Manchester City reach the half way mark, now the title chase begins.
With half the English Premier League season completed, Manchester City sit 5 points behind a rampaging Arsenal side on 45 points with 20 games played, compared to Arsenal’s 50 points with 19 played.
A 5 point gap with half a season to play, with Arsenal holding a game in hand. A thrilling title race could be on our hands against a fresh, young, hungry and vibrant challenger, who have taken all before them so far this season.
Before digging any deeper into what comes next this season, it has to be said Arsenal fully deserve to be where they are. They’ve been fantastic all season long, dropping only 1 game and amassing 50 points at the halfway mark.
If they compile another 50 points in the second half they’ll become the second Centurions in Premier League history, and there isn’t anything Manchester City or anyone else can do about it.
But that’s entirely out of Manchester City’s control bar the two games against Arsenal. Something to worry about later in the season.
As for Manchester City the past two home games saw a return to form in the second half against Tottenham resulting in a 4-2 win, and a dominant display against Wolves with another Haaland hat trick and a comfortable 3 nil win.
Pep Guardiola’s spray delivered at the entire club post the Tottenham win did seem to have a effect on the squad in the Wolves game, and with the home crowd.
Pep upped the ante for what comes, and early signs are it has been responded to, with a electric atmosphere at the Etihad and the players following suit against Wolves. Hopefully a sign of things to come over the second half of the season.
This Manchester City squad and Pep Guardiola have been down this road before, a title race and a title chase requiring them to be at their best for the run home & the rest of the season.
In recent years successful title chases resulted in two Premier League titles over Liverpool by a solitary point in 2018/19 & again last season.
The players all know what it takes from this point of the season, as does Pep Guardiola and there had been a sense in recent performances the past month before the Tottenham & Wolves games that the squad thought it would just happen for them as it has in seasons before.
Pep Guardiola going public with his concerns has hopefully restored focus amongst the players, and they won’t continue to rest on past success.
A chance for a third consecutive Premier League title will likely never come again for a fair amount of the current players so now the moment begins for them to chase it and Arsenal down. Something I’m excited to see unfold as a fan.
It will require a lift from several key players who have underperformed in recent times post the World Cup and after it. Phil Foden comes to mind immediately, he is dealing with a foot injury at the moment, the initial report from Guardiola did sound concerning, as with most foot injuries.
Foden did suffer a down turn in form before the World Cup, and fitness permitting he returning to his best is vital for the title chase.
Same goes for Bernardo Silva. He’s suffered a lapse in form, and his want to move on from the Etihad is well known. We all know how vital Bernardo Silva is to Manchester City, when he’s on full form his work rate and skill opens up more for the entire squad.
If he does leave at the end of the season my hope is he returns to his best form sooner rather then later. We will need him now as we have in seasons past.
Defensively especially at full back a lift needs to come from Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo. Both are amongst the best full backs in the Premier League when they’re both fit and on form.
Pep Guardiola on Arsenal making changes:
“Bernardo didn’t play, Kyle Walker didn’t play, Mr Cancelo didn’t play. If we lose, you’ll say why didn’t they play.” pic.twitter.com/mrbD3yZNcQ
— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) January 27, 2023
Walker has had a injury interrupted season but his experience and pace will be needed at times in the run home. Same goes for Cancelo who has lost form lately, and whispers exist of he also wanting a move from the Etihad.
Cancelo is a vital weapon when he’s fit and confident, so the hope is he still has a vital role to play this season as he’s more then capable.
Now the exciting part of the season begins post the FA Cup tie against Arsenal on Saturday. A massive tie and a chance to send a direct message to Arsenal that we’re here, and we’re coming.
It will no doubt be a exciting affair in the FA Cup being a cup tie and both sides going for a win, and looking for a chance to send a message to the other. It should set the scene for what’s to come over the next few months in the league.
Manchester City have been down this road, chasing the leaders in seasons 2011/12, 2013/14, 2018/19 to clinch Premier League titles and did it again last season with Gundogan’s heroics clinching the title on the final day.
It’s a road the club has known well the last decade, and has experience in. The experience of the current Manchester City players & staff may well become a factor against a Arsenal side who are travelling the road for the first time outside of Gabriel Jesus and Olexander Zinchenko.
It’s always full of nerves, excitement, hope, and a whole range of emotions but you wouldn’t want it any other way. As a fan reminiscing on past successful title chases is always good to look back on.
But they’ve been and gone and the trophies are locked away. Now for this season and another potential title chase for the boys in Blue. Bring on the next few months and what comes next.