(Reuters) - Arsenal confirmed they are deadly serious about winning the Premier League title by beating Manchester United 3-2 on Sunday to reach 50 points at the halfway mark of the season - a tally which usually leads to ending the season as champions.
The victory, clinched by Eddie Nketiah's stoppage-time strike, saw Arsenal become only the fifth team in Premier League history to hit 50 points from their first 19 games. Three of the previous four teams to hit that milestone went on to lift the crown.
Manchester City romped to the title in 2017-18 after taking 55 points in the first half of the season, as did Liverpool in 2019-20, while Chelsea became champions in 2005-06 after hitting 51 points.
Only Liverpool in 2018-19 failed to take the title after hitting 51 points from 19 matches, being edged by Manchester City after squandering a seven-point lead.
Arsenal have a smaller advantage over City than Liverpool did, leading Pep Guardiola's side by five points, and they have played one game fewer.
Arsenal visit City in the FA Cup on Friday before a league showdown between the two teams at the Emirates Stadium on Feb. 15 which could have a huge say in whether the Gunners lift their first Premier League crown in 19 years or are pegged back by City, who have won four of the last five titles.
City lost some momentum by losing the derby to Manchester United last weekend but proved they will not easily surrender their crown by storming back from two goals down to beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 on Thursday before Sunday's thumping 3-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Former United midfielder Roy Keane said Arsenal were in the driving seat.
"The momentum is with them, there's good experience, youth and pace. They had good options off the bench - they're in a great place," Keane said on Sky Sports.
"If you had said at the start of the season they'd be where they are, you wouldn't have believed it. It will take a lot to stop them."
But his old team mate and fellow pundit Gary Neville said City should not be counted out just yet.
"They (Arsenal) need to now go on and prove to us that they can win the title, which is going to be really tough. They've still got to play Manchester City twice and they've got them on their shoulders," he said.
"They're a massive powerhouse, Manchester City and Pep Guardiola. You can imagine them sitting there tonight not being too fazed by this."
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)