What happens if Arsenal and Manchester City finish level on points in the Premier League?
The Gunners are bidding for a first title since 2004, while City have won four of the last five under Pep Guardiola.
For most of the season, it’s looked as if Arsenal have been on course to lift their first Premier League title since 2003-04, when Arsène Wenger’s side incredibly went through the whole 38-game campaign without losing. It may well, of course, still happen, although the likelihood has dropped considerably, with back-to-back-to-back draws away to Liverpool and West Ham and at home to Southampton leaving the door wide open for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who then moved into the driving seat following a thumping win over Mikel Arteta’s side at the Etihad.
Manchester City win over Arsenal puts them in pole position
That statement victory moved City to within two points of the Gunners with two games in hand, which is how things remain following respective triumphs over Fulham and Chelsea in subsequent league games. The Martin Odegaard-inspired win over the blundering Blues has restored part of the feel-good factor at the Emirates but do they have any realistically hope of turning things back around in their favour?
Why City might not win the Premier League
At the moment, it’s hard to imagine the Sky Blues not coming out on top in any game of soccer they play. They’ve won their last eight Premier League games and taken 31 points from the last 33 available. However, they’ve conceded in the last five, were far from impressive at Craven Cottage on Sunday and have the small matter of a Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid to distract them over the next few weeks. Maybe there’s still hope for Arteta and his charges?
What tiebreakers are used in different soccer leagues?
Things are still fairly tight at the top, in any case, so much so that there is even a chance that the two teams could finish level on points on 28 May. How would they be separated if that were the case?
One curiosity of elite-level soccer is that different competitions in different countries use different tiebreakers. For instance, Real Madrid famously won LaLiga in 2006-07 by virtue of having a better head-to-head record in their two league matches that season against Barcelona, with whom they finished level on points. Serie A uses the same system, as does the UEFA Champions League in the group stage.
The argument in favour of that system is that the team that has proved themselves to be ‘superior’ is seen to come out on top. The downside is that potential drama is lost, with goal difference taken out of the equation and permutations limited as a result.
Like Liga MX, Ligue 1 in France and Germany’s Bundesliga, the Premier League uses goal difference as the first tiebreaker. As things stand, that would favour City, who are seven goals better off than the Gunners. There’s not a great deal in it on paper, but Arsenal would have to go some to outgun Erling Haaland and his mates between now and the end of the season, especially with that trip to Manchester coming right up.
In the unlikely event that two teams finish on the same number of points and have the same goal difference, Premier League rules state that “the number of goals scored, then the team who collected the most points in the head-to-head matches, then who scored most away goals in the head-to-head” will determine who finished ahead of who in the table.
As a separate point of interest, MLS uses a different system to the two mentioned in their regular season standings, with the total number of wins across all matches acting as the first tiebreaker ahead of goal difference.
Has the Premier League title ever been decided on goal difference?
The name Sergio Agüero is probably enough to trigger your memory. In 2011-12, City and Manchester United were tied on points going into the final game of the season. The Sky Blues’ goal difference was eight better than the Red Devils’, which realistically meant that all they had to do was beat relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers at home. With United having won 1-0 away to Sunderland, City found themselves facing a shock 2-1 defeat and title heartbreak until two goals in injury-time from Edin Dzeko and Agüero clinched the most dramatic of league titles, their first since 1968.
“I swear you’ll never see anything like this again, so watch it, drink it in!” said Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler. He may be right, although there is still a small chance history could repeat itself on 28 May.