Stuart Pearce backs Arsenal to pip Manchester City to title
By James Reid
Stuart Pearce has warned Pep Guardiola to prepare for being pipped to the Premier League title.
The former Manchester City boss tipped Arsenal to clinch their maiden top-flight crown since 2004 before the World Cup break, and says England starlet Bukayo Saka’s scintillating form is a key reason he is not changing his mind.
But Pearce believes there is still some life in the title race and highlighted the Gunners’ trip to the Etihad on April 29 as the deciding fixture of a thrilling battle.
“I was asked before the World Cup who I thought would win it and I said Arsenal, and I am sticking by that now,” said Pearce, who played 38 times for City towards the end of his playing career.
“They lost [Gabriel] Jesus, and people thought there would be a problem, but they have been seamless.
“The big game is when they go to Manchester City, that will be critical for the run-in. This weekend Arsenal have a reasonable game and City play Liverpool, so it is a key weekend.
“It’s brilliant to watch them to go head-to-head. In Saka they have got arguably the Player of the Season, I think he has been magnificent.
“Manchester City fans will say [Erling] Haaland but I think Saka has been the main driving reason why Arsenal are where they are in the division.”
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Saka continued his fine form on international duty, with a goal and assist as England beat Ukraine 2-0 to follow up their impressive 2-1 victory against Italy away in Naples.
Pearce was part of the last England side that won in Naples as part of the famous Italia 90 team that squeezed past Cameroon 3-2 almost 33 years ago.
And the former full-back was particularly impressed with the first-half showing from Gareth Southgate’s men as they got their EURO 2024 qualifying campaign off to the perfect start.
“Italy away, first game is a real tough one. From my experience being an international manager, it’s not the ideal one. You normally want to put some points on the board first,” added Pearce, speaking during a visit to Marlow FC for Non-League Day on Saturday as part of his ambassadorial role with Pitching In, title sponsors of the seventh and eighth tiers of English football.
“To go there, win the game, set the performance that they did in the first half, it puts them in charge of the group.
“To actually deliver a performance like that, against a team ranked above us, is good because our performances against teams ranked above us needs to be better.
“There will be a little bit of frustration and a sense of unfinished business. It was maybe a missed opportunity in Qatar.
“But the experience from that, in a year and a half’s time in Germany, it will be a fantastic tournament to be involved in.
“We have put ourselves in a fantastic place in the group, need to make sure we qualify and then go from there.”
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