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If Manchester City miss out on next season’s Champions League it is a huge failure, but it is not a disaster because the future of the club is not at stake.

If Manchester United win their last two games and beat their local rivals to fourth place, then City are not going into freefall or financial meltdown in the way Leeds United did when they failed to qualify in 2002.

In terms of the outlay they have made, City should be finishing in the top four – no question – and, in the short-term, not doing so would be a massive disappointment.

It delays their ambition to establish themselves as a major European power because they want to win the Champions League, not just get in it.

But the biggest plus is that it would not affect the club’s stability and I don’t think it would affect their ability to attract top players this summer either.

What next for City? Top players will still want to play for Pep

Pep Guardiola takes over as City boss in the summer

City’s fans do not want to watch their side play the lesser teams from different corners of Europe on Thursday nights – they want to see them against the best.

They will not get that if they finish fifth in the Premier League.

But, overall, I would suggest to City fans that the future is still bright and still rosy, even if they have to settle for the Europa League next season.

The club will still move forward because the top players will still want to join them.

That was always going be more down to having Pep Guardiola as their new manager next season rather than being in the Champions League itself.

Every player Guardiola will sign will think City will only be out of the Champions League for one season only, and I would be amazed if it were for longer.

Man Utd have been given the boost they need

Louis van Gaal’s future as Manchester United manager is in doubt but they are now in pole position to finish in fourth place

City have still got a chance of making the top four of course – the season is not over yet.

But I think United will win both their remaining games – at West Ham on Tuesday and then at home to Bournemouth on the final day – which would guarantee they finish above City.

Playing the Hammers in their final game at Upton Park is still a tough one but knowing that a top-four finish is now in their hands will be a massive boost for United’s players and their fans.

It is going to be a brilliant game, and I am really looking forward to it.

What has gone wrong for City?

The reason City are in this position is not down to them failing to beat Arsenal on Sunday.

City actually performed quite well after a tough game in midweek against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu – they pressed, played at a good tempo and looked dangerous.

We still saw some of the issues they have had all season, such as with the first goal they conceded.

Eliaquim Mangala mistimed his leap, allowing Olivier Giroud to head home Arsenal’s first equaliser

Defending set-plays has been a long-standing problem for them and, against the Gunners, Eliaquim Mangala was at fault. He gambled, tried to win the ball early and paid the price.

They have had some bad luck along the way with injuries to some of their key players but it is their away form that has let them down the most.

On too many occasions they have not played with the same intensity they showed against Arsenal. The question is, why?

No farewell party for Pellegrini

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Top four out of our hands – Manuel Pellegrini

Outgoing City boss Manuel Pellegrini did not get the send-off he wanted at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

If City do not make the top four then it is a kick in the teeth for him, but I think some of their players need to question themselves more than the manager.

I understand when people point to the announcement in February that Guardiola was taking over as the thing that derailed City’s season – but I do not see it as an excuse.

Apart from one or two of their players who must have known they were leaving the club anyway, my feeling is that they should have been trying to impress the new manager – and the performances should have got better, not worse.

At full-time Manchester City thanked Manuel Pellegrini for his three years at the helm, though many fans had already left

As far as how Pellegrini will be remembered, I asked some City fans about this on a radio phone-in recently and they were very complimentary. Part of that was down to him winning the title and reaching the Champions League semi-finals but it was also because he is so humble.

I think his players like him, which is usually a good thing, but sometimes they have not performed for him.

So, is Pellegrini too nice? The evidence suggests that is not going to be an issue for City under Pep.

He always gets a tune out of his players in terms of the intensity they play at and, although his Bayern Munich side also lost in the semi-finals this week, they were very unfortunate to go out.

There is another reason for City fans to be excited – they are going to get better quickly, I am 100% sure of that.

Danny Murphy was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

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Manchester City 2-2 Arsenal

 Posted by at 1:54 AM
May 092016
 
Arsenal forward Sanchez has scored six goals in his past seven Premier League games

Manchester City’s top-four bid is no longer in their own hands as Alexis Sanchez’s equaliser spoiled Blues boss Manuel Pellegrini’s final home game.

Sergio Aguero fired City’s early opener into the bottom corner from 18 yards.

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud headed in the equaliser within two minutes, but Kevin de Bruyne’s solo effort restored City’s lead after the break.

However, Sanchez tucked in Giroud’s lay-off to ruin Pellegrini’s farewell before Pep Guardiola takes over.

City substitute Wilfried Bony’s late volley thumped the crossbar, leaving the usually placid Pellegrini with his head in his hands.

