Pep Guardiola could find himself without Champions League football next season after Manchester City’s hopes of qualifying suffered a major setback in a 2-2 draw with Premier League top-four rivals Arsenal at Eastlands on Sunday.
Arsenal twice came from behind, goals from Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez, cancelling out efforts from Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne in what was City manager Manuel Pellegrini’s final home game in charge before he is replaced by Bayern Munich’s Guardiola after the end of the season.
This result left fourth-placed City just two points in front of Manchester United, who have two games in hand on their local rivals.
FA Cup finalists United, currently fifth, will definitely finish above City and deny Guardiola, who guided Barcelona to two Champions League titles before joining Bayern, a place in European football’s premier club competition if they end their league season with wins against West Ham and Bournemouth.
The draw meant Arsenal remained third but they moved to within two points of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, after their arch-north London rivals saw a miserable week end with a 2-1 loss at home to Southampton just hours earlier on Sunday.
City were ahead as early as the eighth minute when Argentina striker Aguero got on the end of Fernandinho’s header into the box.
But just minutes later, France striker Giroud equalised for Arsenal when he rose unmarked to head in a corner.
City, beaten in the Champions League semi-finals by Real Madrid in midweek, restored their lead in the 51st minute when Belgium midfielder de Bruyne’s low shot from the edge of the box beat Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Arsenal rallied again when Chile striker Sanchez, ultimately denying compatriot Pellegrini a farewell home win, struck in the 68th-minute after getting on the end of Giroud’s flick into the box.
City though almost won the game late on, only for Wilfried Bony’s shot to hit the crossbar.
Concerningly, ahead of June’s European Championships, Gunners striker Danny Welbeck went off with an apparent knee injury in the first half.
England manager Roy Hodgson is due to name his France 2016 squad on Thursday.
– Davis double downs Spurs –
Tottenham had already seen their slim chance of winning the Premier League evaporate with a 2-2 draw away to capital rivals Chelsea on Monday — a result that confirmed 5,000/1 pre-season rank outsiders Leicester had won the title instead.
Sunday’s match at White Hart Lane started well enough for the hosts, with Tottenham opening the scoring in the 16th minute through South Korea midfielder Son Heung-Min.
But two goals from Northern Ireland’s Steven Davis saw Southampton to victory and meant Spurs had now gone three games without a win.
Tottenham, however, do still have a vastly superior goal difference to Arsenal and can still finish above them for the first time since 1994/95 if they win at relegation-threatened Newcastle in their final game of the season.
“We needed to be more solid and show more consistency. I’m disappointed but we’re still fighting,” said Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, in charge at Southampton until moving to White Hart Lane in 2014.
“It’s important to finish second,” the Argentinian added.
Victory saw sixth-placed Southampton go above West Ham and into a Europa League spot.
“It’s a great win for us, because to win here against Tottenham, one of the best teams in the league, is a big result,” said Southampton manager Ronald Koeman.