Premier League: Manchester United lose ground in title race, Man City move ahead in title chargeJanuary 31, 2021
Manchester United lost vital ground in the title race after drawing 0-0 against Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday.
United had a string of clear chances throughout the match, but the visitors couldn’t convert and grab the three points. Instead, the Red Devils dropped two and remained in second place with 41 points, three behind rival Manchester City at the top.
And to make matters worse, City on Saturday was able to do what United couldn’t on Wednesday — beat bottom side Sheffield United.
Arsenal extended its unbeaten run to seven matches and moved up to eighth with 31 points.
“Both teams were trying to win. Both sides had opportunities,” Arsenal defender David Luiz said. “It was a great match. But frustrating, frustrating (not to win).”
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made five changes after the Sheffield United defeat and his team had the bulk of chances in the first half, with Fred’s shot from the edge of the area drawing a fingertip save from Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno in the 20th.
“I feel we had the bigger chances to win the match,” Solskjaer said. “I feel we had a good performance.”
When central midfielder Scott McTominay came off injured in the first half, the United manager made a positive substitution, bringing on forward Anthony Martial to try to bring the game to Arsenal.
“I felt we had the upper hand,” Solskjaer said. “And we wanted to get on the ball more.”
Midfielder Bruno Fernandes came close a few times, including a free kick just outside the area before halftime. The ball looked like it would just clear the wall and was headed toward goal, but Luiz headed the ball backward and over the crossbar.
The visitors had other chances, but poor finishing and good defending by Arsenal stymied United, including a vital clearance by Gabriel Martinelli in the 29th to head the ball out before it reached Marcus Rashford in the area.
Arsenal also had chances, with Alexandre Lacazette unleashing a 25-yard swerving shot in the 17th, but it was right at goalkeeper David de Gea in the end.
Edinson Cavani had chances to produce a winner and nearly scored in the 59th, but Arsenal left back Cedric Soares did enough to divert the ball away for a corner.
Lacazette hit the crossbar in the 65th from a free kick after the forward was brought down just outside the area by United captain Harry Maguire. A minute later, Emile Smith Rowe forced a low save from de Gea at the near post with a powerful shot.
Arsenal was missing three key players, including captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is dealing with personal family issues, winger Bukayo Saka (sore hip) and left back Kieran Tierney (right calf).
Man City making case for defense in latest EPL title charge
A last-minute consolation and a bundled effort from a long throw-in are the only goals Manchester City has conceded in nine games across all competitions in 2021.
Pep Guardiola, one of the most attack-minded coaches in soccer history, has constructed a virtually impenetrable defensive unit in his fifth season at City and it is providing the platform for the team’s latest run at the Premier League title.
City’s lead grew to three points on Saturday after its battling 1-0 win over last-place Sheffield United was followed by second-place Manchester United’s latest slip-up, a 0-0 draw at Arsenal.
That’s five straight shutouts for City in the league — or 10 in its last 12 league games stretching back to a 2-0 loss at Tottenham on Nov. 21, when some were wondering if Guardiola’s latest iteration had the capability of winning the title this season.
City’s defense, marshalled by the excellent Ruben Dias, was barely troubled.
When is it ever these days?
“When I woke up and went out of my building, I saw it was windy and freezing and I said, ‘Today will be the toughest game we are going to play this season,’” Guardiola said.
“Our commitment was fantastic. We played really well. We didn’t create much but we conceded few again. I am grateful to my players for the victory we had. It was so, so difficult and we did it.”
City’s 13 goals conceded is by far the fewest in the league heading into the second half of the campaign. Tottenham and Arsenal are tied for the next best record, with 20.
Arsenal managed to keep Man United scoreless at Emirates Stadium, meaning Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team has dropped five points in three days after losing 2-1 to Sheffield United on Wednesday.
City has a game in hand over United and is now the strong favorite for a third league title under Guardiola.
After five straight defeats that saw the team plunge toward the relegation zone, Newcastle rebounded with a 2-0 win at Everton — through a second-half double from Callum Wilson — to move eight points clear of the bottom three.
Fulham, which occupies the third and final spot in the relegation zone, drew 2-2 at next-to-last West Bromwich Albion.
Crystal Palace beat Wolverhampton 1-0 thanks to the latest wonder strike by Eberechi Eze.
Southampton hosts Aston Villa in the late game.