One team is looking to make history. Another wants to give its long-time manager the perfect send-off. The other is eager for revenge.
An English Premier League title race rich with narratives is shaping up to have a thrilling finish with the top three — Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal — separated by just two points with 15 matches remaining.
Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Liverpool on Sunday, followed by City’s victory at Brentford by the same score on Monday, has left what appears to be a three-way fight for English football’s biggest prize. It has the potential to be the closest finish between three teams for a decade, when there was only four points between eventual champion City, Liverpool and Chelsea after the final round of the 2013-14 season.
Fourth-placed Aston Villa and fifth-placed Tottenham, five and seven points off the pace respectively, could possibly be involved in the title race but few can expect them to stay the course given the pedigree of the teams above them.
Here’s a closer look at the top three, what’s pushing them for title glory, and what could make them fall short:
LIVERPOOL (1st, 51 points after 23 games)
Sure, Jurgen Klopp has the won the Premier League with Liverpool, ending the storied team’s 30-year wait for the title in the process. But that 2020 triumph was tinged with the slightest regret in that it came during the pandemic and there were no fans inside Anfield when then-Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson and his teammates hoisted the trophy on The Kop. Doing it before a full house and in the final days of Klopp’s nearly nine-year tenure would be a fitting way for the German to depart. Liverpool, which has the joint-best defensive record in the league and is second for most goals scored, still has to play City at home in mid-March and has potentially testing away games at Manchester United and Aston Villa. The biggest thing going against Liverpool could be the fact that the team is still going for silverware on four fronts, having reached the English League Cup final, the FA Cup fifth round and the Europa League last 16. There’ll be a few Thursday-Sunday turnarounds if the Reds go far in Europe, which they should.
MANCHESTER CITY (2nd, 49 points after 22 games)
No team in the history of English football, dating back all the way to 1888, has won the top-flight for four straight years. That’s what City is attempting to do as manager Pep Guardiola strives to break more new ground for an Abu Dhabi-owned club that won the Champions League for the first time last year and the Premier League in seven of the last 12 seasons. For the moment, City is focused on on-field matters and has won nine straight games in all competitions, five of them in the league. City has a fully fit squad now that Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne are over their long-term injuries and also a game in hand, leading many to believe a successful title defence is likely, maybe even inevitable.
ARSENAL (3rd, 49 points after 23 games)
Arsenal’s push for a first league title since 2004 is being fuelled by a desire to make amends for last season, when the team imploded in the closing weeks after taking an eight-point lead with nine games left. Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta seems to be pacing this season better, setting up his team to control games more and not go full throttle like in the first half of the last campaign. He has a deeper squad at his disposal this time round, too. His players will likely have learnt lessons from last season, especially mentally in playing under pressure in every match and going toe-to-toe with an always fast-finishing City team. The dominant display against Liverpool on Sunday can only strengthen confidence, with Arsenal seemingly having gotten over a wobble either side of Christmas and winning its last three games while scoring 10 goals. Injuries to key players would likely affect Arsenal more than City or Liverpool, however, so Arteta will hope the likes of William Saliba, Declan Rice and Bukayo Saka can stay healthy for the run-in. Arsenal might have the toughest schedule, with away games at City, Tottenham and United.