Picture of Arsenal playing at the Emirates

The match they dare not lose 

Manchester City face Arsenal on Sunday with both sides eager to prove a point after failing to keep up with runaway leaders Chelsea.

Pep Guardiola has so far failed to live up to the admittedly sky-high expectations at the Etihad.  The Citizens travel to Liverpool on New Year’s Eve, and pressure is mounting to make sure the club do not begin 2017 with an insurmountable mountain to climb to catch the league leaders.  The long-term injury to Ilkay Gundogan is huge setback to the club’s ambitions and it will be intriguing to see whether Yaya Toure’s influence grows in his absence.

While Guardiola can justifiably claim he is still learning about his players and the league as whole, Arsene Wenger has no such excuse.  If Arsenal are serious about their title ambitions, winning away at Goodison Park on Tuesday was crucial.  Instead their defeat handed Chelsea, and indeed Liverpool, the initiative at the top of the Premier League.

If Chelsea win their next three matches, against Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Stoke City (all of which is eminently possible) the losing side on Sunday will be struggling to make up the lost ground.  Indeed, by Sunday evening the defeated team could be at least nine points behind Antonio Conte’s side.  Let’s hope Manchester City and Arsenal throw caution to the wind and issue a statement of intent for the months ahead, rather than allowing the fear of losing further ground on their rivals to contribute to a face-saving draw.

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