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Neville: Arsenal must win at City | Five key PL ‘title deciders’

Gary Neville says Arsenal must win away to Manchester City this weekend to take charge of this season’s title race.

Mikel Arteta takes his Gunners side to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday searching for his first victory at the ground since leaving Pep Guardiola’s coaching team for north London in 2019.

Winning at the Etihad is one of the challenges the Spaniard is yet to achieve in his time as Arsenal boss, losing on all four of his Premier League visits so far.

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A win would take Arsenal four points clear of their opponents and keep them top of the table. Meanwhile, a defeat would see City move two points clear of the Gunners, who would potentially drop to third depending on Liverpool’s result at home to Brighton earlier on Sunday.

Ahead of another crucial game in the title race, Neville says that Arsenal must win away to City, not just to boost their chances of a first league title in 20 years, but because of the positive impact it would have on the team’s mentality going into the final games of the season.

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Gary Neville believes Arsenal have to come away from the Etihad with a win over Manchester City if they want to stand any chance of winning this year’s Premier League

“The reason I believe Arsenal need to go to Manchester City and win is because Arsenal have to go to other grounds – Old Trafford, Tottenham. To really change the psyche of this Manchester City team, you’ve got to damage them yourself and make them believe you’re better than them,” he said on the Gary Neville Podcast.

“We used to feel we’d be champions every year so when Arsenal came to Old Trafford in ’98 when Overmars scored, or in the early 2000s when Wiltord scored, it shook us to the ground and we were stunned.

“They’ve got to leave as winners. That’s not to say a draw is not a respectable result at the Etihad but Manchester City don’t tend to make mistakes.”

In the past two seasons, City have shown their best form in the latter stages of the campaign, successfully edging closely contested title races on both occasions.

In the 2021/22 season, they won seven out of their 10 remaining games and drew the other three, to beat Liverpool to the title by a single point for the second time in four seasons.

City were even better the following year, winning all but one of their last 10 games to clinch a third consecutive title at the expense of Arsenal.

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Take a look at the best goals from clashes between Manchester City and Arsenal, featuring finishes from Thierry Henry, Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Mikel Arteta

It is the first time since 2014 that three teams have been separated by a single point after 28 games. If that season is anything to go by – Liverpool beat City 3-2 at Anfield in mid-April, a fortnight before Gerrard’s famous slip in a home defeat by Chelsea – we are in for another exciting end to an epic battle.

“Three really good teams are going for it. They all have different qualities,” said Neville.

“Arsenal are a growing team, emerging as title contenders last season and just falling away at the end. This season, they look stronger, more solid, more reliable.

“Liverpool have this energy, this momentum, this Klopp thing going on, this last dance.

“Then you have Pep Guardiola, a trophy machine. All three look like they have something. They all have to change the mentality of City though, because City have the steel.”

Five PL ‘title deciders’ that did prove crucial

With just 10 games remaining in the title race, we take a look at five Premier League games that ultimately lived up to their billing as title deciders in the latter stages of the season…

Newcastle 0-1 Manchester United (1995/96)

 Eric Cantona celebrates scoring the only goal of the match against Newcastle United at St James's Park.
Image: Eric Cantona celebrates scoring the only goal of the match against Newcastle United at St James’ Park in 1996

Remember Kevin Keegan’s rant? “I will LOVE it if we beat them!” It was said during one of the fiercest title tussles seen since the inception of the Premier League in 1992.

Newcastle stormed to the top of the table, establishing a 12-point lead in January over title rivals Manchester United, leaving the Magpies in prime position to secure their first league title in 69 years.

But Eric Cantona’s return from suspension coincided with an upturn in form for the Red Devils, reducing the gap to just four points ahead of a Monday night meeting at St James’ Park in early March.

With a chance to extend the lead to seven points, the home fans were right behind their team – but Peter Schmeichel had a game to remember. The great Dane denied Newcastle early on, saving two efforts from Les Ferdinand in the opening five minutes. An effort from Philippe Albert finally beat Schmeichel in the first half, only to hit the post.

As time went on in the second half, former Newcastle player Andy Cole dribbled by two opponents before laying the ball into the path of Phil Neville, who floated a cross to the back post. Cantona was there to volley the ball into the back of the net. Newcastle couldn’t find an equaliser.

Significance: Newcastle remained top after the game, but with only a one-point advantage. The pressure grew as they dropped points in five of their last 10 games and Keegan delivered his infamous rant, which was widely believed to be the moment the title was lost. Contrastingly, United won seven of their last 10 to seal their third title in four years by a four-point margin.

Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal (1997/98)

Arsenal's Marc Overmars (left) is congratulated by teammates Dennis Bergkamp (centre) and Nicolas Anelka after scoring for Arsenal during the Premiership clash against Manchester United at Old Trafford today (Saturday). The final score was 1-0 to Arsenal. Photo by Rui Vieira/PA. See PA Story SOCCER Man Utd.
Image: Marc Overmars celebrates scoring Arsenal’s winning goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford in 1998

Arsenal vs United, Sir Alex Ferguson vs Arsene Wenger, a rivalry well-established in the late ’90s.

On this occasion, United had held a 12-point advantage heading into March, with three games played over Wenger’s men. Ahead of this fixture two weeks later, that points difference had been trimmed to nine, with United dropping points in both their previous games.

Marc Overmars was a constant threat throughout the match, having a sight in front of goal multiple times, while Tony Adams and Martin Keown kept it tight at the back to prevent United from finding a breakthrough at home.

Nicolas Anelka’s flick-on behind the United defence reached Overmars, who made no mistake as he scored past Schmeichel. It was Arsenal’s first goal at Old Trafford in the Premier League era and proved enough to secure the win.

Significance: United lost the upper hand in the title race – a six-point lead gave Arsenal control of their own destiny. Eight wins in a row in the title run-in was enough to see the Gunners lift their first league title since 1991 in Wenger’s first full season in charge, a solitary point separating them from United.

Manchester United 1-2 Chelsea (2009/10)

 Didier Drogba celebrates in front of Manchester United fans after scoring their second goal
Image: Didier Drogba celebrates in front of Manchester United fans after scoring Chelsea’s second goal in 2010

Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea headed to Old Trafford in early April in second position with six games to go and on the back of a disappointing Champions League exit at the hands of Inter Milan.

They were separated from United by a single point. The hosts’ talisman Wayne Rooney watched on from the stands due to an injury picked up in the midweek European clash against Bayern Munich.

After 20 minutes of play, Joe Cole delivered an audacious flick to put his side in front, with substitute Didier Drogba doubling the lead, despite being in an offside position, with 11 minutes left on the clock.

The drama did not stop there as Federico Macheda grabbed one back with a suggestion of handball and Dimitar Berbatov missed a golden chance to equalise for United late on.

Significance: Chelsea opened up a two-point lead with five games to go and remained top of the table from then on. Both sides won four of their last five matches, but United could only manage a draw at Blackburn, lessening the impact of Chelsea’s defeat at Spurs six days later. The Blues secured the title by a single point with an 8-0 thrashing of Wigan, before winning the FA Cup to clinch the Double that season.

Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United (2011/12)

Vincent Kompany celebrates scoring his teams first goal during the Barclays Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium
Image: Vincent Kompany celebrates scoring Man City’s goal in their derby win over United at the Etihad in 2012

The Manchester neighbours went head-to-head with three games to go. Both teams were out of form – City had won only one of their previous five to give United a three-point lead going into the derby, while United had only won one of their last three in the build-up.

It was a game of few chances as Ferguson opted to go with a more defensive line-up knowing a point would be sufficient to stay in control of the title race. Rooney was deployed as a lone striker and it was an uninspiring performance, with United failing to have a shot on target throughout the 90 minutes.

City needed to win and played as such with Vincent Kompany’s header in first-half stoppage time proving the decisive goal in the game. With a superior goal difference, City took control of the title race with two to play.

Significance: Both United and City won their next games, taking the race to the final day, and delivering an afternoon that went down in history. United went away to Sunderland and won, but as the game stopped, the radios switched on, eagerly awaiting news of their rivals. After being locked at 2-2 deep into stoppage time against QPR, up stepped Sergio Aguero to secure City’s first title in 44 years. It’s considered by most fans to be the greatest moment the Premier League has ever seen.

Manchester City 4-1 Arsenal (2022/23)

 Erling Haaland celebrates scoring Manchester City's fourth goal of the game during the Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium
Image: Erling Haaland celebrates scoring Man City’s fourth goal of the game against Arsenal last season

Arsenal surprisingly came flying out of the blocks at the start of the campaign. After missing out on a Champions League spot the season before, the young Gunners made a significant jump to emerge themselves as title challengers.

However, in the last sprint to the title, an injury to William Saliba proved significant. They went to the Etihad in late April on the back of a winless run, having drawn their previous three games.

Despite Arsenal having a five-point lead, City had two games in hand and the title race was in their control. Arsenal could not afford a defeat.

City asserted their authority over the 90 minutes, in a game inspired by stars Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland. Each had three goal contributions to their name, to seal a comfortable 4-1 victory.

Significance: City continued their near faultless form, winning all their remaining games except Brighton away. However, Arsenal’s drop continued as they lost two of their remaining games. Guardiola’s men sealed a third title in a row with three games remaining. They also secured a historic Treble with wins over Manchester United and Inter Milan in the FA Cup and Champions League finals respectively.

Watch Manchester City vs Arsenal in a huge Premier League title decider live on Sky Sports this Sunday; kick-off 4.30pm

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