Football: Arsenal seek eight-point lead in title race

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is hoping to guide his side to a first Premier League title since 2004. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON – Arsenal’s defeat by Manchester City in the FA Cup fourth round in January could be a blessing in disguise, as they can open an eight-point lead over Pep Guardiola’s men in the Premier League title race on Sunday.

City, who faced Championship leaders Burnley in the quarter-finals on Saturday, will be keeping their fingers crossed that Crystal Palace can do them a favour and halt Arsenal’s charge 24 hours later.

The Gunners are on 66 points, five clear of City as they prepare for their home clash against Palace.

Arsenal will host a side yet to record a win in 2023, culminating in manager Patrick Vieira getting the sack on Friday.

Eight points ahead, albeit from one game more, would be a sizeable cushion for Mikel Arteta’s men to take into the international break as a first English title since 2004 glints on the horizon.

Should they do it, former Liverpool midfielder and now Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp believes it would rank not far below Leicester City’s 2016 fairy-tale title.

“From where Arsenal were, if they were to win the title it would go down as one of the great Premier League achievements,” he said of the Gunners, who are on a five-game winning run in the league.

“It’s so big how (Arteta) has turned it around and done it so quickly. This is a different Arsenal. This team right now mentally is so strong.”

Arsenal, who were knocked out of the Europa League last week, will know that nothing can be taken for granted.

In the last four league meetings with Palace at home, they have drawn three and lost the other.

This season feels different, however, with the leaders showing no sign of faltering in their quest to dethrone City.

Palace are in a horrible rut and they head into the game after a 1-0 defeat at Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday, their third loss in a row and fourth successive match without scoring.

This season, the Eagles have scored just 21 goals in 27 games.

The club said that the process to appoint a new manager was under way, with under-21s boss Paddy McCarthy taking charge on Sunday.

Chairman Steve Parish told Sky Sports that the mood in the camp was good, despite the team’s miserable run.

“Things just weren’t happening, but the mood was good, it was fine. But obviously we’re hoping that there’s a bit of fresh impetus, a few different ideas, maybe we surprise the opposition a little bit doing something different,” he said.

Former Palace boss Roy Hodgson, who has retired, is reportedly linked with a return, even if only until the end of the season.

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