The chasing champions host the languishing leaders in the most highly-anticipated game of the Premier League calendar on Wednesday night, as Manchester City take on Arsenal in a top-of-the-table spectacular at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s men eased past Sheffield United 3-0 to reach the FA Cup final over the weekend, prior to which the Gunners dropped more points in the title race in a 3-3 draw with Southampton.
Still fighting on three fronts as their end-of-season juggernaut crushes every foe in their path, Man City can officially assume control of the Premier League title race on Wednesday night, where both teams will step out onto the Etihad turf with their fate in their own hands.
Fresh from booking a Champions League semi-final date with Real Madrid courtesy of a 4-1 aggregate victory over Bayern Munich, Man City kept their hopes of FA Cup glory alive as Riyad Mahrez single-handedly demolished the Blades at Wembley, scoring a treble to send the Citizens through to a Manchester derby showpiece event.
Aside from an uncomfortable final 15 minutes, Guardiola’s side also encountered few difficulties en route to a comprehensive win over Leicester City in their last Premier League bout, moving them onto 70 points for the season – just five below their faltering visitors with two games in hand.
Now unbeaten in 16 successive matches across all tournaments – winning 13 of them – a merciless Man City host Arsenal having strung together a six-game triumphant streak in the Premier League, albeit while keeping just two clean sheets in their last 10 top-flight games, offering their visitors a small slice of hope.
However, Guardiola’s side have played 12 games at the Etihad in 2023 and have won all 12 of them – scoring at least two goals in every game barring a 1-0 FA Cup win over the Gunners, who could not choose a better time to end their long-running hoodoo against Arteta’s former club.
While Guardiola may have been feeling a small sense of pride watching his former protege threaten to wrestle the title out of Man City’s grasp, there will be no room for sentimentality on the touchline here, as Arteta somehow attempts to engineer the biggest win of his embryonic managerial career so far.
However, the signs of frailty became apparent in 2-2 draws with West Ham United and Liverpool, where Arsenal let successive two-goal leads slip for the first time ever in the Premier League, and ongoing defensive concerns reared their ugly heads when Southampton visit the Emirates for Friday’s top vs. bottom encounter.
Staring down the barrel of defeat at 3-1 down, Arsenal managed to pull off one of their customary late comebacks through Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka, meaning that they remain in control of their destiny for the next 48 hours at least, but pessimism is starting to increase once more.
With Chelsea and Newcastle United – who destroyed Tottenham Hotspur 6-1 on Sunday – to come in the next couple of weeks, Arteta must work overtime to find an answer to Arsenal’s rearguard calamities, having seen his side fail to keep a clean sheet in six games since a 3-0 success at Fulham last month.
Nevertheless, Arsenal officially remain the best-performing away side in the Premier League season with 36 points from 16 games on the road – conceding a joint-low 13 goals – while they have found the back of the net at least twice in each of their last eight top-flight matches home or away.
The age-old Man City curse is still bedevilling them, though, as Arsenal have lost each of their last 11 Premier League games against Man City since a 2-2 draw in 2017. Should that sequence stretch to 12 on Wednesday, Gooners may very well kiss the title goodbye.
Manchester City Premier League form:
Manchester City form (all competitions):
Arsenal Premier League form:
Arsenal form (all competitions):
We say: Manchester City 3-1 Arsenal
Given how crucial Saliba is to Arsenal’s defensive and offensive style, his absence means that things could get ugly for the Gunners on Wednesday night, and fast.
The return of Xhaka will at least mean that Arsenal’s midfield should not get bypassed in the manner that it did against Southampton, but a Man City side who just cannot stop scoring – or winning – at home should stroll to a comfortable victory to take a giant step towards dethroning their capital counterparts.