It’s a crossover worthy of a summer Saturday afternoon, on the Autoroute du Soleil. This season, in England, the football championship has already seen thirteen changes of leader, after the first 33 days – out of 38. Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are within two points at the start of the final sprint. This Saturday April 14th and Sunday April 15th could be a real turning point, with the home defeats of the last two cities.

At the top of the standings at the start of the weekend, Arsenal lost on home soil against Aston Villa (0-2) on Sunday. After a balanced first act, where each of the two teams had a big chance in front of the net, the Gunners fans heaved a big sigh of relief when the shot from Youri Tielemans bounced successively under the crossbar, then to the base of the post. An alert which preceded two goals – signed by Jamaican Léon Bailey and Englishman Ollie Watkins – and an ultimately logical victory for the Birmingham club. Stoppage for the Londoners.

A week after a frustrating draw at Manchester United (2-2) and three days after a rout in the Europa League against Atalanta Bergamo (3-0 home defeat), Liverpool faltered again at Anfield stadium. . This 1-0 defeat against Crystal Palace, an opponent ranked at the bottom of the table, could cost them dearly at the end of the season. On Sunday, the Reds attempted more than twenty shots, in vain, colliding with the crossbar and goalkeeper Dean Henderson.

These results do business for Manchester City. The day before, the new leader had taken care of his goal difference by winning 5-1 against relegated Luton Town. For this meeting placed between two rounds of the Champions League against Real Madrid, Pep Guardiola took advantage of his plethoric squad to give some breathing space to the usual starters (Rodri, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, etc.). The Belgian Jérémy Doku took the opportunity to shine by scoring a goal after a slalom in the defense and causing a penalty.

Focus on these three competitors.

After retiring as a player in 2016, Mikel Arteta became Pep Guardiola’s assistant coach at Manchester City. For three and a half years, the Spaniard learned the trade in the shadow of his compatriot. Until the call from his former club, Arsenal. A formation then in gradual decline season after season.

It took time, but the big comeback came last season. After a “cannon” start which allowed them to be in the lead for several months, the team from north London ended up being overtaken… by the Citizens in the final straight of the championship. This season, the student Arteta hopes to surpass the master Guardiola.

Like Manchester City, his team is careful not to get rid of the ball. It relies on “false foot” wingers, that is to say side players who have the profile to attack the inside of the game rather than spilling out along the touchline.

Gunners supporters have been waiting for this championship title for twenty years and the coronation of the “Invincibles”, the nickname of Thierry Henry and his teammates, who made history by going through the 2003-2004 financial year without losing a single match.

One day, perhaps, he will be made a statue, like his illustrious predecessors Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley. In the annals of Liverpool FC, Jurgen Klopp has written a successful chapter, the final page of which remains to be blackened.

The coach who has won almost everything with the Reds since 2015 (including a Champions League in 2019) will hand over the baton at the end of the season. “I’m running out of energy,” he announced in a serious tone to the club’s camera in January.

Behind the trophies, the German will also leave the imprint of his style: “gegenpressing”, counter-pressing in French. Or when a team turns into a swarm of bees on the ball carrier in the seconds following his loss; the goal being to recover the leather quickly and then catch the opponent by surprise before he has time to reorganize defensively.

In 2020, Liverpool won an English championship title which had eluded them since 1990, but the popular celebration was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. A consecration this year could have a better flavor.

The days when Manchester City fans suffered from comparison with their neighbor United are over. Bought in 2008 by the Emirati billionaire, Mansour Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the sky and white club attracted Pep Guardiola to its bench in 2015. Colossal financial resources were available, but they still had to be leveraged in the championship of the biggest clubs. more fortunate. Mission accomplished.

Champions of England in 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023, the Skyblues are still candidates for their succession, always with the Guardiola style: combined play on the ground and attacks patiently constructed from the eleventh outfield player who is their goalkeeper. This team has found its last missing link in the person of Erling Haaland, pivot in the penalty area and serial scorer.

“They have raised the bar to levels never seen before in football,” Mikel Arteta observed a few weeks ago about his mentor’s training. However, he added, “we have gotten closer to them in the last two or three years.”