Man City have title race edge over Arsenal – even if Pep Guardiola doesn’t agree

Prior to Sunday’s championship race battle at the Etihad, there is a distinct feeling of deja vu, which Manchester City will likely recall with pleasure and will likely instill uncertainty in the minds of the Arsenal players.

Arsenal arrived in Manchester 11 months ago as the leaders of the table, aiming to finally win a league title after a lengthy period of anticipation. At a later point in the season, the team enjoyed a four-point lead over their opponents, the Blues, despite the fact that the Blues had one more game to play. After a humbling 90 minutes and a 4-1 victory for City, it seemed as though the competition for the title was concluded.

After departing from the Etihad that evening, Arsenal still maintained control of the championship, but there was widespread skepticism over their chances of winning it. The extent of the destruction was excessive. The disparity lay in the contrasting abilities of a team comprised of individuals who consistently achieve success and a group lacking the ingrained experience to rely upon. Mikel Arteta’s team only managed to win three out of their last nine league matches, including the loss against City.

It served as a clear reminder of the immense challenge that comes with winning a first championship, particularly when burdened by the weight of historical significance and high expectations. The statistics typically support this claim.

Over the past twenty years, four clubs have either put an end to their prolonged search for the Premier League title or have claimed it for the first time. Chelsea achieved their inaugural league championship in 2005, marking a significant milestone after a 50-year drought. In 2012, City emerged victorious and claimed the title for the first time in 44 years. Then, in 2016, Leicester City caused a sensation by winning the league. In 2020, Liverpool finally put an end to their own 30-year period without winning a major title.

Three of these victories exhibit common characteristics, and although City stands alone, their reclaiming of the championship crown under Pep Guardiola in 2018, with mounting pressure to win the league, does conform to the established pattern.

Chelsea, Leicester, Liverpool, and Manchester City’s 2018 teams all won the title with ease and without much effort. A team, whether in pursuit of a historic achievement or grappling with high expectations, frequently lacking the knowledge of how to navigate such situations, was fortunate enough to avoid a stressful and agonizing competition for the championship. They emerged from the starting gates with the highest speed and established an advantage that remained constant throughout.

Indeed, the triumph of City in 2012 does not align with this storyline. However, it does demonstrate the immense difficulty of emerging victorious when a championship battle is as intense and gripping as the one anticipated in 2023/24. The team’s achievement of winning the league, while facing stiff competition from a highly seasoned group of champions, is even more remarkable when viewed in hindsight. However, it is unusual for teams to achieve their first victory collectively.

In 2005, Chelsea secured the title with three games remaining and emerged as champions with a comfortable lead of 12 points. In 2018, Manchester City successfully fulfilled their investment under the management of Guardiola, meeting the high expectations and securing the title with five games remaining, ultimately winning the league by a significant margin of 19 points. In 2020, Liverpool had a comfortable lead with seven games remaining and ultimately finished 18 points ahead of their competitors.

Leicester stands out as a minor exception to this trend. In 2016, they had no meaningful competition, yet they managed to secure the league title with a comfortable 10-point lead. They rarely felt genuinely threatened for a couple of months leading up to the end of the season and had the victory secured a few of weeks before to its conclusion.

The most straightforward method to secure a first championship for a team is to achieve victory with ease, so avoiding the mounting strain that typically arises during the spring season. Under Guardiola’s leadership, City has achieved this feat, winning three closely contested competitions. They narrowly surpassed Liverpool by a single point on two occasions and successfully caught up with Arsenal in the previous season. Experience holds significant value.

Guardiola does not necessarily agree with it. Prior to the April encounter between the two teams last season, he was questioned about the sensation of achieving a championship and the stress associated with pursuing a first title. Although his mischievous grin hinted that his response may have been intended to intensify the pressure on Arteta and Arsenal, he unintentionally validated the argument.

“The first league title with City was achieved with a total of 100 points, indicating that it was not a challenging task.” At Bayern Munich, we emerged victorious in February, and at Barcelona, we secured victory in four games ahead of schedule. “It is simple,” he stated.

Securing the first titles with new clubs was a straightforward task, as all three were obtained early. There was no uncertainty on the team that would emerge as the league champions well in advance of the conclusion of the season.

Currently, there are just three contenders in the competition. Arsenal currently find themselves in a similar situation to that of last season, while Liverpool have reemerged as contenders in the competition. Experience may enable City and Liverpool to reach a definitive draw. Having previous experience and successfully completing a task holds significant value when the competition for the championship becomes intense.

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