What an exquisite weekend for Manchester City. A 4-1 trouncing of Southampton, including an Erling Haaland cracker, and Arsenal FC dropping points at Anfield. The only way it could have been a better weekend for City is if the Scousers had found a way to take all three. It’s a home date with Bayern Munich next and Sky Blue News is here with all the latest to start your week.
Southampton 1-4 Man City: Erling Haaland brings up 30 Premier League goals on return as gap to Arsenal cut to five points - Sky Sports
After an underwhelming first 44 minutes, City blasted into action when Haaland rose to bullet home Kevin De Bruyne’s cross meaning the Belgian became the fastest player to reach 100 Premier League assists, taking just 237 games.
Jack Grealish scored back-to-back for the first time in his City career when adding a second before Haaland stole the show with a devastating acrobatic finish to take his tally for the season to 30 Premier League goals and 44 in all competitions. He is just five goals away from breaking Andy Cole (93/94) and Alan Shearer’s (94/95) Premier League record of 34 goals in a single season.
Sekou Mara got Saints on the board with a tidy finish but City restored the three-goal cushion a minute later when Julian Alvarez scored from the spot after De Bruyne had been fouled.
Erling Haaland hit another brace, including a spectacular bicycle kick as Manchester City earned a convincing win at Southampton. The Striking Viking, as he’s been dubbed on Twitter, scored either side of a Jack Grealish goal while Julian Alvarez added a fourth as the Blues continued their fine form to keep the pressure on league leaders Arsenal.
With the Gunners facing a trip to Anfield on Sunday afternoon, it was vital that City claimed the three points at the home of relegation-threatened Saints. The memory of City’s inept performance in January at St Marys must have played on the minds of the supporters as the blues continue to track Arsenal. In the end, any fears were unfounded as City romped to a second consecutive 4-1 victory to stay on the heels of the leaders.
With a Champions League first leg tie at home to Bayern Munich on Tuesday, it wouldn’t have been a surprise had manager Pep Guardiola rested a few of his stars. However, that is never the Guardiola way as a very strong City line-up saw Norwegian goal-king Haaland return to the side after missing last weekend’s win over Liverpool.
And, just as he did in October’s match at the Etihad Stadium, the striker had a quiet game until just before the break when he struck to break the deadlock. Before then, City had pressed the Saints throughout the match, barely giving the home side an opportunity to breathe before launching another wave of attacks.
Jesus Gil Manzano appointed as referee for Manchester City vs Bayern Munich - Tom Cayless - City Report
Usually, City supporters will recognise referees from previous encounters in Europe, but not this time; Manzano has never refereed any competitive game involving the Blues.
The 39-year-old did, however, officiate a fellow English side Chelsea in the previous round of the UEFA Champions League against Borussia Dortmund. The Spaniard dished out a staggering ten yellow cards in that clash and was the man in the middle when Cadiz beat Manchester United 4-2 last December in a friendly.
Such a high tally of cards is not exactly an outlier, with Manzano awarding 145 yellow cards in just 28 matches in all competitions this season, along with eight red cards, averaging 5.5 cards per game.
Referee: Jesus Gil Manzano
Assistants: Diego Barbero & Angel Nevado
Fourth Official: Jose Luis Munuera
VAR: Juan Martinez Munuera
Assistant VAR: Alejandro Hernandez
Bayern are used to having most of the ball but no team is better at keeping it than City, so it will be interesting to see how they are prepared for that.
Just like any team they have weaknesses off the ball and a team like City will be able to find holes in their system. Tuchel will have come in and done as much as he could to tidy those up ahead of this game, especially with City’s style of play in mind.
Against PSG they managed to isolate Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi very effectively, especially at the Allianz, but with the change of manager could come a different style in terms of stopping the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland.
Oleksandr Zinchenko knows Arsenal draw opens the door for Man City in title race - Jack Flintham - Manchester Evening News
Oleksandr Zinchenko was the epitome of disappointment as he slumped onto the bench at Anfield.
The former Manchester City man was nutmegged by Trent Alexander-Arnold in the build-up to Roberto Firmino’s equaliser in the thrilling 2-2 draw against Liverpool. As individual mistakes go, it was not shockingly embarrassing.
However, with his head in his hands, the Ukrainian knew that he may have contributed to giving City that glimmer of hope which the Gunners could not afford to succeed. Arsenal looked to be coasting to victory at one stage.
Pep Guardiola admits he’s the “happiest man in the world” amid Arsenal title battle - Freddie Pye - City Xtra
While many coaches would struggle to handle the pressures of competing in the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, and FA Cup at this stage of the season, Pep Guardiola admits that it makes him the happiest man on the planet.
Speaking after the victory on the south coast, Guardiola stressed however that there is no room for error. “Like I said many times, we lose a game and we lose the Premier League (title). In September, October you cannot have that feeling. You say, ‘Okay, we drop points, or whatever’.
“After you have seasons like Liverpool were unstoppable, and right now Arsenal are unstoppable and make a lot of points. Now I have the feeling, like everyone knows, if we lose or drop points today (against Southampton), or Leicester, or of course against Arsenal, we won’t have a chance. But still we are there, many games to play, and what is important is that still we are alive, and in three competitions.”
Pep Guardiola: “When you arrive in the later stages, fighting for titles, I’m the happiest man in the world. I love to be here. What’s going to happen? If we win, everything is perfect. Lose, we’ll be a failure. Nothing changes, the day after, sun rises.” [via @BeanymanSports]— City Xtra (@City_Xtra) April 9, 2023
And finally... Squeaky bum time, innit?
Arsenal’s collapse has begun! Five reasons why Manchester City will BEAT the Gunners to the Premier League title - James Westwood - Goal
Arsenal have been fantastic this season, there is certainly no doubt about that. They have exceeded all expectations under Mikel Arteta, who has built one of the most exciting squads in Europe while sticking to his core principles in admirable fashion.
But they are not quite ready to win the Premier League. Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool was the latest reminder of that, as they let a two-goal lead slip in front of a raucous Anfield crowd and ended up being lucky to escape with a point.
The Gunners are now just six points clear of Manchester City having played a game more, and still have a blockbuster trip to the Etihad Stadium on the horizon.
Mental fragility held the Gunners back throughout the second half of Arsene Wenger’s reign at the club, and Arteta deserves huge credit for bucking that trend. However, his side are now in uncharted waters.
City are used to the pressure of getting results when it matters most; they thrive on it, and will not relent in their pursuit of a fifth title in six years.
There you have it. It’s a busy week, so stay with Bitter and Blue for all the latest. Come back tomorrow for more from Sky Blue News.