It's not just been a week to forget for Manchester City but a month in which they have gone their last four games without a win and find themselves six points behind the league leaders Arsenal. Not many would doubt that a comeback is achievable given how City reduced an 8 point gap last season and they remain probably the only club capable of winning more than 10 games in a row. In reality City will be kicking themselves and the three games in a row in which ended in all draws could have easily been have been victories. Against Chelsea after a difficult first half they came into their own and started to boss the game, it was easy to see who was the superior team and who were the pretenders but they kept letting the Blues in and that game finished 4-4. For Chelsea fans and neutrals the game was an epic one which has already been declared as an all time classic Premier League game but for anyone associated with the champions it was a match to forget.
After that came a 1-1 draw against Liverpool, a result that would have been acceptable had it been played at Anfield but not at the Emirates. Again City controlled large parts of the game but the Reds hung in there and never gave up. Up next was the Tottenham game- another epic that finished 3-3, another game where City were leading into the final minutes. Their first half display reinforced why Pep Guardiola's side are European champions, they were impeccable and did not panic as they fell behind to an early goal. The half finished 2-1 in City's favour, it was a beautiful 45 minutes for them and yet they should have been three goals clear of their opponents by then. In the second half Tottenham matured and showed their own qualities and City's dissipated. City keep leaving the door open and this seems to be a huge problem for them. When you watch them play no one can doubt how exciting and entertaining they are but by leaving the door open it also reminds you of a vintage Brazil side from yesteryear, score if you want, but we will score more attitude, but City are failing right now to do that. The worry is against Aston Villa in their last game, one that finished in a 1-0 loss and is City's 3rd defeat of the season they came up second best to a side who knew how to play them.
So there are problems for Manchester City but if you remember this time last season it was the same story. They really came into their own from February onwards and didn't look back, but this season they are up against a more mentally strong Arsenal side and Liverpool are up there too. Of course we would be remiss not to mention the moment for City in the Tottenham game when they may have won the game at the death when Jack Grealish was sent through one on one. Erling Haaland after receiving a foul had stayed on his feet and thread the ball through to attack, the referee Simon Hooper had waved the advantage to be played, that was until Grealish had the ball in his one on one chance and Hooper then whistled for the foul. Haaland's shocked and angry face said it all but it has been interesting to witness the fall out from football fans. Most fans have found it amusing how football can work especially if you are one of the big sides and especially if you are the champions loaded with wealth. News stories have not focused on Hooper's refereeing and he has seemingly gotten away with any vitriol that we see thrown at VAR for making poor decisions almost every weekend. But what Hooper did was surely up there with one of the poorest decisions of the season, if not the worst. It is easy to make jokes at the best club in England, indeed Europe, that they didn't get their way, that they have thrown the toys out of the pram.
Put down your bias and look at what happened in the cold light of day. Hooper had played the advantage, Haaland was fine and on his feet, why did he change his mind? Taken in the form of gamesmanship it is sad to see such a poor decision. Every fan laughing would have been crying had it been their team but this incident also exposes the huge bias in the game, which is simply to support your team whatever happens. This was a wrong move by Hooper and City will now be charged by the FA for their actions, so make that their 116th charge then. In this case the players had a right to be angry by Hooper's call, the worry is he won't be punished and why is that the case? When we see poor VAR calls the officials for being given a week off, Hooper will get off scot free and that doesn't seem right. Yet again we have seen poor officiating in the worlds best league competition, the two shouldn't be going hand in hand.
Arsenal are back on top of the Premier League but not just back on top but six points clear of Manchester City although they have Liverpool to deal with who are just two points behind. This season has been an interesting one for the Gunners though. Last season they were a club who had previously struggled to stay in the top 10 going from that to 1st place and remaining in that position for the majority of the season before imploding in the spring time and letting City back in. This time it feels as if Mikel Arteta's side have watched Tottenham as pace setters and let the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool trade places in the first couple of positions and then emerged like they were quiet bystanders and have made the jump to lead the race in December. Of course after their thrilling win over Luton in midweek and the fact that they have won 11 games and lost just once from 15 doesn't make them quiet pretenders, now they have entered the party and staked their claim. At the weekend they will face 3rd placed Aston Villa and a meeting with their former manager Unai Emery in what should be a mouth watering clash.
To win the Premier League: Manchester City 1.91, Arsenal 3.75, Liverpool 4.33, Aston Villa 26.00, Newcastle 51.00