After three successive draws against Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton, Arsenal’s Premier League title bid has stuttered. Up next for Mikel Arteta’s side is the showdown away at reigning champions Manchester City, who come into the big match five points behind the leaders and with two games in hand.
Tonight’s clash at the Etihad Stadium (8pm kick-off BST) has been described as a “final” by Gabriel Jesus, Arsenal’s Brazilian striker who signed from Man City last summer. If the Gunners are to be champions this season then “we will have to go there and win the game, that is all”.
However, Arsenal boss Arteta, also formerly of City as an assistant coach, does not believe the fixture will decide the title. “It will be difficult, but will it decide the season? No,” he said. “We really want it and we are again going to show it [on Wednesday night]. But it has to be perfect because that is what is demanded at this time in the season.”
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In pursuit of the ‘greatest accomplishment’
City are in “relentless” form as they pursue an “incredible treble” and have 12 games left to achieve the “greatest accomplishment of all”, said the Daily Mail. A victory over Arsenal would see them “move into the driving seat in the title race”, while they also face rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup final and are set to face Real Madrid in “a rematch” of last season’s Champions League semi-finals. “Can anyone derail Pep Guardiola’s bullet train?”
This title showdown “justifies weeks of hype”, said Nick Ames in The Guardian. But if Arsenal are to “stretch their lead” at the top then they must “find a way to subdue” City’s goal machine Erling Haaland and the “greatly improved” Jack Grealish.
Things could ‘get ugly’ for the Gunners
With City “really turning up the style” in recent fixtures, it is looking “increasingly difficult” for Arsenal to hang on to top spot, said Planet Sport. Both teams go into the “potential Premier League title decider” on long unbeaten runs, but with “momentum perhaps swinging towards City”.
The absence of defender William Saliba for this “top-of-the-table spectacular” means things “could get ugly” for the Gunners, said Ben Knapton on SportsMole. This is a Man City side who “just cannot stop scoring – or winning – at home” and they should stroll to a “comfortable victory” – 3-1 – to take a “giant step towards dethroning their capital counterparts”.
After going three games without victory, Arsenal can approach this as “if the pressure is off”, said Chris Sutton on BBC Sport. But that run of draws was “so damaging”, and you can see that “doubt” has kicked in. “If the Gunners can win, it would be an incredible turnaround after what has happened to them in recent weeks.” However, Sutton is “very confident” with his prediction for the game – 3-1 to City – the only thing he “wasn’t sure about” was whether Arsenal would score.
City have “come into their own” since the turn of the year and are “unlikely to relent towards the end of the season”, said Aditya Hosangadi on SportsKeeda. Arsenal cannot afford “another slip-up” in this game, but “better team” City “hold the upper hand”. Hosangadi predicts a 2-1 win for the home side.
Arsenal’s “problems at the back” are “too great to ignore”, said the Evening Standard’s Marc Mayo, who predicts a 4-2 win for City. It is “all too easy” to imagine Haaland and Co “exploiting space left in behind to secure a suckerpunch, knockout blow of Arsenal’s title dream”.
The Premier League title “isn’t quite on the line just yet”, but “in the eyes of most people it is”, said Mark Jones in The Mirror. The pundits from the Mirror Football team believe that the Etihad clash is “only going one way”. All predicting wins for City, Mike Walters, Alex Richards and Simon Mullock say 3-1; Tom Victor, Darren Lewis and John Cross say 3-0; Andy Dunn says 4-1; and Sam Meade says 2-0.
City have already beaten Arsenal twice this season and “it’ll be a surprise if they don’t make it three out of three”, said Rob Dawson on ESPN. Haaland looks “unstoppable”, which means Arsenal will “have to score at least twice” to win the game. “Arsenal’s confidence is fragile and it could be a heavy 4-0 win for City.”
How anyone could “bet staunchly” against Man City in any match in world football right now is “beyond me”, said Michael Potts on RadioTimes.com. However, “completely rule out Arsenal at your peril”. Pressure does “funny things” to football teams and while City boast “resilience and know-how to see out the title war”, they could find themselves “held up by this battle”. Potts predicts a 2-2 draw between the title rivals.
What the statisticians say
Our “trusty” AI-powered supercomputer “doesn’t like to overblow things”, said Graham Bell on Opta Analyst. But even it believes this could be “one of the most pivotal” midweeks in Premier League history. At the summit, the supercomputer puts Man City as favourites to win against Arsenal, with a 62.6% chance of doing so.
Despite coming back to draw 3-3, the result against Southampton means that Arsenal’s chance of winning this season’s Premier League is down from 32% to 19.3%, according to the Euro Club Index. Simon Gleave, head of sports analysis at data analyst Nielsen’s Gracenote, told the BBC that City’s probability of a third successive league title has increased to 80.7% with Arsenal “dropping points for the third match in a row”. Gracenote gives Arsenal a 16% chance of winning at the Etihad, while City have a 62% chance.
What the bookies say
Man City are favourites to win the title, according to Oddschecker.co.uk. Guardiola’s team are 1/4 to lift the Premier League trophy for the third successive season, while Arsenal are 10/3 to win the league for the first time since 2004. For tonight’s match, City are priced at 3/5 to win the encounter. A draw is priced at 15/4 while Arsenal are 5/1 to take three points at the Etihad.
Manchester City vs. Arsenal kicks off at 8pm (BST) and is live on BT Sport
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