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Arsenal are a threat to Manchester City’s Champions League crown… they probably won’t win it, but they should be taken seriously!



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In this week’s edition of his City Xtra column, Amos Murphy examines what a UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie against Arsenal could mean for the defence of Manchester City’s European crown. 

Let’s face it, it’s all a bit cringey, right? Arsenal’s post-match celebrations after beating FC Porto on penalties in the last-16 of the Champions League looked more like scenes you’d expect from the side winning the competition altogether. 

In a way, who are we to judge? Success is relative to each individual club and their respective fanbases – someone let Trent Alexander-Arnold that’s the case, please. 

There is also a feeling of ‘act like you’ve been there before’ though. Critics have suggested one of Arsenal’s biggest weaknesses is their over-charged emotional approach to important moments in big matches. 

It’s hard to deny that isn’t the case when Arsenal players are performing a lap of honour after edging past one of the ‘weaker’ sides left in the Champions League.

But what if that win over Porto represented something different for Arsenal? Instead of being a narrow escape, the penalty shoot-out win was actually a coming-of-age performance for the fledgling Gunners. 

After all, it was the first time in 14 years they had progressed beyond the Champions League last-16 stage, with the belief inside the Arsenal camp no doubt at an all-time high.

This isn’t to say Arsenal are suddenly a serious challenger for the Champions League trophy. That would be silly, at least right now. 

A fortunate win against Porto doesn’t put Mikel Arteta’s side anywhere near that category and should they be paired against a juggernaut of European football, like Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, there’s every chance Arsenal will be torn to shreds. 

However, as far as Manchester City are concerned, if – like many of the raging football conspiracy theorists like to proclaim – the Blues could hand-pick their preferred quarter-final opponents, Arsenal should be bottom of that particular list. 

Let’s deal with the basics first. From three ties against English sides in the Champions League (Liverpool 2017/18, Tottenham Hotspur 2018/19, Chelsea 2020/21), City are winless in all three. 

For some reason, despite ruling the roost in the Premier League for the best part of a decade, City are unable to defeat domestic opponents when the competition switches to its continental counterpart. 

It’s weird, and borderline unexplainable, but it’s the truth. Obviously, that could change this year with a tie against Arsenal, but if there is one minor valid criticism to throw at Pep Guardiola during his time as City boss, it’s his apparent inability to overcome games against English opposition in Europe.

From playing Ilkay Gundogan as a right winger during City’s trip to Anfield in 2017/18, to the German – who had excelled in the false-nine position for most of the season – being deployed as a holding midfielder in the 2018 final against Chelsea. For some unexplainable reason, games against English sides often bring the worst out of Guardiola.

It’s almost like the belief that City are a superior outfit when facing domestic opponents in the Champions League doesn’t compute for European fixtures. 

Or maybe the continent’s most prestigious competition is a leveller for clubs, making it easier for them to compete – and subsequently beat – a side of City’s quality. Who knows? It’s one of football’s great mysteries. 

But one thing is for sure, if City want to give themselves the best chance of replicating last year’s Champions League win this season, avoiding Arsenal in the quarter-final would probably be a good place to start. Not because of their quality, but because of City’s past scars.