Rivals’ Roundup: and then there were two…


A funny thing happened along the way to Man City’s ostensibly inevitable foregone conclusion of a coronation. We forgot to stick to that script. Of course, Man City still have the inside track to the title, but it ain’t over ’til it’s over…and it ain’t quite over. We have just three precious matches left to earn points and will need CIty to drop four points from their remaining four. That’s a tall order, but we’ll do what we can at our end. Checking the rearview mirror shows that this roundup really only need focus on the two of us, but we’ll be generous in including a few others despite their recent losses.

1. Man City (26W 4D 4L: 82 pts.)
City now have in their sights a treble but will have to get past Real Madrid with the first leg at the Bernabeu on Tuesday and the second next week. It may seem at first glance that City were looking past their opponent, barely easing past Leeds 2-1, but this was a match that they controlled comfortably. Leeds grabbed a late consolation goal against the run of play and Haaland passed up a chance at padding his goal-tally (Harry Kane, are you reading this?) to give Gundogan a chance at a hat-trick. Classy move, but Gundogan hit the post. I suppose we’ll have to watch Tuesday’s UCL clash and hope for a few knocks to a few City players and the kind of result that puts their backs to the wall. I just hope that Ariaga and Ariaga II are up for the the challenge…

2. Arsenal (25W 6D 4L: 81 pts.)
Well, that was unexpected. Newcastle had apparently become this behemoth, this unstoppable force, an indomitable machine that would simply steamroll us. With our wobbles, a devastating setback might have resurrected last season’s collapse and sent us into a tailspin to allow Newcastle a chance to pip us to second place. Indeed, we endured about 15 minutes during which it felt like all of this and worse was about to come to fruition. Instead, we took control of the match and brazenly defied Newcastle’s “Stoke on Steroids” approach. This has all too often been the kind of match that caused us to wilt, crumble, fold, collapse, and all the rest. Instead, we showed tenacity of the sort rarely associated with this club. Even if we end up “settling” for second, we’ve grown by leaps and bounds…and we’re not done yet. Not by a long shot.

3. Newcastle (18W 11D 5L: 65 pts.)
Oops. I suppose your game plan should have consisted of something other than tucking the away fans up in the nosebleed section and bargeing into our players at every turn, eh? As I wrote about after the match, turnabout is only fair; you lot frittered away the hours in an off-hand way during that hotly contested scoreless draw. It seems only fair that we do the same to protect what we like to call a win. That’s something we do from time to time, preferring it to a draw whenever possible. Take it from a club that speaks from experience, you don’t really want to go into the double-digits for draws unless you’re up to something special. Howe and his benefactors have assembled an impressive squad, but it lacks a winning mentality.

4. Man U (19W 6D 9L: 63 pts.)
I suppose you have to give Ten Hag’s crew some credit. It takes some kind of talent to score just 49 goals while still claiming 63 points. It seems like we were all listening to some rather brave talk of Rashford’s fine season, but he, like the rest of the squad, seem to have stalled. A second consecutive loss, this one to West Ham courtesy of yet another de Gea howler, seems to be a harbinger of doom. Off the pitch, there’s the increasingly sordid saga of who will end up buying this side full of misfit toys. Key players​—Casemiro, de Gea, Eriksen, Maguire, Varane, Fernandes​—are ageing, and the youth, such as it is, has yet to impress. Ten Hag seems like a serious manager, but he’ll need serious backing in the summer to match the squad to expectations.

Nipping at his heels are none other than LIverpool, winners of six in a row and full of piss and vinegar. It’s not ludicrous to think that they’ll find their way to a Champions League post, given their form and Man U’s lack thereof. From our perch, it’s amusing to watch two erstwhile rivals squabble for the crumbs that fall from the top of the table. Listing somewhat to the side would be Tottenham, who finally managed to win a match but still stare at a six-point gap to close on Man U, who have a game in hand. To be honest, they probably have more to fear from Brighton, who trail by just two points while holding two matches in hand. Could we see Tottenham return to the Europa Conference League? Time will tell.

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