Arsenal’s intensity is playing a key role for Manchester City as the title drama enters its final act

<span><een klas=Arsenal and”clutch ” href=”” data-i13n=”sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link” data-ylk=”slk:Manchester City;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0″Manchester City players line up as they wait for a cross in the reverse fixture between the teams at the Emirates in October – Arsenal won 1-0.Photo: Javier García/Shutterstock span>” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ e760420deb” data src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ 0420deb”/>

The Premier League has always sold itself as a piece of cinema, a big-budget epic, an action franchise, a landscape of superheroes and supervillains. It makes for a compelling package, even if the reality has often been more prosaic, dominated by remakes and familiar star turns, Pep Guardiola’s Mission Entirely Probable Volume 8.

It still seems startling that ten years have passed since the world’s most powerful league staged a triple title race as exciting as the current season’s. But this one really seems to limit itself towards a true blockbuster ending.

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Hence perhaps the unusual level of excitement surrounding the coming together of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City at the top of the table, the hunger to see every beat in the story as a potential moment of resolution, the final chase, the decisive blow to the roof. .

The last title decider, Liverpool versus City at Anfield three weeks ago, ended in an entertaining 1-1 draw that everyone seems to have already forgotten. The final title decider, Arsenal’s trip to the Etihad on Sunday afternoon, looks to have more of a decisive lead. At the very least, this feels like a pre-ending, a bridging sequence, the untangling of a final plot point.

Not so much for City, who have put their season on the line before, who will feel they can go back to that place and still feel good about it. But especially for Arsenal, who have no recent muscle memory of winning, who have the pressure to be the best team in the league yet in all the important respects – goals, points, defense – and who could imagine that this is a opportunity to seize, that this is really their game.

The match list plays a role. Seven of City’s ten remaining matches look like this: ceteris paribus, like the kind they usually run straight through: West Ham, Wolves and Luton at home; Fulham, Nottingham Forest, Brighton and Crystal Palace further afield.

Arsenal have a slightly tougher run-in, with Manchester United away and some adding the danger of the North London derby. Logic and precedent suggest that someone will have to take points from City to prevent the default champions from making it four in a row. The best equipped team to do that is Arsenal themselves. A draw would be fine. But it is likely that they will actually have to win on Sunday.

This would bring the extra fascination of doing something new. Arsenal have a good away record. What they lack are ‘statement’ away wins. The last major away win in the Premier League was in Newcastle in May. The best away results this season were a win in Seville and a draw at Anfield.

It’s an omission that Arteta is keen to address, especially when it comes to his own truly terrible record at his old workplace. Five trips to the Etihad as Arsenal manager have produced five defeats (scores: 3-0, 1-0, 5-0, 1-0 and 4-1). No member of the current squad has scored a goal for Arsenal at the Etihad. The last of these was a consolation for Rob Holding in the 86th minute in a match that effectively ended his time at the club. This would be an ideal time to undermine the dominant paradigm.

But how? The key ingredient is the intensity of the method, not some wrong tactical shift. Arsenal are unlikely to spring any surprises. The game plan on their best days is to be Arsenal, but even more so, with the belief that the strongest parts of this team, the patterns that continually place their best players in the best attacking positions, the movement and in and out of possession will are. eventually tell. This was the key to Arsenal’s win over City at the Emirates in October, a day on which they simply sucked all the air out of the game and only discovered a break in the stitching late on.

The approach will be to do more, not less, of this as the season gets shorter. When Arteta spoke of the need for champion players to continue producing the same high-intensity play every three days, even as their tendons tremble, he was thinking of periods like this.

Apart from the international fuss, Arsenal haven’t played a game in 17 days. This is the second rest period for these players since Christmas. They are a younger team than City, who actually have three main players under the age of 28, while Arsenal have William Saliba, Ben White, Gabriel, Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Gabriel Martinelli, Kai Havertz and Declan Rice, all aged 26 and under. This group will not get a better opportunity to impose their own superpowers.

There are even more details. Erling Haaland is an important presence for both teams. Recent weeks have suggested that erasing City’s lead is the key to containing this iteration. Very good one-on-one defenders have managed to limit Haaland’s movements in the spaces where he scores goals, effectively removing one City player from the pitch given the limited range of his game.

Haaland has been anomalous by his standards, scoring in three of his last 10 Premier League games. And despite the staggering total numbers, he still has things to do. Haaland’s iconography is a big target in big moments. It hasn’t quite been like that. Last season he did not score a decisive goal against a big opponent in the pre-season. He has scored one goal in open play in the first half of a league match since October 21.

The sounds of about five goals at Luton, flat-track bully, hammer of the minnows and so on are absurd given his contribution at the age of 22 to a treble-winning season. Tougher games are just harder. Everyone has less individual influence. But this would be the ideal time to reiterate its value; or alternatively for Arsenal to keep that run going.

Otherwise, Martinelli also feels he will play a key role on Sunday, fitness permitting. This is an offensive player whose impact goes beyond basic numbers. Martinelli’s ability to run with the ball at surprising speed, to skate along that left flank as a kind of outrider, a forward, always ready for the quick transition, gives Arsenal a lurking sense of threat in every other part of the pitch.

Yet decision makers are rarely real decision makers; not with eight games to go until the final Super Sunday. But this does feel like a moment where the season is entering its final act; and a moment that is perhaps more important for Arsenal in the battle to establish their own main character energy.

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