Man City’s dull brilliance to spoil run-in for Arsenal bridesmaids, Liverpool overachievers

Lewis Oldham
Man City Brighton
Kevin De Bruyne celebrates scoring for Manchester City.

Arsenal and Liverpool have added to this Premier League title race. But Manchester City’s dull brilliance is threatening to spoil everyone’s fun once again…


“You can arrive to the end like this and in one week lose all titles…”

It is just eight days since City suffered a heartbreaking exit from the Champions League in unfortunate fashion, but – as they often do – they bounced back at the weekend as they edged past Chelsea to reach another FA Cup final.

Man City have made the art of winning trophies – especially during their treble season in 2022/23 – look very simple during Pep Guardiola‘s reign when really; that could not be further from the case.

No matter how special a team may be, they will still have to rely on fine margins to fall in their favour if they are to achieve their ultimate goal of winning multiple trophies per season.

City fell afoul of those fine margins in the Champions League as an unusually defensively valiant Real Madrid punished their opponent’s wastefulness before holding their nerve on penalties to get one over Guardiola’s side once again.

Yet at the weekend, the footballing gods sided with Man City as they overcame their post-Champions League hangover to just about do enough to knock Chelsea out of the FA Cup.

It’s not quite a double treble, but Man City are still on for two trophies this season, so they are hardly in a crisis.

The Chelsea result would have boosted morale after a severe Real Madrid-inflicted blow and the vibes at City would have been bolstered even more by Everton ending Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes at Goodison Park.

Two Premier League losses in three have come along with exits from the FA Cup and Europa League for Liverpool, so Jurgen Klopp’s farewell at Anfield is set to end in a whimper.

Thankfully for neutral onlookers of the Premier League, Arsenal bounced back from their damaging loss to Aston Villa by beating Wolves and Chelsea to an aggregate score of 7-0.

Recent signs suggest this Arsenal side – which is comfortably more robust than last season’s crumblers – is not going anywhere in the Premier League title race, but that still may not be enough.

Even if Arsenal win their remaining four Premier League games, they know Man City will finish two points clear at the top and end up as champions if/when Guardiola’s side claims maximum points from the rest of their matches.

Man City had the first of their final six games on Thursday night as they visited Brighton’s AMEX Stadium. This is typically a difficult place to go, but the timing of this fixture fell at a lovely time for the title contenders. Those margins, eh?

Not only are Brighton ravaged by an injury crisis, but they are also shot of confidence amid their dismal run of form and had only scored 14 goals in their last 16 matches across all competitions.

Man City have had injury issues of their own to contend with this season and were without Erling Haaland for this game.

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Roberto De Zerbi – who is seemingly coming out unscathed from Brighton’s awful form amid interest from elite European clubs – said pre-match that Haaland’s absence through injury was “great news” for his side, though the presence of Julian Alvarez and Co. in his place was “unfortunate”.

When you add Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne into the mix, it was always likely to spell an “unfortunate” evening for a misfiring Brighton side and that proved to be the case.

Danny Welbeck’s early sight of goal gave the hosts faint hope of a positive night but Man City quickly found the feet and had the game won by the 34th-minute mark.

De Bruyne was the first to strike a dagger into Brighton’s optimism as he met Kyle Walker’s cross with a quite sensational diving header which looped over goalkeeper Jason Steele and into the net. Not the usual goal you’d expect from the Belgian, but brilliant all the same.

Before this match, Foden had six goals in his previous seven outings against Brighton and given his startling form this term, it came as no surprise when he soon got in on the action.

Foden’s brace came via a deflected free-kick and precise one-touch finish into the corner (after Brighton overplayed inside their penalty area) and it saw the 23-year-old add to his goal tally for the season as he continues to outshine Haaland, who has been letting himself down with some ridiculously bad statistics. 

Haaland’s replacement – Alvarez – added to Man City’s tally in what proved to be a familiarly pristine night for Guardiola’s men en route to them probably earning their latest Premier League title crown.

In any other era, this current Arsenal side would be on course to win their second successive Premier League title. This is not an ordinary time and Guardiola is unwilling to throw protégé Mikel Arteta a bone as Man City are showing no sign of wavering from their title-clinching script with five games remaining.

The Premier League had been abuzz with a rare three-horse title race on our cards, but this is crumbling before our eyes. For the lovers of drama, Liverpool’s faltering has come a bit too soon but should have been predictable given they had been overachieving to be in the fight at all and Arne Slot has a huge job on his hands with current favourites reaching the end of their tether.

Arsenal would have to go some if they are to remain in touch with Man City by winning their last four with trips to Tottenham and Man Utd to come and it would be a huge statement of intent for next season if they do.

But for this season, it is pretty hard not to look past Man City continuing to be a run-in winning machine by not putting a foot wrong (even against Spurs) via their tiresome and overly predictable (but stunning) title-clinching form to set up another on-pitch party at the Etihad after their Premier League finale next month.