Man City in pole position ahead of critical Premier League curtain call

Man City in pole position ahead of critical Premier League curtain call
Rico Lewis of Manchester City and Gabriel Jesus of Arsenal. City face West Ham United while Arsenal face Everton in their respective bids to clinch the Premier League. (Photo: Visionhaus/Getty Images)

History is on the side of Manchester City ahead of their final-day showdown with Arsenal for the English Premier League title. 

An enthralling English Premier League season comes to a conclusion on Sunday, 19 May. Though there are a number of teams that can still finish higher than they currently find themselves, the most consequential battle for places on the final day will be between title contenders Manchester City and Arsenal.

Pep Guardiola’s Citizens currently occupy pole position, albeit by a slender two points. However, the maths is simple. If they beat West Ham United during their final game of the season — they will be crowned English champions for a record fourth time on the trot.

As for Arsenal, all they can do is beat Everton during their clash, while hoping for a favour from fellow Londoners West Ham.

A City draw against the Hammers, coupled with a Gunners victory, would see the two sides finish on 89 points each, with Arsenal pipping the reigning champions by virtue of a superior goal difference.

History, though, is not on the side of Arsenal. On the nine previous occasions that the destination of the league crown has been decided on the final day of the campaign — the team that comes in placed second has never usurped the leader to be crowned champion.

If Arsenal succeeds in upsetting the City juggernaut, it will be a new page of English soccer history that they write.

“I lived the various scenarios on the last day when a lot of teams have necessities,” said former Arsenal midfielder turned manager Mikel Arteta.

“The margin of respect that everybody puts in the games is phenomenal. We know we need a result. We need to do our own thing still in the last game.”

Chasing history

Ominously for the Gunners, the Citizens have been involved in four of the last nine instances of final-day battles for the league crown.

Who can forget the finish of the 2011/2012 season finale when Sergio Agüero netted a winning goal versus Queens Park Rangers with virtually the last kick of the game, to hand City their first-ever Premier League title? Then they pipped City rivals Manchester United on goal difference to claim the title.

In subsequent years, it’s been City against Liverpool in the final round. The first bout came before the Pep Guardiola versus Jürgen Klopp era, in the 2013/2014 campaign.

They were cruising comfortably (through a five-point lead) with three games remaining in the season. Then they slipped up, with then captain Steven Gerrard losing his footing to allow Chelsea to score and condemn the Reds to defeat.

Liverpool, who had led for the bulk of that campaign, dropped further points during a three-all draw with Crystal Palace. Meanwhile, City won all their remaining three games to leapfrog Liverpool and ultimately finish two points clear of the Reds.

Then there was the 2018/2019 season when Klopp’s Liverpool managed to collect a staggering 97 points, only to finish second (by a point) to Guardiola’s City.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Man City fight back against Villa to be crowned Premier League champs

The most recent final day decider came in 2022, again involving Liverpool and City. Again, the Red and Klopp lost out by a single point. They ended the season with an impressive 92 points, to City’s 93.

Jurgen Klopp, Premier League

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. (Photo: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

Klopp mania

Sunday also marks Klopp’s final game as Liverpool manager, at Anfield.

Until a month ago, they were part of the race for league honours alongside City and Arsenal. However, in recent weeks, a season that looked like it could provide a fairytale farewell for the German manager capitulated.

Liverpool have been left to choke on the fumes of City and the Gunners in the sprint towards the Premier League finish line. Though they have locked in third place.

In the Europa, they were bundled out in the quarterfinals by Italian outfit Atalanta. This after suffering an uncharacteristically heavy 3-0 defeat at home in the first leg of the tie.

Domestically, their hopes of winning a second FA Cup with Klopp were snuffed by old rivals Manchester United in the quarterfinals. They did manage to beat Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final though.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Klopp made many decisions that aided Liverpool, including announcing departure early

Nevertheless, it’s not the dream conclusion that Klopp would have hoped for after nine years in Merseyside.

“For me, the story of the season is that the boys have shown really good character and a sensational attitude. That’s why we were here today and that’s why we have now 79 points,” Klopp stated.

“I am not over the moon about [finishing third]. But obviously, for a week or two, we’ve had to accept we cannot be the best or the second-best team in the league. [Nonetheless] that’s a good basis for the future and that’s all you can ask for,” Klopp added.

In the race for Europa League slots, Tottenham Hotspur only need to beat relegated Sheffield United to clinch fifth. However, if they drop points and sixth-placed Chelsea are victorious against Bournemouth, the two sides will switch positions.

The relegation story is essentially concluded. Sheffield and Burnley are officially out. Luton Town still have a mathematical chance of survival.

However, for this to become a reality they need to score over a dozen goals against Fulham and hope that Nottingham Forest suffer a similarly heavy defeat when they take on Burnley.

All games kick off at 5pm on Sunday. South African viewers will be able to follow all of them on DStv channel 199. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Syd Boston says:

    In Klopp’s first press conference: “It’s not so important what people think when you come in; it’s much more important what people think when you leave.” Job done, sir!

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