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Back Manchester City to beat Arsenal in this rearranged Premier League fixture on Wednesday. Mikel Arterta’s men have suffered a dip in form and the reigning champions could take advantage.
This fixture was originally scheduled to be held in October, but it was postponed to make room for one of Arsenal’s Europa League group stage fixtures. Back then, Mikel Arteta’s men were four points clear at the summit of the standings, with Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur chasing them down.
Spurs have fallen away since then, but the situation at the top of the division has not changed much since then. Arsenal are still the leaders, with City their closest challengers. But while the gap could have widened to eight points in recent days, it instead stands at just three.
That is because Arsenal have suffered their first dip in form of the 2022/23 campaign. The Gunners amassed 50 points in the first half of the season, a magnificent haul which put them on course to match City’s record-breaking 100-point tally from 2017/18.
They dropped points on just three occasions in their first 19 rounds of fixtures, drawing with Newcastle United and Southampton, and losing to Manchester United. Even in that defeat at Old Trafford they were arguably the better team on the balance of play.
However, February has not started well for Arsenal. A 1-0 defeat by relegation-threatened Everton was followed by a 1-1 draw with Brentford at the weekend. That has opened the door to City, who are now the favorites to win the Premier League title with the best online sportsbooks.
In one sense, the pressure is off for Arsenal. They were not expected to contend for the championship at the start of the season. A top-four challenge was their primary objective before a ball had been kicked.
Yet because they have been top for the majority of the campaign, it would now be a huge disappointment if Arsenal did not go on to win the league.
It has been an eventful couple of weeks for Manchester City. A 1-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur in their first game of the month exposed many of the shortcomings that have prevented Pep Guardiola’s side from performing at their highest level for much of this season.
A day after that defeat in north London, the club was hit with the news that it has been charged by the Premier League for allegedly breaching its financial rules.
The case could rumble on for years, but if found guilty City can expect a hefty punishment that could involve points deductions, the stripping of titles or even relegation.
In response to those charges, City have adopted a siege mentality - led by their manager Guardiola, who came out fighting in the media last week. The home crowd at the Etihad Stadium was revitalized for the 3-1 victory over Aston Villa last time out, a result which moved City to within touching distance of top spot.
The champions will hope that their experience makes the difference in this title race. Unlike this Arsenal team, they have been there and done it before. They know what it takes to get over the line in a close battle.
Yet it is also true that City have not sparkled as often as usual this term. Even in the defeat of Villa, which was comfortable enough, they were not at their best. City have the strongest squad in the division, but even an away win on Wednesday would not guarantee that they go on to win their fifth title in six years.
This has the potential to be a classic Premier League game. Manchester United fans might argue differently, but the title will surely be won by either Arsenal or Manchester City. The two teams are yet to square off this term, so the significance of this head-to-head encounter cannot be overstated.
Arsenal will draw confidence from their formidable home record. They are yet to lose at the Emirates this term, and have drawn only two of 10 encounters in front of their own fans. No team in the Premier League has a better points-per-game record on home turf.
However, Arsenal may be beginning to feel the heat after dropping points against Everton and Brentford. There have been signs of tiredness within the team, partly because Arteta has tended to stick with the same starting XI throughout the campaign.
City could be without the Premier League top scorer Erling Haaland, but they are still a fantastic side without him. They will take the ball away from Arsenal on Wednesday, and they have the firepower to cause the home team’s defense problems.
All things considered, a Manchester City victory is the way to go in this titanic title tussle.
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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