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Advantage Arsenal? James still backs Liverpool or Man City for title despite Anfield draw

SoccerNews in English Premier League 12 Mar 2024

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David James still thinks Liverpool or Manchester City will win the Premier League title, despite Sunday’s draw between the pair leaving Arsenal at the summit.

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola’s final Premier League meeting ended in a frantic 1-1 draw at Anfield, with Arsenal, who beat Brentford 2-1 on Saturday, remaining clear of the Reds on goal difference at the top of the table.

Liverpool accumulated 2.7 expected goals (xG) to City’s 1.56, but shared the spoils as Alexis Mac Allister’s 50th-minute penalty cancelled out John Stones’ inventive set-piece opener.

Though Mikel Arteta’s Gunners sit narrowly ahead of Liverpool and a point clear of third-placed City with 10 league games remaining, James believes Sunday’s draw does not favour Arsenal in the title race.

“I think this is the worst result for Arsenal, even though they ended the weekend top of the table,” former City and Liverpool goalkeeper James told Stats Perform.

“If Arsenal slip up, both City and Liverpool are in exactly the right place to take advantage. Whereas, had one team won, then [Arsenal] would only essentially be looking at one team in a preferential position, even if they were in second place.

“I still see this as a Liverpool and Man City race. I think Arsenal, of course, are there numerically, but I think when it comes to the crunch, these two are the best teams in the country, and one of these will be crowned Premier League champions.”

Liverpool had 19 shots on Sunday, their most in a Premier League clash against City, with 12 of those coming in the second half – a record high Guardiola’s side have faced after half-time in a league match since May 2021 (12 against Brighton).

Though Liverpool may lament Luis Diaz missing a gilt-edged chance in the second period, as well as a contentious decision right at the end when Mac Allister was caught by Jeremy Doku inside City’s area, James insists the Reds should take encouragement from their showing against last season’s treble winners.

“[Liverpool] could have beaten the best team in the world with the better chances in the game,” the 53-cap England international continued.

“That would give me confidence in the short term, of not getting the points, but that you can play the best team in the world and should beat them, that’s a nice feeling.”

James lauded “a fantastic game of football” but suggested an inexperienced and injury-hit Liverpool may have lacked a clinical edge, owing to their young side.

Indeed, with Conor Bradley (20), Harvey Elliott (20) and Jarell Quansah (21) all starting, it was the first time Liverpool had named three players aged 21 or under in a Premier League starting XI against City since March 2015, when Raheem Sterling, Emre Can and Lazar Markovic all featured.

James, who played 214 times for the Reds, added: “I don’t want to say that nobody is allowed to miss chances…

“But the crucial moments in the game, I think in the first half in particular, Liverpool were getting into very good positions and were not making what I thought were the right decisions at the right time.

“[That was] either the correct pass or the shot, it was a touch that allowed City to get back into the box. Things like this, I think are understandable.

“Bradley, who has been fantastic since he came into the side, was culpable a couple of times, I think that might be just experience.

“He’s playing in his biggest match ever, in front of the Kop, and there was a moment where you think just put your foot through it. You’re playing against a fantastic team and there are a lot of influences on it.”

Whether a point dropped for Liverpool or one gained for City, James believes both sides will look back on the showdown as decisive come the end of the campaign.

He concluded: “Ultimately though, it won’t be until the end of the season. If the league is decided or lost by a point by either of these teams, they’ll look at if they could have got that extra two points and won the title.”

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