English Premier League leaders Manchester City will face a challenging start to the new year as they travel to London for a blockbuster New Year’s Day fixture against Arsenal.
Both Man City and Arsenal have enjoyed a purple patch of form in recent weeks, with City currently six log points clear at the summit of the standings, while Arsenal are firmly placed in fourth spot.
Liverpool and Chelsea – the two teams chasing City – are both level on 41 log points, but the Reds do have a game in hand after their Boxing Day clash against Leeds became the latest victim of Covid-19 match postponements.
It was one of three Boxing Day matches that had to be postponed due to coronavirus outbreaks as Britain battles record numbers of cases caused by the Omicron strain of the virus.
It’s another reminder of just how important it is for the Premier League teams to keep control of their own destiny by taking whatever points are on offer, and City will undoubtedly be targeting a strong start to the year when they face the resurgent Gunners.
Arsenal are coming off a routine 5-0 win against rock bottom Norwich, which served as a fifth consecutive victory for Mikel Arteta’s men.
“We looked really sharp and committed,” Arteta commented. “It’s a big win for us.”
It’s City, though, who have now won nine league games in a row and look to be charging towards a fourth title in five seasons.
A first half demolition of Leicester led to a 6-3 win on Boxing Day, which was described as an “entertaining roller coaster” by Pep Guardiola.
“It’s another victory, so important to continue our run, but it was weird. At 4-2 the mindset of the players changed.
“At 4-3 the game was close to being equalised, or even them winning the game, because their mindset was high and we had doubts.
“But we were patient and we had chances, and from set-pieces we won the game.”
Scoring 17 goals in their last three matches, City have ended 2021 in scintillating style, and a stunning goal difference of +38 puts them in good stead heading towards this next battle against Arsenal.
As it stands, Premier League clubs have rejected the option of temporarily halting the season to allow a circuit breaker for widespread Covid-19 infections, which leaves the Arsenal-Man City contest on 1 January as a headline fixture to look forward to.