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For Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, it was a game that they quite simply could not afford to lose. Out of Europe early on and off the pace in the race for the top four, Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City was the one last hope of salvaging their season.

The scene when the full-time whistle sounded on their 3-2 win at Wembley Stadium showed exactly what it meant to the Gunners’ under-fire manager, who will surely celebrate his side’s record 20th appearance in the final by officially announcing the agreement of a new two-year deal.

All this has a rather inevitable feel about it, however, as Arsenal have become experts of providing hope late in campaigns, going all the way in the FA Cup twice in the last three seasons and often finishing strongly in the league.

City also have plenty to play for heading into the closing weeks of the season, with manager Craig Shakespeare admitting ahead of Wednesday’s match that relegation is still a possibility.

That is an outcome that seems far less likely now than a couple of months back, when a 2-0 loss to fellow strugglers Swansea City saw them drop to within one point of the drop zone and ultimately forced into parting company with popular boss Claudio Ranieri.

The transition from deputy to manager has been a seamless one for Shakespeare, however, turning that five-match losing run in the league into five wins on the spin, not only easing the club’s relegation concerns but also temporarily taking them into the top half.

Leicester can be forgiven for taking their eye off the ball somewhat over the past few weeks, with a Champions League quarter-final double-header against Atletico taking precedence, but now that their fairytale rise is seemingly over it is a matter of knuckling down in the league.

One point from the last six on offer has left the Foxes 15th in the table and six points above the relegation zone but, with two games in hand and some winnable remaining fixtures to come, City’s fate is certainly in their own hands.

 

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