Sky Sports' Gary Neville: "The more Manchester City drop points, and they're not wobbling - but the more they drop points to give encouragement to others, the more the league will think there's a chance something could happen. I've predicted Arsenal for the title this season."
Tuesday 28 November 2023 18:34, UK
Gary Neville thinks the fact Manchester City are dropping points this season will give their Premier League rivals hope in the race for the title.
Arsenal currently sit top of the table, a point better off than second-placed Manchester City, who were held to a 1-1 draw against third-placed Liverpool on Saturday.
It was the fourth time Pep Guardiola's side have dropped points this season following another draw at Chelsea and defeats to Wolves and Arsenal.
And Neville, speaking on The Gary Neville Podcast, thinks City will still be challenging come the end of the season but the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool will believe they can push them all the way.
"The more Man City drop points, and they're not wobbling - but the more they drop points to give encouragement to others, the more the league will think there's a chance something could happen," Neville said.
"I've predicted Arsenal for the title this season, I just feel like post-treble, three times on the bounce, you may get days like [Saturday] where that clinical, extra bit of a finish doesn't come along.
"The Chelsea game a couple of weeks ago, we've had Wolves, Newcastle in the Carabao Cup, and a few moments now where City haven't quite got over the line.
"They're not playing badly," he added. "They're in a good place, and they may just get through this winter slog - November through to February - and I used to love this period.
"This is the period I used to really like, you get rid of the pretenders, the teams who start the season well when the weather's good and then they just have a good start, everyone gets a bit excited.
"But this middle 15 games, 20 games up to March time, really sorts out who's going to be in the race towards the end. You lose two or three, and you'll lose two or three out of that group in the next couple of months.
"City will still be there at the end, but the fact that they are dropping points, it gives the others a chance to be in the title race with them at the end."
Monday Night Football guest, and former Arsenal forward Freddie Ljungberg, believes Arsenal are equipped to challenge Man City for Premier League honours but need to focus on rediscovering their attacking impetus.
"I think definitely they're ready to challenge for the title," he said, "but the stats here are quite telling to be honest and I don't think that will work in their favour.
"If I look at City, you almost have to be 10 points in front of them at Christmas, because they're always so strong in the spring.
"One thing I would take into consideration is that other teams now have respect for Arsenal - the same way they approach a game against City.
"Teams approach with the same game plan, it's to destroy what Arsenal are doing, and that makes it harder for them in open play to score as many goals."
Analysis from Sky Sports' Adam Bate following Man City's 1-1 draw with Liverpool at the weekend:
There was a moment midway through the second half at the Etihad Stadium when Phil Foden had the opportunity to dart forward with the ball in an attempt to expose the Liverpool defence during a hectic phase in the game. Rodri could be seen gesturing for him to calm down.
Manchester City's playmaker wanted to control the game, manage it. As it turned out, his team's failure to find a second goal proved costly. It is the first time that City have surrendered points from a winning position in consecutive games since 2018.
Perhaps that can be partly explained by uncertainty about whether to push for the next goal or hold on to a slender lead. Asked beforehand if this game would be more like the sterile showing at Arsenal or the chaotic contest at Chelsea, Pep Guardiola appeared unsure.
Liverpool were hardly cutting through his team at will, in truth. But Trent Alexander-Arnold needed only the slightest invitation to unleash a shot from the edge of the penalty area. Quality players are capable of seizing those moments and he did so.
City will still feel that they were unfortunate. They had twice as many shots and the expected-goals tallies of 1.38 and 0.55 suggest that this performance could easily have resulted in a narrow victory. But when it is this tight, the margins can go against you.
Those tight games are becoming a trend against the stronger sides. Arsenal edged them out in the Community Shield and by the odd goal in the Premier League. City beat Newcastle 1-0 in the league but went out of the Carabao Cup to them by the same scoreline.
Add the 2-1 win over Brighton and these draws against Chelsea and Liverpool and it is only really Manchester United of the fancied teams who have been blown away. City have still looked good for long periods of these games but it is enough to offer hope to their rivals.
Opta's predicted final table says Manchester City side will retain their title ahead of Liverpool and Arsenal - with Aston Villa shoring up a top-four finish.
Newcastle would finish ahead of Tottenham, Manchester United, Brighton and West Ham - but Chelsea's finishing problems are predicted to culminate with a 10th-placed finish, which is still two places higher than last term.
Everton are predicted to escape relegation once again by the finest of margins, finishing in 17th spot for the second campaign running, while all three promoted clubs suffer the drop.