A late strike from Mikel Arteta ended Manchester City’s strained title hopes, as Manchester United’s win over QPR earlier in the day leaves them now eight points clear at the top of the league and dead-cert for a 20th Premier League victory.
Arsenal, meanwhile, made the most of Tottenham’s 0-0 draw against Sunderland, battering Manchester City’s defensive line-up to finally earn the 1-0 victory they were deemed to deserve. Arteta’s 25-yard shot, on the 87th minute, stopped City’s title chase in its already-faltering tracks, and cause the Emirates crowd to erupt in relieved celebration and a cheeky Poznan dance.
Things went from bad to worse for Manchester City, as erratic Italian, Mario Balotelli, asked “Why Always Me?” again to the referee after earning two yellow cards for needless fouls. In fact, the quirky 21-year-old was lucky to still be on the pitch at all, after his leg-breaker tackle on Alex Song in the first half. The referee did not see the challenge on Arsenal’s wacky-haired cross-master, but that does not mean Balotelli will evade further punishment to the three match ban that is already in place.
Balotelli took the flak for triggering the death knell on City’s title challenge – but really, he was no more than a fall guy for a season that has been in decline for several weeks. Once five-points ahead, the light blues are now eight-points behind United, in just over a month – perhaps posing a question about experience, as City and Tottenham’s season’s have dropped off while Manchester United and Arsenal are coming in strong for the ‘home run’? The City players looked resigned to their fate at the final whistle, with players like Vincent Kompany putting in work this season worthy of more than the ultimate anticlimax.
Arsenal set their stall early, but shots to the woodwork and offside implied it was going to be ‘one of those days’ for the Gunners. After a convincing performance across the team on Sunday 8 March, a third place finish looks all but confirmed for Arsenal, allowing the fans to once again seek out their ‘St Totterings Day’ bunting (especially after Tottenham’s loss against Norwich on Monday 9 March).
With Arsenal away to Wolves tomorrow (Wednesday 11 March), they can extend their lead above Spurs to five points. City will host West Bromwich Albion, now really playing for second place: eight-points behind United and ten ahead of Arsenal.