Misfiring Gunners can ill afford any slip up against resurgent City

Arsenal has lost their last seven matches against City in all competitions and have not won at City in the league since 2015

By Reuters

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Arsenal's Gabriel and Martin Odegaard react after their frustrating 3-3 draw with bottom-placed club Southampton. — Reuters
Arsenal's Gabriel and Martin Odegaard react after their frustrating 3-3 draw with bottom-placed club Southampton. — Reuters

Published: Mon 24 Apr 2023, 8:04 PM

Like a sky blue juggernaut, Manchester City has begun to fill Arsenal's rearview mirror and on Wednesday the reigning champion has the chance to begin its over-taking manoeuvre on the road to a fifth Premier League title in six years.

A match that has loomed on the fixture list for months as a likely title-decider now feels like a must-win game for an Arsenal side whose hold on the summit is coming loose.


While treble-chasing City has been churning out the wins, just as it usually does at the business end of a season, Arsenal's young pretenders have been struck by vertigo.

It could have been going to City with a double-digit points lead but after surrendering 2-0 advantages to draw consecutive away games 2-2 at Liverpool and West Ham United, it was then held to a frenzied 3-3 draw by bottom club Southampton on Friday.


After that rip-roaring contest, in which Arsenal needed late goals from Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka just to salvage a point, the players slumped to the turf and the fans filed away wondering if the dream of a first title since 2004 was fading.

Arsenal still has a five-point lead with six games to play but City has two matches in hand and looks irresistible having collected 25 points from the last 27 on offer.

According to statistician Simon Gleave of data company Gracenote, Arsenal's draw with Southampton left them with a 21% chance of dethroning City, while Pep Guardiola's side now have a 79% probability of finishing top.

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Football has a habit of delivering twists and turns, however, and despite its recent jitters Arsenal remains in a position few could have imagined at the start of the season.

And while Mikel Arteta would have much preferred a bigger cushion heading to the Etihad Stadium, at least his players now know exactly what is required on Wednesday - victory.

"I cannot wait, these are the games you want to play," Arteta said in the wake of Friday's draw. "When everything is at stake you have to go there to win."

It is a big ask though.

Arsenal has lost their last seven matches against City in all competitions and have not won at City in the league since 2015.

City has chipped away at Arsenal's lead while also progressing to the semifinals of the Champions League and on Saturday reached the FA Cup final after easing past Sheffield United in third gear.

The games are coming thick and fast for Guardiola's side but such is the quality and depth of his expensively-assembled squad that few doubt its ability to chase only the second treble - Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League - by an English side.

It was able to make six changes to the starting line-up against Sheffield United, while goal-machine Erling Haaland was subbed off early along with Jack Grealish as City sets its sights on a classic 'six-pointer' with Arsenal.

Guardiola has not played down what is at stake.

"Wednesday is a final against a team that has been the best team in England so far and is five points ahead of us," the Spaniard said. "It's a massive, important game for us.

"We know winning will give us a step to putting it completely in our hands."

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