Manchester City can forget the title if they lose to Arsenal


Defeat at Newcastle United on Tuesday night has put Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola in an unpleasant situation. Their fourth defeat of the season, the Citizens find themselves five points behind their title rivals after Liverpool’s draw with Leicester City. A defeat against Arsenal on Sunday afternoon could well put a huge dent in their title aspirations with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool looking much more consistent.

Guardiola has already stated that Manchester City must improve or they can forget about the Premier League title. The Spaniard welcomed Liverpool’s draw but insisted City need to get back to their best with fixtures piling up.

“It’s much better [the draw] but immediately I’d say: ‘How will be our level?’ If our level is the last game it doesn’t matter if [the gap is] five points or two points or one; we are not going to win [the title],” said Guardiola during his pre-match press conference.

“Nothing changed. What we learn or we have to learn from the previous game is for the next game. You are satisfied for the result and that’s all and if we don’t see what we have to do, we will not be contenders until the end.”

His quotes are certainly a warning shots aimed towards his players, perhaps questioning if they’re fully committed to the cause. It’s a dangerous game to play but it’s one that can certainly fire up personalities.

Manchester City’s fixture congestion is what is likely to define their season. Arsenal’s visit on Sunday is followed by a trip to Everton before Chelsea head to the Etihad stadium. All in the space of eight days. Liverpool dropping out of the League Cup and FA Cup means that Manchester City have already played five more games than their counterparts while Guardiola’s side will play a further two domestic cup matches this month, a potential further three and another should they reach the FA Cup final.

“The situation we have this week is the same as we have in the last two or three months; it happens, it’s not new,” Guardiola said. “It’s a challenge. The only way I know after a negative result is to focus on the play and the mentality to say: ‘OK, we’re in 1 February, there is a lot of points to play and still many things are going to happen.’”

Manchester City’s fixture congestion isn’t helped by the fact they’ve been faced with injuries while they failed to strengthen key areas – such as full-back and midfield – in the Winter transfer window. If Liverpool beat West Ham United on Monday night and City fail to win against Arsenal on Sunday, that could well be the end of their title hopes.

Arsenal themselves are in desperate need of points. Hierarchy at the Emirates want a top four finish with Champions League returning to Arsenal and while they currently occupy fourth, their performances don’t warrant that position. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reborn Manchester United are breathing down their neck while Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea have yet to find consistency, made worse by their recent 4-0 defeat at Bournemouth.

And so, this might just fire Unai Emery’s Arsenal up. Finishing fourth is a real possibility and they know Manchester City are beatable. They’re no longer the most feared team in the Premier League which has seen opposing teams match them on the pitch. Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Newcastle United have all got the better of Guardiola’s City and while they’ve lost just one game at home, they haven’t looked their best.

Guardiola will be without captain Vincent Kompany for Arsenal’s trip to the Etihad while Ederson  and Benjamin Mendy remain doubtful. With Claudio Bravo ruled out, fans will be hoping Ederson passes a fitness test while Arsenal themselves are in a bit of a predicament. Rob Holding and Danny Welbeck are long-term absentees while Sokratis and Hector Bellerin are both out, the latter recently undergoing surgery that will see him miss the remainder of the season. Laurent Koscielny is also doubtful as is the versatile Ainsley Maitland-Niles. So this could make for an interesting fixture.

The next eight days will certainly define Manchester City’s season while it’s imperative they regain their focus that made them a once feared team. Find that and they may just fight Liverpool to the death for the Premier League title.

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