Pep Guardiola insisted there was nothing decisive in Manchester City’s 4-1 win over Premier League rivals Arsenal, but acknowledged something big had changed with the title now in his side’s hands .
The city made light of a fixture long heralded as a decisive high-pressure title, with dynamic play from Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland tearing through the Arsenal defense time and time again.
City scored four goals – Haaland scored the last after setting up twice for De Bruyne, who in turn got the assist from a John Stones header – but could only have surpassed him in the first half in a dominant night. Rob Holding’s late strike was cold consolation for the Gunners.
Arsenal still finished the night top of the table, but their two-point lead looks particularly vulnerable with a City side who have gone on to seven consecutive league victories with two games to spare.
“It was an important match, not a decisive one but an important one,” said Guardiola.
“We played very well. I know the opponent we faced. I’m still at the top, I know what I’m saying sounds naive, but we’re still behind. We’re still there.”
With the exception of a few days in February after City won 3-1 at the Emirates, Arsenal have been top of the Premier League table since week three of the season.
City have always tried to catch up with Guardiola calling Arsenal favorites for the title, but this result has convinced the Catalan that he and his side are finally in a stronger position.
“I absolutely (prefer) my position because it’s in our hands now,” he said.
“I would like these two games to be six points but you have to win them, but I prefer it because it depends on us.
“To this day I prefer Arsenal’s Premier League position because if Arsenal beat us it’s in their hands. But now it’s in our hands.”
This was Arsenal’s fourth consecutive winless game, with the Gunners looking to be wilting just as City turn up the heat.
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Mikel Arteta admitted his team were second best on the night and could now finish runners-up in the league, but he refused to concede defeat in a title race, his team still leading, at least for now.
“The analysis is clear,” Arteta said. “The best team won the match. They were probably at their best, especially in the first half, and we were nowhere near our level. When that happens, the gap becomes too big.
“The first 30 minutes all the basic things you have to do against a great team in terms of competing, winning duels, understanding what the game requires, we didn’t do it and we were punished.
“The statistics said Arsenal would finish sixth or seventh and we are where we are with five games to go. Those players deserve a lot of credit after nine and a half months here. And there are still five games to play.
“In 22 years in this country I have seen many things and no two games are the same in this league.”
Arsenal have five games remaining and Arteta has admitted he would need to win them all – something that would take them to 90 points – to take the challenge to City.
“We have to lift the players first tonight because they’re in pain and it’s been difficult to digest,” he said.
“Do everything we did so well in the next game to earn the right to win it. That’s where we have to start.”
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