Where could Man City slip up to give Arsenal, Liverpool hope?

Manchester City‘s silky 4-0 win at Brighton & Hove Albion sent a chilling message to their title rivals. With Arsenal fans starting to believe their side can end a 20-year wait to be crowned champions after a 5-0 romp against Chelsea on Tuesday, City jolted them back to reality with the quality of their display on the south coast two days later.

It was meant to be a tricky assignment, a test of nerve. But it proved nothing of the sort as City demolished a Brighton team who mistakenly thought they could outplay Pep Guardiola’s side.

Meanwhile, the only other title contenders, Liverpool, are licking their wounds after a mysteriously flat performance in a calamitous 2-0 defeat to Merseyside rivals Everton at the weekend that almost certainly knocks them out of the race.

You have to wonder if the players are subconsciously finding it hard to light the old fires knowing the manager Jurgen Klopp is going to leave at the end of the season. Indeed, with only four points from their last four games and a shock UEFA Europa League exit to Atalanta, there is something of sad “Last Dance” feel about Liverpool right now as their normally deadly strikeforce are firing blanks.

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All Liverpool can do is start winning and hope the form book is ripped up elsewhere. But the maths are against them now and it looks like a thrilling three-horse race has become a straight sprint between Arsenal and City.

Amid all the speculation and, let’s be honest, guesswork about how the rest of the Premier League might play out, the top of the table is tight with a handful of games left. But City, with a potentially vital match in hand on May 14 against Tottenham, will be uncatchable if they win their remaining five games. If they do it will take their tally to 91 points; Arsenal can only reach a maximum 89, and Liverpool 86.

But should City be held to a draw in one of those games, it opens the door for Arsenal who, at the moment, have a +8 goal difference if they finish level on points.

Guardiola’s team have these remaining fixtures, before an FA Cup final against Man United on May 25 that could see them win the double:

April 28: Nottingham Forest (A)
May 4: Wolves (H)
May 11: Fulham (A)
May 14: Spurs (A)
May 19: West Ham (H)

On Thursday night’s evidence, and with no distraction of a Champions League semifinal after their treble dream was ended by Real Madrid, City will be strongly fancied to win all those matches. But, as Liverpool can already testify, the run-in usually features more than the odd plot twist and fans will not be taking anything for granted.

Remember how City so nearly threw the title away on the final day in 2012 at home against QPR? And again in 2022 when they needed three goals in the last 14 minutes to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 win over Aston Villa?

So where might City have a problem this time? Against Fulham possibly. Marco Silva has tuned them into a very decent team who beat Arsenal 2-1 at Craven Cottage this season and they are capable of making things difficult for anyone.

The trip to Spurs, where City have struggled recently with four defeats in four matches while failing to even score a goal, looks the most dangerous though — particularly if Tottenham are still in the hunt for a top-four finish.



Burley: Arsenal absolutely wiped the floor with Chelsea

Craig Burley recaps Arsenal’s 5-0 thumping of Chelsea, a win that sees the Gunners move three points clear atop the Premier League table.

Arsenal, who also travel to Spurs on Sunday for a huge North London derby (it was 2-2 at the Emirates earlier this season), will be well aware that Tottenham have won eight of their last nine games at home and are a team in form.

After that, the Gunners’ fixture list looks like this:

May 4: Bournemouth (H)
May 12: Manchester United (A)
May 19: Everton (H)

As vulnerable as sixth-placed United have looked this season, winning at Old Trafford will be far from a formality on the penultimate matchday. But manager Mikel Arteta says his team are in a “beautiful moment,” the manner of their 5-0 win over Chelsea was very impressive and confidence is sky high. Indeed, Captain Martin Ødegaard (and his defence-splitting passes) wins my vote for the Premier League Player of the Season so far — just ahead of teammate Declan Rice, Man City’s Phil Foden, Chelsea’s Cole Palmer and Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins.

The Gunners might well win all four of their remaining games to set up an exciting finish. But it just might be that the title was effectively decided on the weekend of April 13-14, when Arsenal lost at home to Villa, Liverpool slipped up at Anfield against Crystal Palace and City put things in their own hands with a 5-1 win over Luton Town.

Neutral fans will hope the Premier League title is still up for grabs going into the final day on May 19. City don’t look like they will loosen their grip, but it only takes one slip to change everything again and Arsenal be will praying their rivals have just one bad day.