‘Advantage Liverpool, but Man City are still my Premier League title favourites’

‘Advantage Liverpool, but Man City are still my Premier League title favourites’

1 April 2024 0 By Total Football News
Alan Shearer column

At the moment it is advantage Liverpool, and Arsenal are not going away, but, with nine games to go, I still see Manchester City as favourites for the Premier League title.

That feeling is not really based on how City are playing right now, though. Pep Guardiola’s side are on a long unbeaten run, stretching back 23 games in all competitions, but they have not hit top form and a few of their performances in that spell have not quite been at the level we have come to expect.

Some of their results have been disappointing too, including Sunday’s 0-0 draw with the Gunners. It must be a concern for Pep that his side have still not beaten another top-five team this season in six attempts.

City have got a chance to change that when they play Aston Villa at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday – and they have to.

They cannot afford to drop points in successive games, so it’s another huge night for them – against the last team to beat them, on 6 December.

One of City’s biggest strengths, however, is that they have been here and done it so many times before.

And, while their rivals might be in better form, City have the experience to know that the draw with Arsenal was not a disaster.

It was a much better result for the Gunners, but it will not bother City too much when they face Villa, or going forward, because there is a quarter of the season left.

They were my pick to win the league when it started, and I am certainly not going to change my mind now.

Arsenal will be there until the end

Arsenal’s display on Sunday was very different to what happened there 11 months ago, when City battered them 4-1 on their way to winning the league.

This performance showed again how they have progressed, and the work they have done in the transfer window has definitely helped, because Declan Rice has undoubtedly made a huge difference in midfield.

But, as a team unit, they were excellent on Sunday. They were solid all over the pitch and gave very little away.

Plenty of teams go to the Etihad with a plan like that to stop City, but very few execute it as well as Arsenal did.

The stats speak for themselves. City had scored in 47 straight home league games before Sunday, and the last time they failed to find the net, against Crystal Palace in October 2021, they played the second half with 10 men.

Any team that goes there and restricts them to one shot on target, which is what Arsenal managed, deserves a point, but the Gunners had the better chances too.

Gabriel Jesus had a couple of decent efforts in the first half and they had a really good opportunity late on when Leandro Trossard got clear down the left but did not pass to Gabriel Martinelli, who was in space in the middle.

Overall, though, it was another game where Arsenal got their tactics right and their gameplan worked, so they will be pleased with a point even though it could have been more.

They scored lots of goals in their eight-game winning run before the international break, but you cannot go to City and play the same kind of expansive football that got them those results.

Instead, their task this time was to defend really well, both as individuals and as a team, and they did a magnificent job of that.

It did not make it a particularly exciting match to watch – in fact, it was pretty awful for the neutral – but Gunners boss Mikel Arteta won’t care about that.

His side faded away at this stage of last season, but this performance suggested that they are not going anywhere this time. They are going to be there right until the end of this title race.

The top three in the Premier League

Liverpool’s firepower is their biggest strength

Arsenal went into the weekend top of the table but Liverpool came out of it as leaders thanks to their win over Brighton earlier on Sunday.

I am convinced things will keep on changing in the weeks to come, with the leading trio continuing to flip-flop their positions at the top.

We can all look at all their remaining fixtures and say which games we think they should win, but I’ve been in title races myself and it is never as easy as that.

It is almost guaranteed that there will be weekends where at least one of the three teams will stumble and everyone will say ‘what a terrible result’, but I am actually expecting a few twists and turns like that before the end, and right now we are no closer to knowing who will end up on top.

At the moment it is Liverpool who have the advantage, but only after a real battle to fight back and beat Brighton.

It was not a great team performance by Jurgen Klopp’s side, but we’ve seen all season that it doesn’t have to be when you have the firepower they do.

Liverpool are relentless when they come forward, especially at Anfield, and they kept on creating chances – Alexis Mac Allister was magnificent in midfield.

Mohamed Salah had one of those days where he was shooting at every opportunity, but when myself, Gary Lineker and Glenn Murray were watching for MOTD2, all three of us as former strikers thought it was only a matter of time before one of them went in.

The sign of a great goalscorer is that you are never bothered when you are missing chances because you still believe you are going to get a goal.

That was the case with Salah. It took him nine attempts to score, but it turned out to be the winner and that’s the one that matters.

Alan Shearer was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

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This article was originally posted on https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/68704277