Manchester: Manchester City wrestled control of the Premier League title race from Arsenal with a 4-1 thumping in their top-of-table clash on Wednesday, to the thrill of manager Pep Guardiola, who said destiny was finally in his team’s hands.
“Absolutely my position now (is what I prefer over Arsenal’s),” he said. “It’s in our hands. I’d love to have six points from these two games (in hand), but we have to win them.”
Guardiola’s side are just two points off the top with two games in hand, and can take the lead with a victory on Sunday at Fulham.
And their recent form suggests they will — they are unbeaten in 17 matches in all competitions after 14 wins and three draws.
Guardiola said their next three games will “dictate a lot”.
“We have two games at home (following Sunday, versus West Ham and Leeds United), and I don’t want to anticipate because it’s not healthy, but this season at home, we feel comfortable with the people, the crowd,” Guardiola said of the Etihad Stadium, which was a rocking sea of sky blue on Wednesday.
“I think the next three games will be really, really important. But the most important thing is our destiny is in our hands. And when you arrive at the end of the season, whatever happened, it doesn’t matter. It’s our performance, to win the (remaining) games, it depends on us. This is the best way to approach the last seven games we still have.”
Kevin De Bruyne scored twice and Erling Haaland also found the net to claim the record for most goals in a 38-game Premier League season, with his 33rd strike of the campaign.
“The threat, Kevin-Erling, Erling-Kevin is so, so important,” Guardiola said. “Being together, when teams press so high and we regain balls with the space behind, they’re so dangerous, and we use it.”
Manchester City are also chasing the treble having booked their berths in both the FA Cup final and Champions League semi-finals.
Asked whether he considers City one of the best teams in any league, Guardiola said: “If we play like today we are an incredible, competitive team. Absolutely.
“But there are many, many good teams all around the world.” The biggest compliment, Guardiola added, is that Manchester City, who are chasing their third consecutive Premier League title, are always in the thick of it at the end of the season.
“Many, many years we are there in all competitions, this is the best compliment we can get.”
Haaland’s late goal against Arsenal took him to 33 goals in the Premier League and extended his lead in the race for the Golden Boot. With a goal in Wednesday’s game the Norwegian surpassed Mohammad Salah’s 38-game record, the Egyptian hit 32 in 2017/18.
Andrew Cole and Alan Shearer currently share the record across the entire Premier League era, scoring 34 in 1993/94 and 1994/95 respectively when the season comprised 42 matches.
With seven league games remaining, Haaland requires just two more goals to have the record outright.
Haaland’s form throughout his first campaign has been pivotal to the fortunes of Guardiola’s side during the hunt for a fifth Premier League title in six seasons and third in a row.
He began the season with 18 goals in his first 13 Premier League appearances, including hat-tricks against Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest and Manchester United.
Since domestic football’s return following the World Cup, Haaland has continued to impress, scoring his fourth Premier League hat-trick against Wolves in January.
He is currently on a run of eight goals in his last eight league appearances.
In total, Haaland has now scored a club record 49 times this season, the most by any player at a Premier League club across all competitions, beating the 44 scored by Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2002/03 and Salah in 2017/18.
He’s also the leading scorer in this year’s Uefa Champions League having hit 11 goals in seven appearances.