Premier League title race: Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City battle to go down to the wire

Liverpool likely to surrender first place for at least 24 hours with Arsenal and City both in action on Wednesday

From left: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta and head coach of Manchester City Pep Guardiola. AFP
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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola conceded the Premier League title is “out of our hands” after a goalless draw against Arsenal on Sunday.


Wednesday, April 3

Arsenal v Luton Town, 10.30pm (UAE)

Manchester City v Aston Villa, 11.15pm (UAE)

Thursday, April 4

Liverpool v Sheffield United, 10.30pm (UAE)

Liverpool secured top place with a 2-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion earlier Sunday, taking the Reds two points clear of the Gunners with City in third, three points from the summit with nine games left.

Guardiola conferred Liverpool as favourites to go on and win a first Premier League title since 2020. Since then City have won three successive titles. No team in England has won four top-flight titles on the trot.

Was Guardiola correct?

It felt a little premature. There's still 27 points up for grabs, and City and Arsenal can level or leapfrog Liverpool – for 24 hours at least – if they win their games against Luton Town and Aston Villa on Wednesday, respectively.

City will likely have to be close to perfect if they are to pip Liverpool and Arsenal but they have a history of strong finishes and putting together long, winning runs. City have not tasted defeat since losing 1-0 to Aston Villa on December 6.

Guardiola can also call on recent precedent. At the same stage last season, City were five points adrift of Arsenal but managed to reel them in and then overtake them.

City have also shown they can hold their nerve and take the title race down to the wire. They beat Liverpool to the title by a single point in the 2018/19 season and again in 2021/22.

Perhaps predictably, however, Guardiola was keen to play down their previous success in title races.

"It's just winning games, that's what we have to do," he said on Tuesday. "We have not many chances to drop points. Aston Villa are playing to qualify for the Champions League, every team plays for something, so the last few games will be difficult to manage.

"Our experience [of strong finishes] is over, it doesn't count. What counts is Aston Villa. Being able to win lots of games in a row before, I don't know how many [we can win] now. The only thing is how to beat Aston Villa."

Are there any differences between then and now?

Last season, City still had Arsenal to play and triumphed 4-1 at home before the Gunners fell away at the business end of the season.

City have nine games remaining this term. Even if they win all of them, it may not be enough as they have already played Liverpool twice (both draws) as well as Arsenal (City lost the reverse fixture in October 1-0).

City face Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday with the Midlands club's ambitions on securing fourth place ahead of Tottenham Hotspur and with it Champions League football next season.

Liverpool have been the biggest thorn in City’s side in the Guardiola era, relegating them to second spot in 2019/20, remarkably their only slip-up in six seasons.

As was the case then, City are fighting on three fronts. City made history by winning the league, FA Cup and Champions League last term. A repeat is still on the cards this time around, with City in the semi-finals of the FA Cup as well as the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Arsenal, meanwhile, have taken four points from six available from their clashes against City and Liverpool, with Arteta becoming the first manager to go unbeaten against both Guardiola and Klopp in a league season.

Asked if they will need to win all of their remaining games to be in with a chance of a first title since 2004, the Arsenal boss said: "I don’t know, but it’s going to have to be really close to that. You can see the consistency from the other teams and historically what is needed points wise. It is going to be close to needing that.

"This is where we want to be and we want to take this opportunity and make this happen. I am full of energy and it is the most incredible part of the season. I wasn’t in this position when I was a player so this is different."

The run in

Liverpool sit in pole position and would love to give departing manager Jurgen Klopp the perfect send off with another Premier League trophy.

The German will bring down the curtain on a trophy-filled nine years as Liverpool manager at the end of the campaign, and Liverpool seem determined to make sure he bows out with a second English title.

The Reds will likely surrender top spot by the time they play Sheffield United on Thursday, but it would be a major shock if they came away from Anfield with anything other than three points.

Liverpool's injury problems have been well documented and there are a few tricky fixtures in the run in, including visits to north-west rivals Manchester United on Sunday and a Merseyside derby against neighbours Everton on April 24.

City next face Villa – the last side to beat them – on Wednesday while both Guardiola’s team and Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal still have to go to Tottenham between now and the end of the campaign.

All three teams are still in the hunt for European crowns, too – City and Arsenal in the Champions League and Liverpool in the Europa League – and this may be a distracting factor as well.

Liverpool already have one piece of silverware this season, having won the League Cup trophy in February.

Twists and turns to come

In all likelihood, yes.

Liverpool have the edge but they have never had the threat of City breathing down their necks – the Reds were out of sight in 2020 when the crunch time came.

City have proved they enjoy being the hunters, even if they have not been firing on all cylinders recently, and Guardiola will surely not want Klopp to have the last laugh in their rivalry.

Arsenal cannot be discounted either and look a better team than the one that subsided last season, as evidenced by Sunday’s stalemate after a thrashing by City 12 months ago.

In short, a dramatic finale looms.

Updated: April 04, 2024, 11:17 AM

Wednesday, April 3

Arsenal v Luton Town, 10.30pm (UAE)

Manchester City v Aston Villa, 11.15pm (UAE)

Thursday, April 4

Liverpool v Sheffield United, 10.30pm (UAE)