Manchester City could have taken a huge step forward in the early Premier League title race by denting Arsenal’s brilliant start at the Emirates.
However, a combination of factors meant that Arsenal had to prioritise their Europa League clash with PSV, prompting their clash with City to be postponed. After City’s defeat at Liverpool, that means the Gunners remain four points ahead of the Blues, who may be quietly pleased not to face Arsenal when they are full of confidence.
Instead, the fixture will have to be slotted into a hectic schedule in the new year, where City will hope to be in a stronger position than they would have been this week. And after most of the other Premier League contenders have been in action this week, City will feel better about their title credentials without having kicked a ball.
Liverpool resurrected their chances with victory over City on Sunday, and followed that up with a close victory over West Ham at Anfield to move seven points behind the Blues – although by all accounts they couldn’t recreate the intensity they showed against City and were slightly lucky to hold on to three points. The win will come as no surprise to those at the Etihad, though, who will have never got drawn in to the idea that Jurgen Klopp’s side were out of the title race.
Newcastle’s impressive form continued to remain ahead of Liverpool, although they would have to significantly improve to bridge their nine-point gap to leaders Arsenal. Chelsea remain on an unbeaten run but were held at Brentford, and City won’t fear them for the time being.
Then there was Manchester United’s impressive win over Tottenham, denying Antonio Conte’s side the chance to move three points ahead of City having played a game more. Spurs were lacklustre at Old Trafford, while United produced one of their most complete performances in some time to win 2-0.
So United stay fifth on 19 points, still four behind City, and Spurs stay third on 23, behind City on goal difference. Spurs have now failed to beat United, Arsenal and Chelsea this season, with history suggesting that sides who perform badly in those ‘Big Six’ head-to-head matches struggle to challenge for the title.
United, while impressive against Spurs, were brushed aside by City and were poor in their last outing against Newcastle. To have 43 efforts on goal and score just two in those games shows they must still be more clinical if they want to catch City and Arsenal.
So without playing, City’s hold on second has strengthened, and they have four favourable fixtures before the World Cup. They may not end the first part of the season top of the table due to Arsenal’s fixture list, although they should be confident of creating a gap to the chasing pack before using their head-to-head games against those top six sides after Christmas.
This week’s results have highlighted the inconsistency of those looking up at City, and emphasised the importance of beating rivals around the top four. In that respect, without kicking a ball, City will feel in a stronger position going into Saturday’s clash with Brighton than they were in after the Liverpool defeat.