Okay, so we’re grasping at straws. Saliba’s season looks to be over, with surgery an increasingly likely option. We’ve staggered to three draws in which we’ve conceded seven goals to Liverpool and relegation fodder sides. Wednesday’s visit to the Etihad looms larger with each passing day…and it’s with that in mind that we look at Man City’s record on their own ground against London clubs to take away a glimmer of a semblance of something resembling hope: Man City’s last four defeats at the Etihad have come against teams from London.
There might be enough in this for us to hang our hats on. Let’s give it a quick run-down:
- 12 November 2022: Brentford come in and win 1-2, snapping Man City’s eleven-match unbeaten run.
- 19 February 2022: Tottenham win 2-3, snapping Man City’s 15 match unbeaten run.
- 30 October 2021: Crystal Palace do the unthinkable and keep a clean sheet, winning 0-2.
- 8 May 2021: Chelsea escape with a 1-2 win in the late stages of the Prem campaign.
Of these, only Chelsea’s win stands out as that one from a squad with any serious credentials. Left unsaid for now is the less-comforting fact that Man City have also won numerous matches against various London-based clubs, but we’re going to set that aside because it doesn’t fit the narrative we’re trying to subscribe to here. Just bear with me.
The dominant narrative is that Man City are an invulnerable, impregnable, unstoppable machine, and that is all too true. However, there’s always a chink in the armor. Aside from that collection of one-off results, there’s another one-off that might be worth revisiting, and that’s a our own 2-0 win over City in that run to the 2020 FA Cup. In that lineup, we fielded a back three of Tierney, David Luiz, and Mustafi. If you’re not needing a change of undergarments, fair play to you. Buckle up, though. “Shielding” that back three was a midfield of Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, and Maitland-Niles. I’ll give you a minute.
All I mean to say here is that lesser squads have found greater results. If the likes of Brentford, Tottenham, and Palace can find three points at the Etihad—hell, if our 2019-2020 squad can find a way to win there—well, there’s hope for this more-vibrant, determined squad. Yes, we’re on the ropes here, but we went up against a similarly stacked City side back in 2020 with silverware on the line and bested them. We fast forward to 2023 and have a chance at achieving the impossible. No one predicted that we’d have a chance at winning the Prem Everyone’s predicting that we’ll let that chance slip on Wednesday, and they be proven right, much like a broken clock is right twice a day.
Everyone expected Man City to win this from before day one. No one predicted we’d even be in the conversation. I’m not quite ready to content myself with any talk along the lines of “we’ll just be happy with a top-four finish”. Not yet. We’ve held on to the top spot all season long, bar a few hours here and there when Man City played before we did.
Man City are a juggernaut, no doubt about it. We’ve slain such giants before. I pray we do so again.
You can always win the PL even if you lose all your matches to the other three in the top four, but you have to beat all those below that quartet in the table (96 points) Even losing to those in the top six is possible if you win all the rest (84 points) your odds are very good. You cannot, however, lose to or draw with the minnows or the mid-table. If you do consistently, let alone to the bottom third, the mountain gets steeper and nearly impossible to scale. This is a lesson Arsenal seems not to have learned from recent history. As long as they fail to fully focus on the winnable matches and garner all three points, they will not capture the prize and will be consigned to the dust bin of also-rans.
Winning the League is an endurance race and not a tournament where every match, at some point, is your only focus. It is possible to pace yourself and build a lead that does not require a last lap sprint that may not get you to the tape before another entry. When will Arsenal learn this? Not just the players, but also the manager.
I’ve always felt the same. Defeating the other top sides can offer significant psychological boosts, but it’s still the same number of points as beating the Southamptons and Evertons of the world. Dropping points to those minnows is what’s fatal. Getting dumped out of Europa League and FA Cup play should have allowed us to focus on the Prem, just as you say, but it’s hard to see evidence of that.
Pinning our struggles on Saliba’s absense would make sense if we had been playing other top six sides. Even without Saliba, we should have been able to get past West Ham and Southampton. Something else is missing.
Talk about all or nothing. We have to win this to have ANY chance at the Prem title…but we still have to go to play Newcastle who look fearsome. Even a win tomorrow might not be enough.
So, the Achilles heels in question is our own prayers?… truly well said, truly.
The collective fear and agreement shown by everyone on City having title in their hands while us still being up 5 points- maybe 3 is the scariest thing that keeps hunting me.
So yes, the Achilles heel here is prayers.
thanks for weighing in, Lev. Our Achilles’ Heel is our own lack of depth and confidence. The injuries to Tomiyasu and Saliba have left Arteta without many options in defense, and the results speak for themselves. I hope we finish this season strong enough to attract a few more players to add depth and versatility. We’re a long way from the riches that Man City enjoy in roster selection, but even three or four players would make a massive difference for us.