Another 24 hours of twists and turn in the title race

21 Feb 2023
Arsenal Man City title race composite

As Arsenal and Man City swapped top spot and Man Utd won again, relive an incredible weekend

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In a season of many surprises, the weekend of Matchweek 24 did not disappoint as the title race took further twists and turns over a period of just over 24 hours.

Arsenal started the day looking to return to top spot having been knocked off their perch with a 3-1 home loss to Manchester City in midweek.

The Gunners' early kick-off at Aston Villa on Saturday handed them the perfect opportunity to leapfrog Man City and return to pole position.

By 14:15 GMT, however, things were looking bleak for Mikel Arteta's side

Less than three days after that heartbreaking home defeat by City, which led to Arsenal relinquishing their position as league leaders for the first time since 5 November, they looked set to go further behind the champions.

At half-time at Aston Villa, they trailed 2-1. They needed a win but the last time they had trailed at half-time in a match outside London and gone on to claim three points was way back in 2009 at Anfield. 


They fought to be level at 2-2 with a first Premier League goal by Oleksandr Zinchenko as the match entered stoppage time.

One point would have been far from satisfactory for Arteta's team, representing a fourth consecutive fixture where Arsenal had dropped points.

A draw would also have given Man City the opportunity to go two points clear at the top when they played Nottingham Forest in the 15:00 kick-off.

But the fates were about to hand Arsenal a late, late boost.

Jorginho's shot from the edge of the area hit the bar and bounced out. Before the January Deadline Day signing from Chelsea and his new team-mates had a chance to curse their luck, the ball hit the back of the head of ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and went into the net.

Arsenal were now three points ahead at the top of the live table at 14:25 GMT. And their victory was sealed soon afterwards when substitute Gabriel Martinelli took advantage of Martinez having gone up for a corner to tap into an empty net.


The Arsenal players and staff celebrated in style.

They knew how important it was to have ended a three-match winless run, their longest of 2022/23, as well as building a three-point lead over Man City, who were favoured to beat Forest.

All eyes on Man City

Having hit won the reverse fixture in August when Erling Haaland scored a hat-trick in a 6-0 victory, Pep Guardiola's side were looking to notch another "double".

Fresh from their statement victory at title-rivals Arsenal, City were confident of making it three wins on the spin. This is a common theme of Guardiola's teams; extinguish all hope for their rivals with winning streaks in the second halves of the season. 

And things looked to be heading that way. By 15:41, Bernardo Silva's brilliant finish had put City 1-0 up and back at the top of table. They were dominating proceedings and rained shot after shot on Keylor Navas's goal.


Further goals would come, surely?

Frustratingly for City, they just could not find the finishing touch. Even Haaland spurned good chances, including one from barely six yards that ballooned over the bar.

Forest frustration for Guardiola

Steve Cooper's side are nothing if not resilient, and having been under intense spells of pressure, they stunned their opponents as the pendulum swung back Arsenal's way with another late twist.

With only six minutes remaining, Forest found the same space down behind Man City's left-back that Arsenal had unsuccessfully tried to exploit 72 hours earlier. 

This time Morgan Gibbs-White whipped over a cross to the far post where substitute Chris Wood was in the right place to tap in his first goal for the club.

Almost confused by the unlikely state of affairs, Guardiola went to his substitutes' bench to try to restore the lead but then had to go there again to rectify his team shape.

Two blocked efforts from Jack Grealish and Ruben Dias were all his team could muster in the remaining time and they travelled back to Manchester having handed the advantage and a two-point lead to Arsenal, who still have a match in hand.


Less than 24 hours later, it was now Man City not Arsenal, who were nervously looking over their shoulders as their lead over Manchester United, which had been six points in Matchweek 16, was reduced to three.

Not that Erik ten Hag's Red Devils had it easy in their 3-0 win over Leicester City at Old Trafford.

In an uncharacteristically nervy start, Man Utd were twice indebted to goalkeeper David De Gea for important saves with the match at 0-0, including an incredible stop from Kelechi Iheanacho's 23rd-minute header.

But Marcus Rashford - who else? - stepped up to settle those nerves and normal service was resumed as Man Utd recorded a third win in four.

Rashford's brace either side of half-time took his season's total to 24 goals in all competitions, more than he has previously managed in a single campaign.

The return from injury and to form of Jadon Sancho, who swept home a sumptuous third goal to seal victory, was another positive at Old Trafford.

Title race

Position Pos Club Played Pl GD Points Pts
1 Manchester City MCI 38 +61 89
2 Arsenal ARS 38 +45 84
3 Manchester United MUN 38 +15 75
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United for the title?

Although five points behind Arsenal, who have a match in hand, could the top-four's form team be serious title contenders?

A lot of people are saying so but Ten Hag is trying to dampen the hype.

"We don't think about that," he told Man Utd's official website, instead trying to turn focus on to the second leg of their UEFA Europa League knockout playoff round with Barcelona at Old Trafford on Thursday.

Arsenal can restore the gap to five points  if they beat Leicester on Saturday and Man City lose at AFC Bournemouth.

Third-placed Man Utd are not in league action as they concentrate on Sunday's EFL Cup final with Newcastle United.

The following weekend will tell us more about Man Utd's title hopes as they face Liverpool at Anfield after Man City and fifth-placed Newcastle meet in the first fixture of the Matchweek.

With plenty of points still to play for, there is sure to be more twists and turns in this most enthralling of title races.

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