The Big Arsenal Vs Man City Title Showdown Preview
It’s rather apt that Arsenal and Manchester City are facing off this week at the same time as some big Champions League last 16 ties because, frankly, these two teams are in a Premier League sub-division of their own this season.
Manchester United might have other ideas – let’s see what further magic Erik ten Hag can conjure between now and the summer – and Newcastle are much-improved under Eddie Howe. But Arsenal and City, led by the two most tactically astute managers in the country, are head and shoulders above.
There’s a reason why bookmakers cannot separate them when it comes to cooking up the odds for the overall league title this season. Some have City are slight favourites on evens, others have Arsenal 10/11; it will be one of the two that’s for sure. United are next best around the 14/1 mark.
This clash at the Emirates on Wednesday night, will make headlines – no matter what the result – for innumerable reasons. Firstly, the Financial Fair Play charges that have been levelled at City, which look to have given Pep Guardiola and his players a point to prove, as he bats away his club’s critics at every press conference.
Then there’s the refereeing injustices Mikel Arteta has railed against of late, notably the error made by the VAR operators during Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Brentford at the weekend that cost the Gunners two valuable points. A late change to the VAR personnel for this game shows that Arteta’s protestations were heard loud and clear.
But also it’s the classic master versus apprentice narrative that is very alluring for the neutral. Arteta learned his coaching trade as Guardiola’s right hand man at the Etihad. Now, however, it’s the former Arsenal midfielder who has mastered his trade, inspiring the Gunners to an unlikely title push.
Arsenal might have another 16 games to play after this one (and City 15) but it really does feel like a huge 90 minutes in the contest of where the title will end up. A win for the home side will restore their lead to six points with a game in hand, but a City victory will put them top on goal difference – making them major favourites to clinch a fifth league crown in six years. Not even FFP will stop them (yet).
Just like with the title race itself, the bookies cannot call the game. Guardiola’s side, who returned to form with a routine 3-1 win over Aston Villa on Sunday, are made marginal favourites at 7/5, with the draw 5/2 and Arsenal 2/1. All bets are fairly appealing, given the anything-could-happen nature of the game.
But surely the tension and the amount at stake will force both managers to send their teams out onto the Emirates Stadium turf with an element of caution. A draw looks like the best bet, but this should be anything but boring; it’s certainly worthy of your Wednesday attention over, say, Club Brugge versus Benfica in the Champions League.