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.”
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.
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.
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.