Arsenal head to Man City aiming to prove they are the real deal

With 10 matches remaining Arsenal lead a three-way title race having won eight successive games

By Reuters

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Arsenal players celebrate their Champions League last 16 second leg win over Porto on March 12. — AFP
Arsenal players celebrate their Champions League last 16 second leg win over Porto on March 12. — AFP

Published: Thu 28 Mar 2024, 10:19 PM

Arsenal were exposed as Premier League title pretenders when they were thrashed by Manchester City almost a year ago but Mikel Arteta's side head to the north-west on Sunday as genuine contenders with momentum on their side.

With 10 matches remaining Arsenal lead a three-way title race having won eight successive games, scoring an avalanche of goals in the process, and are brimming with confidence.

Heading into what is shaping up to be a crucial week featuring two rounds of fixtures, Arsenal have 64 points, the same as Liverpool who they lead on goal difference.

With City on 63 points it is the first time since 2014 that one point separates the top three after 28 games.

Liverpool, whose audacious quadruple bid was ended by an FA Cup defeat at Manchester United, can go top when they host Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday before City kick off.

The mood in the Arsenal camp is a far cry from the build-up to last season's trip to the Etihad Stadium when they arrived in trepidation after cracks had appeared in their facade.

They were duly thrashed 4-1 and from that moment on City's third successive Premier League title was a formality.

City are unbeaten in the league since Dec. 6 but have drawn two of their last five, notably the 1-1 draw at Liverpool earlier this month -- a result that allowed Arsenal to stay just ahead of both their title rivals.

Pep Guardiola's City side were a touch fortunate to escape from Anfield with a point and worryingly have injuries to several key players as they prepare to face Arsenal -- the last direct clash between the three clubs vying to be champions.

Defenders Kyle Walker and John Stones picked up injuries on England duty while key midfielder Kevin De Bruyne's groin issue meant he was withdrawn from Belgium's squad to face England.

Defender Manuel Akanji was also withdrawn from Switzerland's squad, meaning Guardiola has some headaches ahead of a game they dare not lose.

Former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon said the tactical mind games between Guardiola and his former assistant Arteta could go some way to deciding the outcome on Sunday.

"Arteta may look at his team and think they've developed and are better than they were last year so they can afford to play on the front foot," Dixon told BetVictor.

"He will be scrutinising last year' performance when they got beaten 4-1 and he'll be rethinking his game plan."

Liverpool should be top by the time City and Arsenal kick off, although they will be wary of a Brighton side who have proved capable of taking points off the big boys.

Juergen Klopp's side then have another home game next Thursday against bottom club Sheffield United, a day after Arsenal host Luton Town and City welcome Aston Villa.

Villa hold a slight advantage in the battle for fourth. They have 56 points after 29 games while Spurs have 53 from 28.

Villa host Midlands rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday after Tottenham aim to bounce back from a 3-0 drubbing at Fulham as they welcome relegation battlers Luton.

The Hatters were lifted out of the bottom three after Nottingham Forest were deducted four points by the Premier League but they remain in a precarious position.

Emotions will be running high at the City Ground where Forest will aim to vent their frustrations on Crystal Palace on Saturday when Vincent Kompany's second-bottom Burnley continue their escape bid as they travel to mid-table Chelsea.


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