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.

U.S. teen Vassilev makes Premier League debut for Villa

Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Look closely at Jack Grealish‘s equalizer for Aston Villa on Saturday and you’ll find an American making a run to create space.

That’s Indiana Vassilev, who made his Premier League debut in the 1-1 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium.

Vassilev, who turns 19 next month, was credited with seven touches in 23 minutes, connecting on 3-of-4 passes.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

The Georgia-born left winger made his FA Cup debut versus Fulham on Jan. 4 and his League Cup debut versus Leicester City on Jan. 8.

He has six goals and two assists in 13 appearances for Villans’ Premier League 2 side.

Favre reacts to Dortmund debuts for Haaland, U.S. prospect Reyna

Giovanni Reyna debuts for Borussia Dortmund
Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Borussia Dortmund supporters couldn’t help but gush about the hat trick debut for teenage striker Erling Braut Haaland.

Their manager was sure to talk about both of his teen debutants.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

The second was American 17-year-old Giovanni Reyna, who was promoted to the first team this week and came off the bench to make his Bundesliga debut in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Augsburg.

Here’s one of Favre’s answers when asked about Haaland, via Fussball.news:

“We also played with Gio Reyna. It was very good. The first time he plays here at 17, that’s good. A 17-year-old, a 19-year-old, I think that’s good.”

“(Haaland) immediately showed his strength, the runs down. He moves well between the lines. It gives us another way to play forward.”

Haaland’s 20-minute hat trick has been well detailed by Joe Prince-Wright here.

Reyna entered for Thorgan Hazard in the 72nd minute, getting 13 touches and completing 7-of-9 passes. He completed his lone dribble attempt and won his only duel while failing to put his only shot attempt on target.

Aston Villa grab vital point at Brighton

Leave a comment

Injury-hit Aston Villa grabbed a big point at Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Leandro Trossard gave Brighton a first half lead but Jack Grealish popped up with a second half equalizer to share the points in a fiery encounter at the Amex.

With the draw both teams remained embroiled in a relegation battle as Brighton have 25 points and sit three points ahead of Villa who occupy 18th, the final relegation spot.


3 things we learned

1. Grealish delivers, again: Riddled by injuries, Villa needed their captain to stand tall. He did. Again. Even in recent heavy defeats Grealish has tried to drive Villa on and he has now scored in their tight win at Burnley and grabbed them a point at Brighton. Against relegation rivals, Grealish has delivered for Villa and at 24 years old he conrinues to mature.

2. Brighton let another lead slip: The Seagulls have won just won of their last eight league games and they keep letting leads slip in tight games. Graham Potter‘s side have plenty of the ball and dominate games but just can’t score the second goal to finish teams off. They have only scored more than one goal once in their last seven games and for all of their fine attacking play, Brighton are three points off the bottom because they can’t finish teams off.

3. Relegation battle coming up: Both teams showed why they will be in a relegation battle all season long. Brighton can’t score or finish teams off, while Villa are too reliant on Grealish and have no real attacking options as they rode their luck at Brighton. Potter and Dean Smith are two progressive, young, English coaches but they will be pushed to their limits to keep their teams up this season.

Man of the Match: Jack Grealish – Villa’s main man popped up with the goal which grabbed them a point and he was everywhere. Villa had no central striker once again as they wait to bring someone in during the January window with Wesley out for the season, and Grealish made so many runs forward during the game to try and take the pressure off his team.


Jack Grealish smashed an effort just wide as Villa looked dangerous on the counter without a recognized striker.

The Seagulls then came close to the taking the lead as Bernardo‘s cross found Aaron Mooy and his volley was cleared, eventually, as an almighty scramble ensued.

Aaron Connolly then knocked a low cross just wide as he seemed to be surprised that the ball found him in the six yard box.

Brighton took the lead as Neal Maupay ran towards goal and teed up Trossard who fired home across goal and into the far corner.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Mohamed Trezeguet was denied by Mat Ryan in a rare Villa attack as Brighton were dominating, with young American Indiana Vassilev coming on for his Premier League debut.

Moments later Grealish made it 1-1 as a poor mistake from Brighton saw Douglas Luiz play a long ball over the top and Villa’s skipper slammed home to send the away end wild.

Late on Villa debutant Pepe Reina made a wonderful stop to deny Maupay preserve a point as tempers flared towards and after the final whistle as both sets of players were involved in a huge melee.

Pukki leads 10-man Norwich City win over 10-man Bournemouth

Leave a comment

Both teams finished with 10 men but only one found a goal when Norwich City beat Bournemouth in a relegation six-pointer at Carrow Road on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Teemu Pukki scored from the spot to give the Canaries some hope and increase the Cherries’ despair.

Steve Cook was sent off for Bournemouth in the 31st minute, with Ben Godfrey leveling the field in the 76th.

Norwich now has 17 points, six back of the safe places, while 19th place Bournemouth stays level on 20.


Three things we learned

1. Pitch side monitor used to upgrade card: The Premier League told the refs to check the pitch side monitors on possible red card offenses, and it worked. Ben Godfrey cleverly disguised his ugly tackle by looking away from the contact, only earning a yellow card. The video monitors told the story, though, and Paul Tierney wasn’t shy to make the right call and turn the yellow into a red.

2. Bournemouth in the worst of ways: Eddie Howe‘s slumping Cherries played down a man for 45 minutes, and couldn’t make anything of the reprieve handed them by Godfrey’s awful tackle. There was proper desperation from the Cherries, but also never a feeling that Bournemouth would come back.

3. Steve Cook at full stretch is pretty impressive (and illegal): Referee Paul Tierney was almost laughing as he gave Cook a red card for his excellent “save” to push a ball off the post.

 

Man of the Match: Emiliano Buendia is Norwich City’s shining light. If the Canaries go down, he’s going to be the subject of a recruitment more like relegated stars Idrissa Gana Gueye and Andrew Robertson before him.


Pukki couldn’t get purchase on an earlier chance, but got the job done from the spot.

Cook handled a ball in the box and was shown red, with VAR holding up the clear penalty.

The Finnish striker had no problem making it 1-0.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Todd Cantwell was very busy as usual for the Canaries, passing well but also blasting a shot into the upper reaches of the stadium.

Norwich was dominant, outshooting Bournemouth 15-3 when another moment of madness had both teams with 10 players. Godfrey’s late challenge on Callum Wilson sent Tierney to the monitor for a VAR-aided straight red card.