Manchester City, Arsenal up for the fight but where will Premier League title go?

6 Comments

LONDON — With Manchester City close to their swashbuckling best in the first half, they looked to be head and shoulders above Arsenal on Saturday.

But then in the second period, their panache and swagger drained away as the Gunners fought back valiantly to seal a 1-1 draw. In those two halves, we saw reasons why both sides have been title contenders for the entire season. City with their wonderful array of attacking talents culminating in a fluid move that led to David Silva’s opener, then Arsenal’s new found grit and determination which has helped them grind out results time and time again. But despite City’s obvious advantage of being two points behind current Premier League leaders Chelsea with two games in hand, we are no closer to finding out who the PL champions are.

That’s just the way we like it.

“We have to fight until he end of the season because everybody can beat everybody,” Wenger warned. “Chelsea lost today at Crystal Palace, that means all of us have to be careful and all of us have to be consistent.”

This enthralling match between two title contenders under the lights at the Emirates summed up how this PL season has gone. Just when we thought we knew the script, the plot twists. Manchester City knew before their late kick off against Arsenal that a win would see them top of the PL standings with two games in hand over everyone else. Speaking to the press afterwards, Manuel Pellegrini felt that factor gave both teams an extra edge but he still believes the title race is wide-open, as we head into the final few weeks of the season.

“I think all four teams have the chance to win the title in the future, but all four teams will drop points between now and the end of the season,” Pellegrini said. “It is very difficult at the end of the season, because there are a lot of teams fighting relegation. Ask Chelsea today, look at what happened to them away at Crystal Palace. I think we must continue to just think about the next game.”

(MORE: Arsenal 1-1 Manchester City – Gunners fight back thwarts City’s title charge)

City had the chance to cement themselves at the top of the table, but let their early promise slip by the wayside against Arsenal after a sloppy second half display. Credit must go to the home side for stepping things up, getting stuck in and Mathieu Flamini’s equalizer was reward for his superb display which cajoled his teammates into life.

The scenario at the top of the PL standings seems to be changing game by game, as  the topsy-turvy situation at the top makes it hard to predict which team will lift the crown on May 11. Chelsea have led the way for the last few months, and with their win away at Manchester City earlier this year and a 6-0 demolition of Arsenal last weekend, they looked to be clicking into top gear ominously.

source: Getty Images
Both Arsenal and City showcased why they can win the PL title, but will this season take yet another unexpected turn?

But away day defeats at Aston Villa and now Palace have curtailed the Blues, just as slip ups in the middle of the season cost Manchester City and Arsenal after their stunning start to the campaign. Then you throw Liverpool into the mix, and with a win against Tottenham on Sunday, the Reds can go top of the table on 71 points with six games to go and both City and Chelsea still to play at Anfield.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

Wenger, known as the professor, and Pellegrini, known as the engineer, both pointed to an academic field we’ll all become more familiar in the final few weeks of the season: mathematics. At this time of the season, number crunching is the name of the game.

“In football, if the mathematics allow you to win, then you have the chance to do it,” Pellegrini said. “I think in this moment, we will see what happens tomorrow with Liverpool. Arsenal are only four points behind the leader, it’s not too much.”

After seeing his side held by Arsenal, Pellegrini believes the Gunners are still  title contenders. What about Wenger? He’s not so sure, but he’s still got his calculator by his side, just in case others continue to slip up.

“Mathematically we are still in there, but it is not in our hands,” Wenger said. “We have to look above us and behind us. Because behind us they are coming too.”

That’s the beauty of it, even though Arsenal are still, mathematically, in the title race, Everton are seven points behind Arsenal in fifth place, but have two games in hand and they host Arsenal next weekend. The race for the top four, and the title, has yet to be decided with just over a month of the season remaining.

Manchester City and Arsenal both showed why they are top class teams on Saturday, City in the first half, and the Gunners in the second. But who can claw themselves over the line in the race for the Premier League title? Arsenal? Manchester City? Liverpool? Chelsea?

With a handful of games to go, nobody knows. City are the favorites, but you can’t help but feel there’s another twist in the tale as they have to visit Liverpool and Everton before the season is over. This campaign, the Premier League really has delivered its claim as the world’s most exciting league.

Plus, there’s still plenty of drama ahead.

