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Will Man City win five in a row? What hurt Arsenal most? Will you remember Mateta? – The Briefing

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Will Man City win five in a row? What hurt Arsenal most? Will you remember Mateta? – The Briefing

Welcome to The Briefing, where every Monday during this season, The Athletic will discuss three of the biggest questions to arise from the weekend’s football.

It was the weekend when we closed the lid on another long and eventful Premier League campaign. Manchester City were crowned champions, Arsenal came up short, and Liverpool said goodbye to Jurgen Klopp.

Here, we will ask whether we should expect City’s record-breaking dominance to continue, if Arsenal can take any crumbs of comfort from finishing as runners-up once more, and if we should all have been paying more attention to Jean-Philippe Mateta.

What chance Manchester City make it five in a row?

It’s basically that old Gary Lineker quote, isn’t it? Premier League football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a football around over 380 matches and in the end, Manchester City win the title.

It is not only six titles in seven seasons for City, but now four in a row, an unprecedented level of dominance in English football history, let alone the post-1992 era. Jack Grealish flicking sky blue ticker tape out of his hair during a jocular Sky Sports interview now comes around as regularly as Christmas.

“This is our *******,” declared Pep Guardiola in response to his side making history. Nobody can argue with that and most worryingly of all for City’s rivals is the sense that they could quite easily extend this era of dominance further. After four in a row, what chance five?

That is not a foregone conclusion. City always experience bumps in the road along the way in a title race and even when they are ultimately triumphant, there are sliding door moments for their closest challengers to look back on and curse.

This season was no different in that respect. One win in six between November and December, following on from back-to-back defeats in the autumn, left room for doubt to creep in. All season long, City’s performances have only occasionally equalled the level of those during the run-in towards last year’s treble.

City celebrate their fourth successive Premier League title (Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

And yet following that wobble in the winter, Guardiola’s side took 57 of a possible 63 points. They once again overcame a momentary mid-season blip to ultimately reclaim their spot on top. And each time they do, it becomes that little less surprising.

City have established this pedigree over more than a decade. This is the sixth genuine Premier League title race involving them — following 2012, 2014, 2019, 2022 and 2023. City have triumphed each and every time.

That Guardiola’s side have been pushed close in the last three years consecutively is the strongest argument against the idea that a league once widely viewed as the world’s most competitive has become a procession. The swings in fortune witnessed this season prove that is not yet the case.

But even so, the end result was predictable. Ever since that first triumph under Guardiola in 2017-18 — their imperious, record-breaking 100-point campaign — most would have picked City out as title favourites before each following season and, five out of six times, they would have been correct.

With Guardiola committed for at least another season, only minor business necessary in the summer market and no timeframe for a decision on the 115 alleged breaches of Premier League financial regulations (all of which they deny), who would bet against yet another celebratory Grealish interview this time next year?

What was ******* for Arsenal — collapsing or coming up short?

There is no good way to lose a league title, no easy way to do so either, but there are some ways that are better than others. Not that Arsenal’s players particularly wanted to hear that once the final whistles had sounded at the Etihad and the Emirates.

Mikel Arteta’s players took their fate hard, understandably so. Bukayo Saka, Kai Havertz and Oleksandr Zinchenko joined many of those in the stands by shedding a tear at coming up short.

Their tally of 89 points equals the record for a runner-up in the pre-Guardiola era — the same total as Manchester ******* in 2011-12. Only Liverpool have taken more and still come second, with a remarkable 97 points in 2018-19.

But like Liverpool that year, Arsenal can console themselves with the fact they pushed City hardest at the most critical stage of the campaign. As many expected, Arteta’s side needed to be perfect down the stretch. They almost were, winning 15 of their final 17 games and dropping only five points.

Can Arsenal recover to finally win the league next season? (Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

Last season’s disappointment was of an altogether different character — a lead lost, then a slow ****** measured out over two wins in eight games and 15 points dropped at the decisive stage. The sense of ***** set in gradually.

This time, the knowledge they would not be champions came sharply and suddenly upon learning of City’s victory. That will always hurt more in the moment.

But until the very last, there was hope. And with this season’s stronger finish, there can be greater cause for optimism. This is the third-youngest squad in the league, founded on a core of developing talent, led by a brilliant coach who has learned at the knee of the master.

As hard as it is to back against Guardiola, even the City manager himself said this week that he is convinced Arsenal will be his closest challengers for the foreseeable future. It is hard not to agree after watching Arteta’s side take the champions to the wire.

Is Mateta’s magnificence in danger of being memory-holed?

Did you know that Jean-Philippe Mateta is the Premier League’s ******-top scorer since the turn of the year?

The only players to have matched the Crystal Palace striker’s 14 goals since the start of 2024 are Phil Foden and Cole Palmer, who were named the top flight’s player of the year and young player of the year respectively this weekend.

Now, nobody is suggesting that Foden’s gong should be sitting on Mateta’s mantelpiece instead, but the 26-year-old’s late bloom is the sort of thing that can easily go unheralded in the long run, memory-holed because it happens after the voting ballots have been handed in, the awards have been dished out and the narrative of a season has already been written.

No player has scored more Premier League goals this year than Mateta (Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

That is especially the case on the final day when, with so much happening at once, it is easy for events like Mateta’s hat-trick against Aston Villa and surge up the scoring charts to be overlooked.

There were two goals in Sunday’s games worthy of consideration as the best of the season, with Moises Caicedo scoring from the halfway line at Chelsea and Mohammed Kudus’ acrobatic overhead kick against City.

By setting himself up for the goal, there is an argument to say Kudus’ strike was even superior to Alejandro Garnacho’s against Everton back in November.

At least the Premier League’s official goal of the season award is typically only handed out once all is said and done, which should give Kudus a chance to pip Garnacho to the prize. As for Mateta, he may just have to settle for the 2024-25 Golden Boot.

Coming up

  • On Tuesday, Gareth Southgate will announce his England squad for this summer’s ********* Championship. It is only a provisional squad for now, but we’ll know which players on the fringes have a hope of a place on the plane and which will be watching from their sofa this summer
  • Of course, the far ******* deal on Tuesday will be The Athletic’s end-of-season awards, celebrating the best of the best across the Premier League, Women’s Super League, EFL and ********* football. Mateta may or may not be a winner
  • On Wednesday it’s the Europa League final at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium between Atalanta and treble-hunting Bayer Leverkusen, with Xabi Alonso’s side fresh off the back of completing an unbeaten Bundesliga campaign this weekend
  • Once the small matter of a Manchester derby FA Cup final is out of the way on Saturday, we can get down to what everyone’s looking forward to over the coming weeks — rampant, relentless speculation on the future of Erik ten Hag
  • Defending champions Barcelona will be hoping to win their third Women’s Champions League title against Lyon on Saturday
  • And on Sunday, it is what we’re legally obliged to refer to as the most lucrative game in football — the Championship play-off final between Leeds and Southampton

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Arsenal, Manchester City, Crystal Palace, Premier League, Soccer
#Man #City #win #row #hurt #Arsenal #remember #Mateta #Briefing

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