Manchester City’s commanding 3-0 victory over Sheffield United to storm into the FA Cup final was a statement of intent. The commanding scoreline not only shows City’s current mood and ambition but also underscores the team’s determination to achieve a historical feat. Arsenal handed City the advantage in the Premier League title race after dropping points for the third successive game in the 3-3 draw against Southampton.
Mikel Arteta’s side is falling apart at the worst possible time in the season. But their loss is becoming Man City’s gain. After holding onto top spot for most of the season, the North London side is finally caving in under the pressure. Worse still for Arteta’s team, City are in killer mode.
The Blues have not lost a game since the beginning of February, winning eight of their last nine Premier League matches and drawing one. Unless the team suffers an unlikely collapse at this point, it is now an uphill task for Arsenal to beat City to the title.
Although the Gunners still hold a five-point lead over City heading into the encounter, the most likely result is a defeat at the Etihad Stadium. Recent history and current form favour City, in addition to home advantage. But perhaps the biggest motivation to win the game is the fact that it could very well be the title decider.
A win for City will take them to within two points of Arsenal yet having two games in hand. The next few games after the encounter are very winnable. The likes of Fulham, West Ham, Leeds United and Everton are the next four opponents.
The tricky part will be winning against the last three opponents; Chelsea(H), Brentford(A) and Brighton(A). Although Chelsea have been in poor form this season, against any top-six side they can still cause problems. But then again, City are playing at home and that presents another advantage.
If City emerge after the previous four games with a four-point lead over Arsenal, that will give the team the breathing space to even lose a game and still win the title. And that is where the last two games against two surprise teams of the season Brentford and Brighton come in.
That Brighton are currently seated in 8th place on the league table, a point behind Liverpool yet with two games in hand over the Reds shows just how good their season has been. Roberto De Zerbi is aiming for a European place with his team and the way they’ve been playing shows it’s possible. Just two defeats in the last 13 games, that’s top-six form. But such has been their season and if they finish as strongly as they have been in recent times they could pose problems to City.
Bretford on their part handed City a surprise defeat at the Etihad Stadium just before the World Cup. Solid and difficult to break down, Thomas Frank’s side is usually a hard nut to crack, especially on their home turf. Like any other team, City must be at the top of their game to win there. The task could be made much more difficult if winning the title is still dependent on the match. So the Blues will need to wrap up the title before the day.
Fortunately, Arsenal has made things much easier. And the London side could be expected to drop more points heading into the last games. The net three games will be crucial to the Gunners in that regard. Manchester City(A), Chelsea(H) and Newcastle(A). Winning these three could put the side back on the driving seat. But that is highly unlikely.
City are now primed to retain their title and a win against Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium will all but seal the deal.