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Premier League title race: ‘Arsenal left praying while Man City shine as end game nears’

Arsenal are left “praying” as Manchester City home in on a fourth successive Premier League title, writes Simon Stone.

BBC SPORT

We are nearing the end game now.

As Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola rather succinctly put it: “One week left, three games left. Nine points and we will be champions. Seven, six or three points, Arsenal will win the Premier League.”

Guardiola is not placing much faith in Manchester United then, given he expects Arsenal to win every game and the Gunners visit Old Trafford on 12 May.

But, then, he doesn’t have to.

If City win their final three games they will go into the history books as the first team to win the English title in four successive seasons.

Four Erling Haaland goals against Wolves ensured City navigated their latest obstacle with ease. Now it is on to Craven Cottage and Fulham, a team they have beaten 15 times in a row.

They finish with West Ham at home. City have not dropped a point at Etihad Stadium against the Hammers since Guardiola arrived in 2016.

In between comes a trip to Tottenham. City have not scored a Premier League goal or taken a point at Spurs’ new stadium. They did win there in the FA Cup this season, though, and Ange Postecoglou’s team are in terrible form.

And, as Wolves boss Gary O’Neil pointed out, this is the hardest time to play City.

“Manchester City, in May, when they are chasing down a fourth consecutive Premier League title, are fairly tough,” he said.

“They have an incredible focus at this point. History tells you, at this point in the run-in, they are difficult to stop.”

City hit form at the right time again

The one negative for City is that Arsenal’s goal difference is better by six, which means they have to win to reach the top. A draw will not do.

“Goal difference is not possible,” Guardiola said. “We cannot draw. We have to take nine points.”

In a separate interview with BBC Match of the Day, he added: “Hopefully, we can come back here in a few days and have the chance against West Ham to come here and win the title.”

For City to get to the West Ham game and not have a chance of the title, it would require Arsenal to beat Manchester United and for City to get no more than a point from the Fulham and Tottenham trips.

That feels unlikely for a team that has put an astonishing run together of 16 wins and four draws since they were beaten at Aston Villa on 6 December.

Not that it should come as a surprise.

Last season, City went on a 16-match unbeaten run, winning 14 times, to take the title before they lost at Brentford on the final day. The year before that, they won 23 times in a run of one defeat in 28. The season before that, they won 17 times in a 19-match unbeaten sequence.

“When you are coming towards the end of the season, you do think differently,” former City defender Micah Richards told Sky Sports. “These games are the most important and that’s where City seem to thrive.”

Arsenal ‘praying’ for help

As Richards’ fellow pundit Jamie Redknapp said, Arsenal’s task is straightforward.

They must win at Old Trafford and then again against Everton on the final day. Anything else is completely out of their hands.

Given the run Mikel Arteta’s side have been on, and the two seasons they have had, few would begrudge the Gunners a first title since 2004.

But, as Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool have found out, running City close and overhauling them are two different matters.

“They are an unbelievable team,” said Arsenal midfielder Declan Rice. “What I have learned in this title race is that you have to be nearly perfect. They have done that for three years in a row.

“I have massive respect for what they have done. But we have two games to go and we’re praying for something to go our way.”

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