Has Alexis Sanchez’s late strike at The Etihad saved Van Gaal’s bacon?

With Leicester winning the league some people may think the season is over at the top of the league, but that’s not quite the case. The European places are still to be decided of course and Tottenham Hotspur, despite their loss on Sunday, have assured themselves a place on the top European competition next year.

The other two places are still up for grabs with Arsenal, Man City and Man United all in the mix for the remaining Champions League places. Manchester United are not playing until Tuesday evening so it was all about Arsenal and City on Sunday as the Gunners travelled to the Etihad to thrash out Manuel Pellegrini’s final home game for his club.

Come kick off Manchester City came right out of the blocks. Sergio Aguero was pressuring the Arsenal back four as much as he could and he was tireless in his efforts all day. The rest of his team certainly applied themselves as well, making it difficult for the Gunners to mount any kind of sustained attack. Aguero’s efforts paid off quickly as he latched onto a loose ball and fired into a tight gap past a reaching Petr Cech. This seemed to spark Arsenal into life and they kicked on up the pitch, forcing an error from former-Gunner Gael Clichy as he almost scored an own goal. City ‘keeper Joe Hart had a little relieved laugh but from the resulting corner Olivier Giroud scored his first goal in forever, evening things up nicely. The half went on in this fashion, end to end stuff but with very little quality on show, and a draw at half-time seemed a fair result.

The story was pretty much the same in the second half. A long season seemed to take it’s toll on both sides and there wasn’t much on display to make you jump out of your seat. Kevin de Bruyne provided one such moment when he picked up the ball in midfield, drove up the field and fired a neat ball past Cech to give City the lead again. The Manchester club seemed to take a little more control of the game, although they couldn’t quite kill it off. This lack of ruthlessness returned to haunt them when Alexis Sanchez played a clever one-two with Frenchman Giroud, wrong-footed Joe Hart and the net bulged as Sanchez equalised.

Come full time a draw was the correct result, despite Pellegrini wanting to leave the Etihad with a win, and this now pretty much guarantees Arsenal Champions League football next year. A win at home to hapless Aston Villa will see Arsenal safely finish in third.

Things are little more complicated for Man City. Their fate is now no longer in their own hands, because if Man United win on Tuesday at West Ham United then they go fourth and City are in real trouble. It’s certainly not a foregone conclusion, as West Ham are a force at home this year under Slaven Bilic, but I’m sure Man City would much rather have control of their destiny.

It would be like Man United to throw it away. In my opinion, I don’t think they deserve to get into the top four with they way they have played this year. I would much rather City get it as Pellegrini has conducted himself with an incredible amount of dignity in a difficult time when his job is being discussed very publicly.

If they fail though I would be very interested to hear what incumbent manager Pep Guardiola has to say.

I wonder how he would feel about no Champions’ League football next year? Probably not the happiest.


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