• Simpson insists Leicester's 2016 title-winning heroes 'were too scared to say we're gonna do it' but thinks Arsenal 'probably thought they were'
  • Foxes' 2-2 draw with West Ham in their title run-in 'felt like a win', the 36-year-old says, whereas Arsenal's 'would have felt like a defeat'

It's the debate dominating the end of the English Premier League season: did Arsenal bottle the title race, or are Manchester City just too good?

Manchester United legend Gary Neville caught plenty of flak for insisting earlier in the campaign Arsenal would not be crowned champions, with Mikel Arteta's side putting up a sustained challenge until the wheels came off in April.

Still, many have leapt to their defence, suggesting they should not be criticised despite three draws and three losses in their final nine games - but Leicester City's title-winning hero Danny Simpson believes the pressure well and truly got to the Gunners.

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"I hate to say this because I have got some friends at Arsenal ... But unfortunately what Gary Neville said all those months ago, I did see what he was saying in terms of the last eight or 10 games, because that's when it hits you. I've been there," Simpson said at a Q&A at Kowloon Cricket Club, whom he played for at last weekend's HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens.

"At Leicester, we didn't want to believe, in a way. I think everything is about belief - believing in yourselves, your teammates. But we were just in a bubble, riding a wave. We were too scared to say 'we're going to do it'.

"Look at Arsenal now - I think there was probably a point where they thought they were going to do it. It can quickly change. We didn't want to do that. We just stayed focused."

Simpson on Soccer Sevens, Hong Kong move, and Leicester's relegation heartbreak

Manchester United academy product Simpson, who lifted the unlikeliest of titles with the Foxes in 2016, compared their and Arsenal's 2-2 draws against West Ham during the respective run-ins.

"It's difficult, because we did it without any international players and they have got a squad full of them," the 36-year-old defender said. "So you would think they would handle it. But I think once they had a couple of draws ...

"Towards the latter stages of the season, things were just working for us. There was a game against West Ham where we were 1-0 up. They scored, 1-1, Jamie Vardy got a red card, so we're all panicking, thinking, 'We've lost our main man, what are we going to do?'

"They go 2-1 up and we know Tottenham are about to play after us, the psychological element of closing the gap. We got a penalty with 10 men in the last minute and drew 2-2. We came in the dressing room and that felt like a win at the time. It felt like 'this is our year'.

"But Arsenal - I think when you're 2-0 up at West Ham and you draw 2-2, it feels like a defeat. We both got a point, but ours kicked us on. They drew that game and then drew with Southampton as well. At Liverpool there were 2-0 up, drew 2-2 - those feel like losses, even though you got a point.

"Once a couple of them happened, where it was from a winning position, I only saw one thing happening, which is Manchester City doing what they do, turning it on with their experience in the last two or three months.

"Sir Alex [Ferguson] always used to say the business end of the season was when Man United turned it on. That's where City are at the moment."

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

2023-05-31T12:09:41Z dg43tfdfdgfd