By Andy Sims, PA
John Stones fired a title warning to Arsenal after Manchester City began to chip away at their lead at the top of the Premier League.
City cut the deficit back to five points after a Riyad Mahrez strike secured a 1-0 win at Chelsea on Thursday night.
With City still having to play the Gunners twice, they remain fancied to overhaul them and secure a fifth title in six seasons.
First Matchweek of 2023 ✅
How would you rate your team’s season so far? pic.twitter.com/Pgo7bMp5Dh
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 5, 2023
But England defender Stones insists it is still far too early to predict an overall winner.
“We don’t focus on the table so early. There are 63 points to play for, we have to take it a game at a time,” he told the club website.
“In previous years we’ve been on winning runs and we have to keep the momentum going.
“If we play like we did at Chelsea then we can go all the way this season.”
City face Chelsea again on Sunday in the FA Cup, where there is likely to be a place in the side for Rico Lewis.
Although it was the double substitution on the hour of Mahrez and Jack Grealish which led to the winning goal less than three minutes later, Pep Guardiola felt Lewis’ half-time introduction swung the match in City’s favour.
“This young boy has ability and quality not just to play good but to make us better,” said the City boss.
“This is so difficult to find. Not only did he play well, but when he came on Rodri played better and Kevin (De Bruyne) played better and Riyad played better.
“He has the talent to do that. Right now he is fundamental for us, he is a key player for us right now.”
Chelsea’s injuries are piling up again ahead of the trip to the Etihad.
A strong showing that had plenty of promise. 💬 pic.twitter.com/BWkvCPcXxf
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 6, 2023
Already missing Mason Mount to a training-ground knock, Chelsea lost Raheem Sterling to what looked like a hamstring injury after only a minute on Thursday, and shortly after Christian Pulisic followed him off with a knee problem.
The pressure on manager Graham Potter is growing after just one win in their last eight Premier League matches.
Nevertheless, Potter said: “I liked what we tried to do against a top side. We were competitive and had spirit on the pitch, courage in attack and took responsibility at the back.
“Apart from the result, as we hate to lose, I’m proud of the players.”
Potter said he hopes to have England midfielder Mount back for Sunday’s third-round clash.