Arsenal’s fightback means fourth-placed City could still miss out on the Champions League even if they beat Swansea in their final game.

Fifth-placed Manchester United, who have played a game less than their neighbours, will finish above City if they win both of their final two games.

Arsenal need a point at home to already relegated Aston Villa next weekend to clinch Champions League qualification for the 20th successive season.

Relive the dramatic draw at Etihad Stadium

Pellegrini’s imperfect goodbye

Pellegrini took charge of 57 Premier League home matches as Manchester City manager – winning 43, drawing six and losing eight

How will Manuel Pellegrini go down in Manchester City history? Domestic underachiever in some eyes, European pioneer in others.

City were well placed to win a second Premier League title in three seasons when the affable Chilean announced on 1 February that he would be replaced by Pep Guardiola at the end of the season.

Since then the Blues have won only six of their 14 league matches, meaning Guardiola could arrive from Bayern Munich without Champions League football to plan for.

Pellegrini has led City to League Cup victory this season and taken them into the Champions League semi-final. But the solemn expression of chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak at the final whistle said everything – finishing fifth is not acceptable for the club’s mega-rich Abu Dhabi owners.

Arsenal close in on Champions League

Following second-placed Tottenham’s 2-1 home defeat by Southampton earlier on Sunday, Arsenal knew victory would move them level with their arch-rivals going into the final weekend.

Arsene Wenger’s side were unable to take all three points, but they showed character to fight back twice against top-four rivals City.

The Blues produced a lively attacking performance after being criticised for a laboured display in their narrow second-leg defeat at Real Madrid on Wednesday.

City were more wasteful than Arsenal, as shown by our ‘attempts at goal’ graphic. The Blues, shown on the left, had 14 efforts – three on target (green), nine off target (red) and two blocked (yellow). Arsenal had five attempts – scoring with each of their on-target efforts.

Pellegrini’s side deservedly led when Aguero found space to turn and drill in from the edge of the area.

A defensive mix-up between Joe Hart and Gael Clichy conceded the corner from which Giroud equalised, but De Bruyne’s run and precise finish edged City back in front.

The home side threatened a third before Arsenal fought back to earn a deserved point through Sanchez’s clinical strike from 15 yards.

Despite missing the chance to rein in Spurs, Wenger was satisfied with a point that puts them on the verge of Champions League football.

Only a shock loss against Villa, coupled with City and Manchester United taking maximum points in their remaining games, would see the Gunners finish fifth.

Mixed injury news for England (and Arsenal)

England manager Roy Hodgson was not present at the Etihad, having watched Spurs’ 2-1 defeat by Southampton at White Hart Lane instead.

Hodgson will have been concerned to see television pictures of Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck – a trusted member of his squad – limp off midway through the first half with a knee injury.

But, consequently, there was some positive news for Hodgson for Euro 2016.

Welbeck only returned from a 10-month lay-off with a knee injury on 14 February

Manchester-born Welbeck was replaced by midfielder Jack Wilshere, who made only his second substitute appearance of the season after his own 10-month injury absence.

Wilshere, 24, showed signs of his undoubted ability, topping Arsenal’s passing accuracy statistics, as well as – perhaps unwisely – launching into a couple of tigerish tackles.

“For me, 70 minutes – playing with high intensity and pressure – was great,” he said.

“I don’t want the season to end. I feel good and fresh so I will see what happens after that.”

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Wenger ‘worried’ about Welbeck injury

Listen to the best bits of the match action via BBC Radio 5 live.

Also, catch the Football Daily podcast as Mark Pougatch presents reaction to this and the day’s other Premier League results.

What they said

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini:

“We should have won that game, and I think we deserved it. We played very well. Our first 25 minutes were some of the best here this season. But Arsenal’s goals were good.

“The effort, speed and character was good, and we were playing against a very good team.”

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Top-four out of our hands – Manuel Pellegrini

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:

“I am not disappointed because twice we were losing and twice we came back. It was a game that was very, very intense.

“I was surprised by the intensity of City’s start. We expected an intense game but they really came out with strong pressure.

“The good thing is that we absorbed it and we’ve shown good character today.”

The stats you need to know

  • Sergio Aguero has scored in six consecutive Premier League games for the first time – the first Manchester City player to do so.
  • Manchester City have not won any of their eight Premier League games against the top five this season, drawing three and losing five.
  • Arsenal scored with their only two shots on target.
  • Oliver Giroud scored his first goal in his past 16 Premier League appearances.
  • Giroud now has 18 headed goals in the Premier League, more than any other player since the Frenchman made his debut (August 2012).

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