Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City’s chances at Premier League title

Hollywood might struggle to match what looks like being an edge-of-your-seat finish to this season’s Premier League title race, with the top three of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City separated by just a single point with 10 games to play. We await to see what is on the final reel with some relish.

Conventional wisdom says City, with the experience of being champions five times in the past six years, will forge from third place to go clear on the run-in. But is it really that simple? The injuries to John Stones and Kyle Walker on England duty are a concern for City, while Liverpool fans will worry that Andy Robertson limped out of Scotland‘s game with Northern Ireland.

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The drama resumes on Sunday when Arsenal travel to the Etihad, where City are unbeaten all season — though they have been held to home draws by Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, and Crystal Palace. This looks like the acid test for Arsenal’s challenge. This time last year they led the table by eight points, but dropped 15 points in the last 10 games including a 4-1 thrashing at City. In plain language, most observers thought they “bottled it.”

The question now: is this version a steelier, mentally tougher Arsenal with defender William Saliba — crucially injured for the run-in last season — fit and Declan Rice making a vast difference in midfield?

The Gunners have reeled off eight successive wins, scoring 33 goals and conceding only four while exploding the theory that they could not possibly sustain their challenge without a proper No.9.

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Marcotti: Premier League title is Man City’s to lose

Gab Marcotti says he backs Manchester City to win the Premier League despite them sitting behind Arsenal and Liverpool.

Others have taken on the scoring load, notably Kai Havertz (four in his last four), Bukayo Saka (seven in seven) and Rice (three in five). Saka missed the two recent England friendlies, but it will be a shock if he is not fit for the crunch game with City. Gabriel Martinelli is likely to be in contention, too, at the time of writing.

Arsenal have won their last three away games 6-0, 5-0, and 6-0, but City will, of course, be a different proposition. How bold will Gunners manager Mikel Arteta be against his old mentor Pep Guardiola? He knows that a draw keeps Arsenal’s one point lead over City intact. Or will he look at how Liverpool’s intensity and adventure broke City’s normal rhythm at Anfield recently and go toe-to-toe with the champions? Neutrals will hope so.

The Gunners’ defense is statistically the best in the Premier League (league low of 24 goals conceded), and remember they did shut out City in a 1-0 win at the Emirates earlier in the season, albeit the winner came via a wicked late deflection. For all of that, City carry an air of invincibility and always find a route to goal at home, and Arteta’s team will need to produce a perfect display to stop them.

This is a pivotal game and Liverpool might watch on hoping for a draw, which would enable them to return to the top with a home win over an erratic Brighton at Anfield on Sunday. Jurgen Klopp’s men do not slip up often on home soil and have a few of their injured stars nearing fitness again in the next fortnight. The likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Diogo Jota , Curtis Jones, Ibrahima Konaté and Darwin Núñez are not far away — though Sunday might come a little soon for some and keeper Alisson might not return until mid-April.

Liverpool’s chances of giving Klopp a farewell Premier League title are surely boosted by the fact that their European campaign is far less intense than that of their two rivals. Remember Arsenal have to face Bayern Munich and Manchester City meet Real Madrid in two huge Champions League quarterfinals, and those matches will be far more of a distraction than Liverpool’s Europa League mission against Atalanta, when Klopp can probably rotate his squad.

Indeed, there is the possibility of a two-legged Champions League semifinal between City and Arsenal. How Liverpool would like that! Coping with the emotional as well as physical demands of these vital last few weeks is likely to decide which of these three excellent teams ends up wearing the crown.

In the past, City have shown that they can fight on more than one front successfully. Around the two legs of their semifinal win over Real Madrid last season, they beat Leeds 2-0, Everton 3-0 and Chelsea 1-0 on their way to a third successive league title. This time they also have to fit in an FA Cup semifinal against Chelsea at Wembley.

Looking at the matches down the home straight, Arsenal probably have it toughest with four teams in the top six to play — trips to City, Manchester United and a North London derby at Spurs plus a home game against Aston Villa.

Meanwhile, Liverpool have to go to Old Trafford — scene of their dramatic 4-3 FA Cup exit recently. United, desperate for the points themselves, would love to hammer another nail into the hopes of their biggest rivals and Klopp does not often win at the Theatre of Dreams. Spurs at home and Villa away in the last three matches also look significant tests for Liverpool, as does a Merseyside derby against Everton at Goodison. That derby game comes amid a run of three away matches in seven days, which also includes trips to Fulham and West Ham. Not easy.

City’s next two — Arsenal and Villa at home — are two of their toughest games, and they still have to play a makeup game against Tottenham, where they had failed to score or win in five visits until a 1-0 FA Cup win there earlier this season. History tells you there is little room for error from anyone.

It could easily come down to the final moments on the final day. Memories here of Arsenal’s Michael Thomas ripping the title from Liverpool’s grasp with almost the last kick at Anfield in 1989, Blackburn’s agony to ecstasy as they lost in the last minute at Liverpool then learned they had still won the title in 1995, and the two famous Manchester City comeback wins against Queens Park Rangers in 2012 (the Sergio Aguero moment) and Aston Villa in 2022, when they scored three times in the last 14 minutes to win 3-2 and clinch the championship.

This league invariably lights up our weekend and deserves a photo finish, even if it will shred the nerves of the fans. It all looks too tight to call. Ninety points will certainly win it. Possibly even 87.

My one hunch is that Arsenal are for real this season and will not fall by the wayside again, although that theory could go up in smoke as early as Sunday at City. How Arsenal cope with that stern examination of their credentials will be revealing, especially as they failed it so miserably a year ago.