Even though Arsenal have dropped points over the last two Premier League matches, the team still controls its fate.
No, the Arsenal lead is no longer as impressive as it appeared immediately after Boxing Day. Going into a tough match with Manchester City, the Gunners have a three-point advantage over the defending champs with one match in hand.
That match, against Everton at the start of March, will be super crucial – for a win there, even with a loss to City on Wednesday, would find the Arsenal back on top of the Premier League by three points (presuming we match City’s points haul in the matches in between).
A victory on Wednesday, however, could provide both confidence and a bigger cushion as that match versus the Toffees looms closer. Wins up to and including that early March match could see the Gunners go up nine points on the second-place side.
Mikel Arteta’s side has this all in the palm of their hands. The boss has been rotating his side a bit more to get them all comfortable playing together, but against City, this writer suspects that the team will be at full strength minus Gabriel Jesus and playing a more aggressive brand of football than City experienced in their FA Cup victory just weeks ago.
Arsenal: Their fate is in their own hands
Manchester City have looked better recently, there can be no doubt about that. However, Arsenal’s downward turn has been greatly exaggerated. Brentford only drew with the Gunners thanks to a terribly missed offside call, and the Toffees parked the bus and earned their three points with a stellar James Tarkowski header.
Prior to that, Nathan Ake sank an Arsenal side that did not play its full-strength squad – and substituted pieces across the match.
The Arsenal will be fine. This team is stronger than many believe it to be – even after all they have proven thus far. Everyone is waiting for the side to flame out – but with a victory on Wednesday, they will show a spirit that was once very familiar to those who have watched Arsenal down the years.
Neither City nor Arsenal have particularly hard matches following their midweek contest. For the Gunners, matches against Aston Villa and Leicester follow City, while Bournemouth, Fulham and Crystal Palace follow the 1 March Everton match. Arsenal will be challenged by former boss Unai Emery as well as Marco Silva and Fulham, but those teams should not be equal to them.
April begins a new gambit, but we are still a ways from there yet.
Manchester City, meanwhile, have many matches across various competitions – not merely the Premier League. As for the Premier League, however, Nottingham Forest, Bournemouth, Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and West Ham follow the Wednesday matchup against Arsenal.
Newcastle United could assist Arsenal with some keen defence against Pep Guardiola and company, and Crystal Palace always play City well. Otherwise, Manchester City looks to head into their early April match against Liverpool with few dangers to knock them off of the stride they are building towards.
Arsenal and Manchester City: A duel to the end
That is simply how it is going to be. A non-stop competition to the end. Arsenal have a serious chance to stake their claim to the Premier League this week – and they must take it from the Citizens – for they will not relinquish it quietly.
Pep Guardiola is one of the greatest managers of all time, after all. He has some remarkable players too, from KDB to Erling Haaland, to Ilkay Gundogan, Kyle Walker, Phil Foden – the list goes on and on. But this side are building something that cannot be denied, and they will display that resolve on Wednesday, this author feels confident to say.
With that confidence, however, the results surely do remain to be witnessed. The Gunners have big aspirations and dreams, and it is at these moments that the biggest of performances must be had by each of the players individually as well as collectively. We shall see how that all plays out on Wednesday, and how it plays out across the rest of the year.