Yaya Toure limped off with an early injury, their opponents in red struck a late winner and Manchester City suffered a huge, many said final blow in the title race.
It was April 8, 2012, and Mikel Arteta’s goal three minutes from time gave Arsenal a 1-0 win over City at the Emirates Stadium. Toure’s knock saw him replaced by David Pizarro 17 minutes in, Mario Balotelli picked up a needless late red card and he was glowered at by Roberto Mancini as he left the pitch. An awful lot can change in two years.
But City are now in a broadly similar position.
That defeat to the Gunners saw them slip eight points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United with six games remaining.
On Sunday, as Toure limped off at Anfield, Philippe Coutinho fired Liverpool’s late winner and Manuel Pellegrini’s side succumbed to a damaging defeat, City were left seven points behind the league-leading Reds. As after that Arsenal loss two years ago, they have six games left to play, and we all know what happened right at the end of the sixth one.
Of course the current circumstances are different to 2012.
Back then City still had to play United, and they watched on as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men remarkably choked under the pressure. They lost at Wigan and drew 4-4 at home to David Moyes’ Everton having led by two clear goals on two occasions. It remains one of Moyes’ finest Old Trafford moments.
But all City can do now is win their matches and hope that Liverpool and Chelsea are similarly afflicted. If the rival pair both win all of their other three games but draw with each other on April 27, then six City wins from here would deliver a second league title in three seasons, pipping Liverpool to the post by a point.
Two years ago and minus Toure for all but the last half hour at Carrow Road, Mancini’s men responded to that Arsenal loss by scoring 10 goals in four days as they swept aside West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City 4-0 and 6-1 respectively.
Back in the present day, the next two matches offer the perfect opportunity to repeat that goalscoring trick, with bottom-of-the-table Sunderland visiting the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night before West Brom again make the trip next Monday.
The return of Sergio Aguero from injury will only heighten the memories of 2012—the Argentinean scored two goals in each of those West Brom and Norwich games before his unforgettable moment against Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the season—but the forward looked somewhat off the pace at Anfield on Sunday.
That is probably the least of Pellegrini’s title worries, though. His team went from title favourites to many people’s third favourites at Liverpool.
Chelsea and Jose Mourinho have got that winning machine feel and that steely-eyed look about them again, and Liverpool’s unlikely challenge remains so remarkable and emotive that it is often difficult to look elsewhere. They’ve now won 10 games in a row.
The stars appear to have it written on them that the title goes to Merseyside this season, and indeed it is on Merseyside where City could lose it.
After the Anfield loss, undoubtedly the toughest remaining fixture for Pellegrini’s men comes at Goodison Park against a rampant and Champions League-chasing Everton on May 3. It is a match that they now have to win at a ground where they’ve only won once in 15 visits, none of which would have been against an Everton side as good as this one.
That will have to wait though, as will any City title hopes for now.
They simply have to focus on winning six out of six, which is exactly what they did two years ago.
Then, as now, they will need other results to go in their favour if they are to be successful. But when you win a league title in the manner that they did in 2012 and you're as good a team as they showed in a losing cause at Anfield, you simply never lose hope.