London: Manchester City’s bid for a treble of major trophies is up and running.
The first was secured Saturday without City even playing as the team clinched a third successive English Premier League title — and a ninth top-flight crown in its 143-year history — thanks to another slip-up by second-placed Arsenal.
Arsenal losing at Nottingham Forest 1-0 capped an end-of-season meltdown for the once long-time leader and left City with an unassailable four-point lead.
City players watched the game at the club’s training ground and celebrated loudly when the final whistle was blown at the City Ground — and on Arsenal’s imploding title bid. They will get their hands on the league trophy after their match against Chelsea Sunday.
“Always give your best. Always believe. It pays off,” tweeted Erling Haaland, City’s star striker. “C’MON CITY!”
Just don’t expect the celebrations to last too long.
Pep Guardiola’s squad has its sights on becoming just the second team — after Manchester United in 1999 — to capture the Premier League-FA Cup-Champions League treble, and still has two finals to play.
The FA Cup final against Manchester United is June 3 at Wembley Stadium followed by a meeting with Inter Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul June 10.
City is enjoying a period of domestic dominance rarely seen in English soccer.
That’s five league titles in six years — a feat last achieved in England by United from 1996-2001 — and seven in a 12-season spell that began with Sergio Aguero’s storied stoppage-time goal to win the league in 2012.
Under Guardiola, City has raised the standards in the Premier League to such an extent that rivals need to reach at least 90 points just to challenge them.
“The Premier League is without doubt the most demanding and competitive league in the world,” City captain Ilkay Gundogan said, “so that tells you everything about what an achievement this is.
“That quality and consistency helps sum up what Manchester City stand for and ensures the club will continue to strive for success going forward.”
It’s the first time City has won three leagues in a row and comes while the Abu Dhabi-owned club is facing an unprecedented slew of charges from the Premier League for allegedly breaking financial rules from 2009-18 and a subsequent failure to co-operate with an investigation.
Those charges — 115 in total — cast a shadow over City’s achievements under its Abu Dhabi ownership, though it could be years before a verdict is reached by an independent disciplinary commission.
What isn’t up for debate is the quality City has produced in its now-familiar end-of-season burst of victories that piled the pressure on Arsenal, which has the unwanted distinction this season of being the team to have led the league for a record number of days without eventually winning it (248 days).
While City has finished like a train by winning 11 straight games, Arsenal — owning the youngest squad in the league under inexperienced coach Mikel Arteta — has buckled with a first top-flight title since 2004 in sight, losing three of its last five games.
Arteta congratulated City and said his team “didn’t have enough” to compete with the defending champion.
“One team in six seasons has beaten Manchester City to the title,” Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale said. “But it was our own doing, individual errors in games we should have won. We were in a position to win those games.”
Forest was safe from relegation after its win.
MANCHESTER UNITED CLOSE
Manchester United is on the brink of a return to the Champions League. Liverpool is almost certain to miss out.
The race for the final two Champions League qualification places behind Man City and Arsenal is nearly over after United beat Bournemouth 1-0 away and Liverpool could only draw 1-1 at home to Aston Villa.
That left fifth-placed Liverpool three points behind both Newcastle in third and United in fourth. While Liverpool has only one game to play — at already-relegated Southampton — Newcastle and United have two and need only a point each to secure top-four finishes.
Newcastle could get over the line as early as Monday in a home game against Leicester, before finishing at Chelsea. United still has Chelsea and Fulham to play at home.
Casemiro scored from an acrobatic overhead kick in the eighth minute for the only goal at Bournemouth.
A Brazilian was Liverpool’s scorer, too. Roberto Firmino marked his last game at Anfield for the club with the 89th-minute equalizer against Villa. Jacob Ramsey put Villa ahead in the 27th, soon after Ollie Watkins missed a penalty for the visitors.
MINA SAVES EVERTON
Yerry Mina headed in Everton’s latest recorded Premier League goal — in the ninth minute of stoppage time — in potentially a big moment in the relegation fight.
It earned Everton a 1-1 draw at Wolverhampton and moved the team two points clear of the bottom three, currently occupied by already-relegated Southampton as well as Leicester and Leeds. Leeds and Leicester have two games left and Everton just one — Bournemouth at home next weekend.
Everton is seeking to preserve its 69-year stay in the top-flight.
Fulham drew at home to Crystal Palace 2-2 in the day’s other league game.