Smith: Arsenal left thinking ‘if only’ | City will win the Treble

Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith believes Wednesday’s defeat at Manchester City has virtually ended the Gunners’ title chances and propelled Pep Guardiola’s side onto the Treble.

Champions Manchester City produced a stunning performance to seize complete control of the Premier League title race with a devastating 4-1 win over leaders Arsenal.

The result lifted Guardiola’s men to within two points of the Gunners at the top of the table and, with two games in hand, they are now strong favourites to land their fifth title in six years.

“From an Arsenal perspective the defeat was disappointing, but not unexpected,” Smith told Sky Sports News. “Arsenal have been top of the table for a long time but we all knew there was a gap between them and Manchester City.

“The scoreline in the end reflected that, with City incredibly impressive on the night, just as they have been in the last few months. City have peaked at exactly the right time. The title race is never done. The fat lady hasn’t sung yet.

“But in Pep Guardiola, Manchester City have the best manager, the best tactician in the world. When you’ve got those kind of riches to pick from it’s difficult to see them slipping up. They are peaking at the right time, they are hungry, they have got that edge. It’s difficult to see Arsenal pegging City back now, which is a shame.”

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal.

Arsenal left thinking ‘if only’

Smith believes the Gunners will be left with a sense of what might have been come the end of the season, with City’s victory gaining significant weight after Mikel Arteta’s side drew against Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton in their three preceding games.

“Arsenal certainly haven’t bottled it,” Smith added. “The way they came out at Anfield and took that two-goal lead. That wasn’t a case of bottling it. Against West Ham it was a similar story where they came out and played lovely football. Maybe there was a bit of complacency when they were ahead, or not having that killer instinct to either get the third goal or shut up shop.

“Southampton was a different kettle of fish where maybe nerves did play a part. But I wouldn’t say they have bottled it at all, finishing second behind Manchester City is a tremendous achievement.

“But Arsenal will look back on those three games and think ‘if only’. That happens so often with teams who don’t end up winning the title, you look back to matches and those are the three that stand out like a sore thumb. Had they won against Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton, the defeat to Manchester City wouldn’t have been so vital.”

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Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola and Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta reflect on City’s 4-1 win in the Premier League.

Man City can cement legacy with Treble

With the Premier League title race in their hands, Manchester United to overcome in the FA Cup final, and just three matches standing between them and Champions League glory, Smith believes Manchester City will become only the second-ever English side to win the Treble.

“I can see City winning the Treble and emulating the neighbours Manchester United,” he added.

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“I think City will win the League. The Manchester derby FA Cup final is not a given, that’s going to be heck of an occasion, but City are a better team than United. Then, if they get past Real Madrid in the semi-finals, they can beat either of the Milan teams to win the Champions League. What an achievement that would be, and deservedly so.

“It’s difficult to think of a better team in the Premier League era than this Manchester City side. With all the fantastic teams we’ve seen, City have taken it to new heights with the football they play and the players they have. They have got everything and I think they will win the Treble.”

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Sky Sports’ Ben Ransom and Adam Bate discuss whether Manchester City’s emphatic 4-1 win over Arsenal will prove to be a decisive moment in the title race.

Where can Arsenal strengthen to sustain future title bid?

With Arsenal staring at the prospect of another trophy-less season, Smith assesses where Arteta can strengthen his squad to sustain a title challenge next season.

“I think you are probably looking through the heart of the team,” he added.

“We’ve seen how Arsenal have suffered without William Saliba, the drop-off was quite drastic, something no manager would want to see. Thomas Partey has been a bit in and out this season, and when Granit Xhaka didn’t play they missed him.

“A lot of attention has been on Arsenal’s midfield, there is talk that Declan Rice could come in from West Ham. Possibly another centre-forward to compete with Gabriel Jesus.

“Arsenal need a central midfielder that will start games and a central defender who strengthens the squad. They have spent in the transfer windows, there has not been a shortage of cash when Arteta has needed it, and he will want some more in the summer.”

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