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Stalemate at the Etihad shook up title race but Arsenal can still end title drought

Stalemate at the Etihad shook up title race but Arsenal can still end title drought

The Premier League title showdown between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium ended in a goalless draw, a result that shook up the top end of the Premier League table.

The stalemate benefited Liverpool, who ended the weekend at the top of the table after coming from behind to beat Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 at Anfield earlier in the day.

While it’ll prove a huge psychological boost for Jurgen Klopp’s relentless Reds with nine games remaining, they’re just two and three points ahead of Arsenal and Man City, respectively.

The showdown between Arsenal and Man City was described by many as a boring encounter, which isn’t far from the truth considering it didn’t provide any attention-gripping fireworks.

Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba put in a spectacular shift at the heart of the Arsenal defence, locking down Erling Braut Haaland and offering him no breathing room.

The Norwegian gunman didn’t have as much as a single sight at goal, ending the game without mustering a shot on target, although he spurned a glorious goalscoring opportunity in the dying embers. 

Quality in the final third was severely lacking from both sides, and second-half substitutions did little to open up the game. Both teams managed just three shots on target between them in the frustratingly cagey affair.

However, while fans who purchased Man City tickets from seatsnet.com and neutrals across the globe would have been frustrated for not getting their money’s worth, a point was a fair result on paper. 

How the title showdown unfolded

Given the past working relationship between Guardiola and Arteta, their cautious approach to the crucial contest was perhaps understandable. They spent three years together at Man City, forging a clear tactical understanding.

The pair are familiar with each other’s tactical set-ups, and it reflected in how the Super Sunday showdown unfolded with both managers cancelling out each other.

A game touted to be potentially defining in a fascinating three-way title race provided little thrill in the first half and ultimately failed to live up to its pre-match hype.  

Instead, we witnessed a cagey, tactical chess match where the master and apprentice seemed more focused on not losing than winning.

The opening half was a masterclass in defensive organisation. Gabriel Jesus, who returned to the Etihad to take on his former employers, fluffed Arsenal’s best chance to open the scoring early on, hitting the side netting from a Ben White Cross.

Nathan Ake also had a chance to give Man City the lead, but his header lacked power and direction, and David Raya was grateful for a relatively easy save. 

Despite dominating possession, Man City struggled to unlock a resolute Arsenal backline, a testament to the Gunners’ formidable rearguard, which boasts the best defensive record in the league (24 goals conceded).

The second half mirrored the first, with both sides still struggling to get going in the final third. 

The hosts threatened to turn their possession dominance into a goal when Mateo Kovacic curled just wide from distance before Arsenal started to gain a foothold, as Bukayo Saka flashed a dangerous cross just past a fully stretched Jesus.

Kevin De Bruyne’s looping corner offered a brief glimpse of excitement in a game that was severely lacking any goalmouth action. 

Substitute Jeremy Doku squandered a couple of chances before Haaland uncharacteristically miskicked from point-blank range following a flick-on from a corner.

Arteta also made a couple of second-half attacking tweaks of his own as Leandro Trossard and Gabriel Martinelli emerged from the bench. But ultimately, clear-cut chances remained at a premium.

Ultimately, the contest was relentlessly cagey, proven by just one shot on target a piece from each side as the game entered its final stages. 

In the end, neither side quite showed the quality or belief to nick it, but there were positives as City stretched their impressive unbeaten run to 23 matches.

Arsenal also maintained their unbeaten run since the turn of the New Year but at the cost of their record-breaking eight-game winning streak.

However, they became the first side to stop the champions from finding the back of the net on home turf after a remarkable goalscoring streak at the Etihad that lasted for 57 games.

Can Arsenal still win the Premier League?

Arsenal’s performance in the two encounters with Man City symbolises how far they have grown as a unit since squandering a golden opportunity to end their two-decade-long wait for the Premier League title last term.

Many attributed Arsenal’s late-season capitulation to Saliba’s injury, and his world-class performances this season lend weight to those claims.

The Frenchman’s formidable partnership with Gabriel, coupled with the introduction of Declan Rice, has been the backbone of Arsenal’s title push.

The Gunners have recorded the fewest shots on target faced (77), the fewest goals conceded (24), the fewest xGOT (expected goals on target) conceded (20.46), and the most clean sheets (12) of any side in the league.

They say defences win titles, and Arsenal’s stats suggest they could very well end their long wait for Premier League triumph this season.

Arteta’s side are still considered the underdogs in the title race, but that could work in their favour, taking some of the pressure off their shoulders.

They have what it takes to go all the way, but the next two months are absolutely crucial. 

The run-in

The race for Premier League glory has tightened its grip, transforming into a thrilling three-horse battle with nine games remaining for each contender. 

As the battle for the coveted title approaches a promising and much-anticipated climax, it’s worth noting that none of those crucial matches will see the top three facing each other directly.

Liverpool sit atop the table, while Arsenal trails by just two points. Defending champions Man City lurks three points behind the pacesetters.

The two weekends of madness that looked set to swing the pendulum one way or another has left the table looking as balanced as ever. 

The pre-international break draw between Man City and Liverpool suited both sides, considering the venue, history, and injury concerns. 

Similarly, Arsenal’s highly anticipated visit to the Etihad, initially viewed as a potential turning point in the title race, resulted in a goalless stalemate.

However, the full-time reaction suggests both sides were eager not to leave empty-handed.

Arsenal are two points adrift of where they were a year ago, but there’s a crucial difference. They held a five-point lead over Man City at the time before a late-season collapse ultimately handed the trophy to Guardiola’s men.  

This time around, the Gunners are determined to avoid a similar tale. The remaining fixtures present a significant challenge for all three teams.

Each contender faces a gauntlet of tough games, with tricky-looking contests lurking around every corner. 

Add in the additional pressure of Champions League, FA Cup, and Europa League commitments, and the emotional toll that comes with such a tightly contested race, and the potential for further twists and turns remains at an all-time high.

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