perfect deja-vu moment.
But at this point, the Premier League is definitely Manchester City"s to lose.
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