Manchester City will be looking to continue their march towards regaining the Premier League title when they take on Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Pep Guardiola’s side have won their last 17 matches across all competitions, including 12 in the league to move 10 points clear at the top of the table and 22 points above this weekend’s hosts, who sit 10th.
Few people will know the quality Man City possess better than Mikel Arteta, who spent three years as Guardiola’s assistant before taking over as Arsenal manager, and so he will be under no illusions as to the scale of the task facing his side on Sunday.
In his pre-match press conference, Arteta talked up Man City as the best team in Europe, and a quick look at some of the statistics behind their incredible recent form makes it difficult to argue.
The Citizens have already smashed the record for most consecutive wins across all competitions by an English top-flight club, their run still ongoing at 17, while Wednesday’s 3-1 triumph over Everton saw them become the first top-flight side to ever win their opening 10 matches of a calendar year.
That perfect record in 2021 will be tested in the coming weeks with a difficult run which sees them face Arsenal, Borussia Monchengladbach, West Ham United and Manchester United in succession, but such is their dominance at the moment that they will go into all of those games as firm favourites.
You have to go back more than two months to December 15 for the last time they failed to win a game in any competition, while their unbeaten run stretches back 24 games to their 2-0 defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur in November – incidentally their last league trip to North London.
Remarkably, that loss to Spurs was the last time Man City even trailed in a Premier League game, thanks largely to their 12 clean sheets in the 16 games since.
Guardiola’s men have now kept 22 clean sheets in all competitions over the course of the campaign – more than any other team in the top four tiers of English football or the top five European leagues – while their record in the Premier League stands at just 15 goals conceded in 24 games, nine fewer than the next best defence.
A run of 12 consecutive league wins has seen Man City storm 10 points clear at the top of the table, and it is increasingly difficult to see anyone catching them even if Guardiola’s side begin to drop points with more regularity over the coming weeks.
Chances to take points off them are few and far between with Man City almost as impressive away from home as they have been at home this season, and they will arrive at the Emirates Stadium looking to equal the club record of 11 successive away wins in all competitions.
Man City have won at Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea in that time, while their ongoing run of 10 in a row also includes a 4-1 triumph over Arsenal at the Emirates in the EFL Cup quarter-finals before Christmas.
A repeat of that result would see Man City become only the third team to win away at Arsenal twice in the same season – and the first since 1993-94 – but there is no doubt that the runaway league leaders will make the trip to the capital as favourites to join that exclusive club.
The Gunners still find themselves in mid-table with only 14 games of the season remaining, with eight points separating them from the Champions League places and a 22-point gap to Man City.
Arteta’s side will need a drastic improvement over the rest of the campaign if they are to bridge the gap to the top four – or even the top six – but that quest could hardly get off to a more difficult start over the coming weeks.
A potentially season-defining run awaits the Gunners, who take on Man City this weekend, face a Europa League second leg against Benfica next Thursday and then take on Leicester City, Tottenham, West Ham United and Liverpool in four of their following five league games – all teams that currently sit above them in the table.
Arsenal did at least bounce back from successive defeats in their last league game as they raced into a four-goal lead against Leeds United before nervously holding off a fightback to run out 4-2 winners in the end.
That result made it six home games unbeaten since Man City’s last visit, while in the league they have kept clean sheets in three of their last four outings at the Emirates.
One more defeat on their own turf would set a new unwanted record for most home league defeats in a season at the Emirates Stadium, though, having already been beaten four times in 2020-21.
The visit of Man City will not be a particularly welcome one, then, and especially so given that Arsenal have only won three of their last 18 league games against the team beginning the day at the top of the table – although one of those victories did come in their last such match against Liverpool in July.
The Gunners also come into this match off the back of a Europa League game on Thursday night, which saw them play out a 1-1 draw in their away leg with Benfica in a fixture held at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Europa League glory is arguably a more realistic route to Champions League qualification than a top-four finish for Arsenal right now, and so Arteta may even be tempted to prioritise Thursday’s return leg ahead of Sunday’s showdown.
Arsenal Premier League form: WWDLLW
Arsenal form (all competitions): WDLLWD
Manchester City Premier League form: WWWWWW
Manchester City form (all competitions): WWWWWW