The Gunners lead the table by five points, but have played two games more than Pep Guardiola’s defending champions.
Both sides know a win at Etihad Stadium will see them take control of the title race with only a month until the finish line.
Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, who were eight points clear at the start of the month, last won the title in 2003-04.
Chasing a fifth Premier League title in six years, City are also in contention for a Treble, including the FA Cup and Champions League.
“Arsenal have had a blip and I suspect their players will have doubts,” said 1994-95 Premier League winner Chris Sutton on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“Manchester City will have that strut, they’ve been there and done it, so I think they’ll win the game comfortably.”
Both managers say this game will not decide the Premier League title race – but the data suggests they may be wrong.
This will be the ninth time in Premier League history that the top two have met after 33 or more games (for the league leaders) with five points or fewer between them.
Only once did a team lose that game and win the title – when Chelsea beat Manchester United 2-1 in 2008, but Sir Alex Ferguson’s side finished first by two points.
The last time there was a title showdown like this, back in 2014, neither team won the league. Chelsea beat leaders Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield, but City – who had games in hand – were crowned champions on the final day.
|Previous similar title showdowns*
|Year and result
|Who were top (points gap)?
|Who won league?
|1997: Liverpool 1-3 Man Utd
|Man Utd (2)
|2002: Man Utd 0-1 Arsenal
|Arsenal (in this game)
|2003: Arsenal 2-2 Man Utd
|Man Utd (3)
|2008: Chelsea 2-1 Man Utd
|Man Utd (3)
|2010: Man Utd 1-2 Chelsea
|Man Utd (1)
|2011: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea
|Man Utd (3)
|2012: Man City 1-0 Man Utd
|Man Utd (3)
|2014: Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea
|* Games with top two meeting after 33 or more games with five points or fewer between them
Data analysts Nielsen Gracenote currently rate City as having a 79% chance of winning the title. An Arsenal victory, though, would see them become the favourites with a 55% chance, while that would drop to 11% with a City success.
“Arsenal have to not get beaten, but I think they will be beaten,” said Sutton on the Monday Night Club as he predicted a 3-1 win for City.
“I always believed Arsenal would have to go to Manchester City and win, to win the league,” added Micah Richards, who was part of the City side that won the title on the final day in 2012.
If Arsenal win, they would still need victories in their final five games to be sure of the title. If City triumph, they would need to win six of their last seven matches to become champions for a third successive season.
“It is going to be a tough night and challenge, but the opportunity is incredible for us,” said Arteta, who was Guardiola’s assistant at City from 2016 to 2019.
“We knew from the beginning – you want to win a Premier League, you have to go to Spurs and you have to beat them, you have to go to Chelsea and you have to beat them.
“This is what we have been doing, that is why we are here and now we have to go to City and we have to beat them. You want to be champion, you have to win these matches, it is as simple as that.”
Are Arsenal going to let a big lead slip?
Arsenal were eight points above City – albeit having played a game more – coming into April, but they have drawn their last three games.
It will no longer be in their hands if they lose at Etihad Stadium – and Arsenal are outsiders to win this game with bookmakers at 5-1.
Their 21% chance of winning the title, according to Gracenote, is their lowest since early October.
Ex-Gunners striker Kevin Campbell said on the Football News Show: “There has been a wobble, there has been a creak and there has been a shake, but they haven’t broken. Arsenal have a great chance. They’ve got the best away record so what should they fear?”
Richards added: “There were always going to be bumps along the road so, for Arsenal fans, I don’t think anything’s changed. It’s just going to the Etihad right now is a difficult task.
“The pressure is off Arsenal, for sure, because everyone’s expecting Man City to win that game.”
If the Gunners do miss out on the championship, they will be part of a small group to lose it from such a commanding position.
Only Manchester United (1998 and 2012) and Arsenal (2003) have ever been eight points clear after 28 games or more and not finished top. Incidentally, all three teams went on to win the league the following year.
The biggest lead ever blown is Newcastle’s 12 in 1995-96.
Only one team have ever had 69 points with 10 games remaining – as Arsenal did – and failed to win the title. That was Liverpool in 2018-19, when they finished on 97 points, one behind City.
One potential, and huge, factor behind Arsenal’s recent blip has been the loss of France defender William Saliba to a back injury. He has missed the last five games after starting the first 27.
They have conceded twice as many goals per game without him (1.8 v 0.9) and won 40% of games without him, compared to 77.8% when he has played.
“The thing that was always going to hold Arsenal back was their squad,” said the New York Times’ Rory Smith on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“Without Saliba, they don’t look anywhere near as solid, they don’t have that control.”
Can relentless City finish in style?
Unfortunately for Arsenal, their rivals this season have been Manchester City – who seem to turn into a machine at this stage of the season.
City have won 12 and drawn one of their past 13 games in all competitions. They are 16 games unbeaten too.
Since Guardiola took over in 2016, City have taken between 21 and 30 points in their final 10 games of a Premier League season – an average of 2.44 points per game (including this season so far).
“It’s really good to be here,” Guardiola said. “After the first round of the Premier League Arsenal did, it was difficult to think we would be here in that moment.
“It’s a really, really important game because we can get points and our biggest opponent this season cannot.”
Also in Arsenal’s way is the most prolific goalscorer the Premier League has ever seen – Erling Haaland.
The 22-year-old, who joined City from Borussia Dortmund last summer, has scored 32 goals in 28 Premier League games this season – netting an average of 1.29 goals every 90 minutes.
Haaland has already equalled Mohamed Salah’s record for goals in a 38-game season – with eight games left. In all competitions he only needs two more to reach 50.
City, who face Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals and Manchester United in the FA Cup final, are only 12 wins in all competitions away from a rare Treble.
Manchester United are the only English team to achieve it, back in 1998-99, while Celtic, Ajax, PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich have also tasted similar success.
Most unlikely title win since Leicester?
Arsenal are bidding for a first title since going unbeaten in the 2003-04 Premier League season under Arsene Wenger.
Arteta played for the club from 2011 to 2016 and has managed them since 2019 – and won three FA Cups with them.
The Gunners were only sixth favourites to win the title at the start of the season at odds of 50-1, behind Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United.
That would be the longest odds by far of any champion since Leicester, famously 5000-1, lifted the title in 2015-16.
City have been favourites to win the league every year since then and it will be five in six years if they succeed this time – a run not seen since Manchester United around the turn of the century.