Apprentice Arteta and master Guardiola ahead of cracker: ‘Important, not decisive’
Surely Arsenal seemed to be on course to be crowned England’s best soccer team after nineteen years. After all, the ‘Gunners, who also showed attractive soccer under manager Mikel Arteta, held a five-point lead over pursuer Manchester City early this month.
But that margin has more than evaporated in two weeks. While Arsenal still tops the Premier League and the gap is also still five points, City has played two fewer games. A non-negligible detail: Arsenal has yet to visit the title holder from Manchester.
Tonight, to be exact. The pupil against the master, as Arteta was Pep Guardiola’s assistant at City for three years.
The match is seen in the English media as the match of the decade. Duels of similar order at the decisive stage of the league have not occurred for more than a decade.
In April 2012, City beat city rival United through a goal by Vincent Kompany, closing the three-point gap. City went on to become champions.
Now the revived Arsenal is the main rival. The club from London, which last became champion when Dennis Bergkamp still played there. And also Giovanni van Bronckhorst was still part of the selection in that 2003/2004 season, which remained unbeaten throughout the league.
City previously the strongest
In mid-February, City and Arsenal also faced each other in London. City triumphed 3-1 and came alongside the leaders in points, but a few days later stuck at Nottingham Forest at 1-1.
Since then, Guardiola’s men have achieved mere victories in the English league, while at Arsenal the machine just started to falter.
The title chances have turned, according to data provider Gracenote:
Particularly in recent weeks, in which the capitalists have failed to progress beyond three draws. At both West Ham United and Liverpool, Arsenal ran out to 0-2 early in the match, but both times the home side was able to come back to 2-2.
Last Friday, the thirteen-time national champion really made a killing by narrowly avoiding an embarrassing defeat at home against bottom-placed Southampton. Martin Ødegaard’s 2-3 and Bukayo Saka’s 3-3 only fell in the final minutes of the game.
And with that, a nice starting position for the new clash at the Etihad Stadium was squandered in mere weeks.
Arsenal coach Arteta and City coach Guardiola agreed during their press conferences: tonight’s cracker is important, but certainly not yet decisive for the title race:
Of course, Manchester City still need to win those overdue games, but The Citizens, who have also already qualified for the semifinals of the Champions League (against Real Madrid) and for the FA Cup final (against Manchester United), are marching smoothly at the moment.
“Only with perfection can we beat them,” Arteta realizes.
With that busy schedule still ahead of them, City, led by almost weekly record-breaking striker Erling Haaland, will therefore not hesitate to take a sneak preview towards title triumph. Or will Arsenal be able to hold their ground against the team they have lost the last seven meetings to?