Pep Guardiola admits title is Liverpool’s to lose after Man City run into Arsenal brick wall

Pep Guardiola makes his feelings clear to Jack Grealish at the final whistle
Pep Guardiola made his feelings clear to Jack Grealish at the final whistle - Getty Images

Pep Guardiola admitted the Premier League was Liverpool’s to lose after claiming Manchester City would have needed to “kill someone” to get past a doggedly defensive Arsenal.

A cagey 0-0 draw at the Etihad Stadium allowed Liverpool to open up a two-point gap to Arsenal at the top of the Premier League table after Jurgen Klopp’s side had beaten Brighton 2-1 at Anfield earlier in the day.

The stalemate left City three points adrift of leaders Liverpool with nine games to play and Guardiola conceded the prospect of an unprecedented fourth consecutive league title was out of their hands.

Pep Guardiola cannot hide his frustration
Guardiola cannot hide his frustration - Reuters/Carl Recine

Asked if Liverpool were now the title favourites, the City manager said: “Yes. Always who is first is favourites. Second is Arsenal and we are third.

“It’s not in our hands. All we can do is think of Aston Villa [on Wednesday]. If you are top of the league – like we’ve been before – you are favourites.”

Bernardo Silva echoed his manager’s sentiments. “A lot can happen,” the City midfielder said.

“Now we don’t depend on ourselves, we depend on Liverpool and Arsenal now because we don’t play against them again, so we need them to drop points as well as do our job and win our own games.”

Guardiola admitted City had trouble penetrating Arsenal’s low block and quipped that they would have needed to do something illegal to find a way past Mikel Arteta’s obdurate side, who became the first team since Southampton in September 2021 to stop City scoring at home in the league.

Gabriel and William Saliba close down Kevin De Bruyne
Gabriel and William Saliba shut down Man City's attacking threat - AP/Dave Thompson

Asked how you bypass a team that defends low in such large numbers, Guardiola joked: “Kill someone. Play with nine. They defend well and a lot. Surrounding Erling [Haaland]. Be patient and find the pass. They defended well with a lot of people. There are different ways. They did well with the press and then after the block.

“It doesn’t matter how many players you defend with, the main target is not to concede. The low block was really difficult [to play against]. We prefer to win obviously but we take the draw.”

Bernardo conceded Arsenal were a very different proposition to the side City had steamrollered 4-1 at the Etihad 12 months earlier en route to a fifth title in six seasons.

“Last April they went man to man for the whole game and when you do that is a bit of a 50-50,” he said.

“Today it was a different [Arsenal] team, more experience. They have young players that are now one year more experienced. They felt what it was to play here last season and today they were much better.”

Arteta claimed the performance was a reflection of how far Arsenal have come. “No way can you be fully happy [with just a point],” the Arsenal manager.

“Listen, I think we have made a big step today. We had the experience of playing here last season and we have come across in a different way today.

Mikel Arteta hugs Leandro Trossard
Mikel Arteta was delighted with his side's discipline - Getty Images/Michael Regan

“We played the game in an exceptional way, and in other parts of the game we could have done much better, especially with the ball in the final third.

“We didn’t have enough composure to play, and after we had some big, big moments to win the game.

“But the commitment from the players, the discipline that they had in the defensive parts when we were really high up the pitch, we won the ball quite a few times. Then when they break the press, we tracked back and stayed deep.

“When they tried to move the structure we did really well to defend the box. We did really well – 2021 was the last time they did not score at home, three years, so that says how difficult it is.”

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