Pep Guardiola says the Premier League title race has finally turned Manchester City’s way after they beat Arsenal 4-1.
Guardiola has insisted for weeks that Arsenal are favourites, but after taking two games to within two points of Mikel Arteta’s side, he has changed course and says City are now in pole position to win a fifth title in six years.
Arsenal are still top of the table, but when asked whose position he would be in, Guardiola said: “Now my position is absolutely, because it is in our hands. We have to win the games in hand, but it is up to us. To this day, I like Arsenal’s position.
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“The next three games are really important. Fulham on Sunday, then two games at home. Those three games will dictate if we do what we can. It sounds naive, but we’re behind Arsenal, they’re two points ahead. Us.”
City demolished Arsenal thanks to two goals from Kevin De Bruyne and one each from John Stones and Erling Haaland. Norway’s legendary striker set up both of De Bruyne’s goals and Guardiola later said City’s attackers had decided to play.
“The game is theirs,” Guardiola said. “I didn’t teach them how to find each other in training. Footballers are more natural than you expect. Erling knows when Kevin has the ball. Kevin is a master at assisting with or without Erling. Erling always scores. Or without Kevin. But together, With space behind, they are so dangerous.”
Despite the lopsided scoreline, Arteta refused to concede defeat in the title race, but admitted Arsenal may need to win the remaining five games to have any chance of finishing above City.
“It’s a very difficult night after the way we lost, but we have to stand up, look at the big picture and we’re competing toe-to-toe with this team and it’s unbelievable to be fair,” said Arteta. . “We want to compete, we won’t give up, it’s five games and anything can happen in this league.
“We were beaten by better teams, that’s for sure. They were exceptional and it’s very difficult when that happens. You have to start with the competition, first of all. We were punished and we could have been more. Punished.
“These players deserve a lot of credit for staying where we are against this team for 9½ months. And there’s still five games to go.
“I’ve been in this country for almost 22 years and I’ve seen a lot and I know how much it changes from game to game. No two games are the same in this league. First of all, we have to lift our players who suffered tonight and played against an exceptional team. . We are also an exceptional team but today we were not in the race.”
Asked if Arsenal need to win their remaining five games against Chelsea, Newcastle United, Brighton, Nottingham Forest and Wolves to get to 90 points, Arteta replied: “I think so. I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s necessary.
“We have to lift the players up tonight first because they hurt and it was difficult to swallow and lift them up.”
Arteta rejected suggestions that his players had stagnated on the night after just seven minutes of play which City dominated from start to finish.
“I don’t think they were scared, but obviously the way we started the game didn’t help us because we got ourselves into trouble in a lot of situations,” added the Gunners boss. “We lost all the races, the first and the second ball and when that happens, they start vertical attacks and it opens up space to attack and it creates an uncertainty.
“We just didn’t catch the game the way we wanted and they were really good.”
Despite his manager’s confidence and the prevailing feeling that City would win the title and possibly the treble, City’s De Bruyne was quick to remind everyone that there was still a long way to go.
“We know what people are going to say, but there are still seven games to go,” De Bruyne said. “I know we have games in hand but we’re still behind them. We’re not going to give up until we do it mathematically. Our schedule is busy and there’s a lot going on.”