French league terminates goal-line technology contract

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PARIS (AP) The French football league has terminated the contract with its goal-line technology provider after a series of glitches.

The LFP had already suspended the use of GoalControl, the German system that was deployed at the 2014 World Cup.

According to L’Equipe newspaper, the league will launch a tender in February to find a new provider of the technology that determines whether the ball crossed the line.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

In recent months, the French league had repeatedly expressed its discontent with GoalControl.

Goal-line technology entered soccer after a goal was wrongly disallowed at the 2010 World Cup.

FIFA is already focused on fast-tracking the next phase of technology – video assistant referees – for the World Cup in June.

Goal-line technology and VAR were provided by Hawk-Eye at the Confederations Cup last year.

Bristol City’s Johnson: “They certainly have heard of us now”

Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Premier League world may see Bristol City next season, but it seems its manager has the personality to arrive on the top flight whether or not his Robins earn promotion this season.

Johnson, 36, earned plenty of plaudits after leading his Championship club to the League Cup semifinals, famously defeated Manchester United in the quarters.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Before that, Bristol beat Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City, and Watford. The Robins beat third tier Plymouth Argyle 5-0 in the first round.

Johnson was beaming after the Robins took Man City to the edge, closing to within a goal of extra time before Kevin De Bruyne‘s stoppage time number ended the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

“Absolutely I’m proud. It’s not just tonight but over the course of the season, particularly the cup run. It was a fantastic occasion, I’m sorry we couldn’t get the win but we played against the best side that I have ever seen live. They have so many good individuals.

“We kept going and it’s taken two injury-time goals to beat us. They certainly have [heard of us] now…everybody knows what we’re about. It’s been great.”

Bristol City is in the Championship’s fifth place, bidding for its first top flight campaign since 1980. Johnson should be a hot prospect to earn a shot in the Premier League should the Robins not make the jump.

League Cup semifinal preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Chelsea has won 4-of-7 League Cup matches vs. Arsenal
  • Arsenal leads all-time series 74W-58D-62L
  • Clubs have drawn four times this season

Hardware hopes are on the line when Chelsea hits the Emirates Stadium for a League Cup semifinal second leg with Arsenal on Wednesday.

The sides drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, giving Chelsea the advantage of knowing a scoring draw would do the trick and set up a date with Manchester City at Wembley on Feb. 25, though Arsenal has home field advantage in pursuit of a win.

[ MORE: Bristol City 2-3 (3-5 agg.) Man City ]

Henrikh Mkhitaryan may debut for Arsenal, though the club released an interesting note on Tuesday: He’ll wear No. 7 in most competitions, but will have to use a different number in the Europa League because Alexis Sanchez wore it to start the tournament.

Chelsea’s Antonio Conte won’t have Alvaro Morata (back) and Cesc Fabregas for the match, though Andreas Christensen will be available for selection.

The clubs are no strangers to each other in big non-PL spots, squaring off in this season’s Community Shield (Arsenal won in penalty kicks) and last season’s FA Cup Final (Arsenal won).

Nothing has separated the sides on the field aside from those penalty kicks at Wembley Stadium, as Arsenal and Chelsea have drawn 1-1, 0-0, 2-2, and 0-0 since August.

What they’re saying

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on Henrikh Mkhitaryan“He can play in different positions, but personally I see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle. You are certain in our job of nothing, that’s absolutely sure. But you believe and I believe he has the qualities to do well, is a team player and our game is based on team attitude and movement and I think he can absorb the quantity of movement in our team.”

Chelsea’s Conte on the lineup: “Every game is different, you change the quality of your opponent and you must be intelligent enough to understand if you should continue with the same players or make some changes.”

Javier Mascherano leaving Barcelona after 8 seasons

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano is leaving the club after eight seasons.

Barcelona says there will be a farewell ceremony on Wednesday with Mascherano, club president Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the squad.

[ MORE: Man City to buy $86m CB ]

The 33-year-old Argentina international will say goodbye to the fans before Thursday’s game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. He is reportedly going to play in China.

Mascherano, who also played as a defensive midfielder, arrived in Barcelona in 2010 from Liverpool and helped the Catalan club win 18 titles. He has made 334 appearances with Barcelona, but recently hadn’t been playing much.

The club earlier this month signed Colombia international Yerry Mina to boost its defense.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga