Premier League: Manchester City deserve their title, but Arsenal can take hope as they build for future

London, May 20 (IANS) Manchester City’s fourth consecutive Premier League title says it all about Pep Guardiola’s side, as they came good when they needed to and kept their nerve to hold off a strong challenge from Arsenal to lift the title. Once again, Guardiola, for all his talk of leaving at the end of next season, has shown himself to be the master of the game, tweaking a team that had a couple of low moments in the season, but had the football, the footballers and the experience to hold off their rivals in the finishing straight.

Erling Haaland, for all the criticism of his contribution outside of the penalty area, showed there is nobody in the world more reliable in front of goal, while Kevin de Bruyne is still a master of the creative football arts, even if he is starting to slow down.

And if De Bruyne slows down, the Premier League’s Player of the Season, Phil Foden, continues to develop as arguably the most exciting English player of his generation, with 19 goals this season, including the first two on Sunday, reports Xinhua.

City may have missed the silky midfield talents of Ilkay Gundogan after his move to Barcelona. Still, Guardiola’s constant evolution saw him adapt the shape of his side, give extra responsibility to players such as John Stones. At the same time, 22-year-old Josko Gvardiol has had an excellent first campaign at the club, looking calm on the ball and even scoring key goals at the end of the campaign.

Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta must feel frustrated at seeing his side fall just short after they too produced a brilliant finishing run to the campaign. It’s hard to believe that both Arsenal and Manchester City won nine of their last 10 games, with the only points dropped coming in a 0-0 draw between the two sides in Manchester back in March.

The fact Arsenal held their nerve means they can wave goodbye to the tag of ‘bottle merchants’ — a team that loses its nerve at key moments — and that is partly due to the arrival of England midfielder Declan Rice. Rice cost over 100 million pounds, but it looks like money well-spent, as he added both control and creativity in midfield. Meanwhile, Kai Havertz is another huge success for Arteta, finally finding his place as a floating No. 9 giving even more mobility to a team packed with the attacking talents of Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, and Gabriel Jesus.

A reliable left-back and a specialist striker might make Arsenal’s title challenge for next season almost impossible to resist.

It was the end of an era at Liverpool where Jurgen Klopp stepped down with Arne Slot to step in as his replacement. Klopp always said it would be a transitional year, and Liverpool’s cause wasn’t helped by a long injury list, but the good news for Slot is that youngsters such as Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliot and Jarell Quansah should be the building blocks for his team next season.

Elsewhere, Mauricio Pochettino had a long, hard season at Chelsea with an expensive, but young and disparate squad of players that only started to play as a team in the last two months of the season. After spending part of the season in the bottom half, Chelsea rallied to finish sixth, and there should be more to come from them next season if the club keeps faith in the coach.

Ange Postecoglou was a breath of fresh air for a Tottenham side that faced life without Harry Kane, and although they just fell short of the line in their efforts to reach the Champions League, Tottenham have a base to push on and a style of play that will win over a lot of neutrals. The fact Spurs finished fifth and not fourth was due to Unai Emery’s excellent work at Aston Villa, where players such as Pau Torres kept them solid in defense, while Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey gave them a spark in attack.

Villa’s challenge now will be to build a squad to compete at home and abroad as they began to look stretched in the final weeks of this campaign.

And then there was Manchester United, who took two steps back in Erik ten Hag’s second season in charge and who will miss out on Europe unless they beat Manchester City in the FA Cup next weekend — an outcome that doesn’t seem likely. United end the season with everything up in the air as Sir Jim Ratcliffe ponders his options with both coach and a squad that will probably look very different at the start of next season.

–IANS

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