Watching Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City as the Premier League title race heats up

One of the closest, most enthralling Premier League title races in many years is careering towards a climax.

ArsenalLiverpool and Manchester City played out crucial games on consecutive nights this week — and The Athletic went to all three to survey and convey the emotions of three very different clubs and fanbases.

An Arsenal fan briefly comes up for air between substantial munches of a doner kebab: “The internet is gonna be a f****** joke tonight.”

Welcome to The Emirates. They are a different breed here; still rabid football fans all the way to their inner core, but perhaps with slightly different priorities on a matchday.

The number of selfies being taken in front of the giant Arsenal lettering opposite the Hornsey Road roundabout, for example, is well above average for your typical football ground.

One man films a staged video of his friend slowly walking towards the camera outside the ground, club-shop bag in hand, shades on. They both watch the video back to make sure it looks good, then they wrap their freshly purchased red and white scarves around their necks. Job done.

There are still all the normal football pre-match sights and sounds. Alcohol, meat, cigarette smoke, anticipation.

“We’ve still got an hour to drink,” one fan informs his mate. “An hour?” he replies. “You’ll be wearing one of them mate,” he cackles as he points to a passerby wearing a protective cast boot.

It does, though, feel pretty normal around the ground. Should it? Arsenal are top of the Premier League with five games left. They haven’t won a title for 20 years.

This place should be brimming with feverish expectation. And yet, the dead-behind-the-eyes robotic football machine that is Manchester City dictates that whatever Arsenal do tonight is irrelevant, in Premier League parlance.

At least, that’s how some Gunners fans see it.

Arsenal fans prepare for their team’s match with Chelsea as best they can (Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images)

“The Villa defeat was obviously gutting but otherwise we’ve been basically perfect since the turn of the year,” season ticket holder Jamie says, referring to Arsenal’s otherwise outstanding record of 12 wins and one draw (0-0 at the Etihad) in 2024.

“We’ve only been behind in one game since last year and that was the Villa game. It’s ridiculous, really, how perfect you have to be to beat City. I know we had that run around Christmas (four points from their last five matches of 2023) but yeah, I’m proud of us, we’re pushing them closer than last year.

“I just feel the pressure is off now. If City win every game from now on, they deserve it and we’ll be back next year, we’re growing, on an upward curve. I’m not sure you can say the same for City, (Kevin) De Bruyne is probably less influential and (Erling) Haaland isn’t scoring as many. And Liverpool will obviously change a lot this summer. We’re all good.”


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