Arsenal are primed to win the unlikely Premier League crown
“Extraordinary” is how manager Mikel Arteta summed up Arsenal’s season so far – and few would disagree.
With a 3-2 win over Manchester United on Sunday, the Gunners reached 50 points from 19 league games – a feat Arsenal have never achieved halfway through a season.
Arteta’s side are now five points clear at the top of the league with a game in hand over second-placed Manchester City. The Premier League’s top two sides have yet to play each other this season.
“It doesn’t get better than this, that’s the truth,” said the Spaniard after the win against United.
“I think we deserved the points we got, I think we played well enough to win a lot of games, but the truth is we still have a lot of things to improve on.”
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The game against United severely tested Arsenal’s title credentials.
Marcus Rashford’s superb strike gave the visitors the lead but the Gunners responded seven minutes later when Eddie Nketiah headed in at the far post from Granit Xhaka’s superb cross.
With the game level at the break, Bukayo Saka stepped up for Arsenal and responded to Rashford’s goal with a long-range effort.
The England international fired a left-footed shot past David de Gea’s outstretched arm – his seventh goal of the season and what he later described as his best.
He celebrated with a finger to his temple, as Rashford did in the first half.
However, United were now behind as a diving Lisandro Martinez headed home Aaron Ramsdale’s save.
This leveled the game at 2-2 and United were content with a draw. Not so Arsenal, looking for the winning goal.
Saka hit the post and Nketiah saw a shot saved by de Gea before scoring the all-important goal in the 90th minute.
With that, the Emirates Stadium was lit up and Arsenal’s Premier League title hastened.
It’s almost two decades since Arsenal last lifted the league trophy in 2003/04 when Arsene Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ finished with 26 wins and 12 nil.
But even this side is short of their current output of 50 points at the halfway point of the season, a milestone that has only been registered four times – Manchester City in 2017/18, Liverpool in 2018/19 and 2019/20. , and Chelsea 2005/06.
This season has been a dream come true for Arsenal fans. Besides winning the FA Cup four times between 2014 and 2020, the club’s recent history has been largely characterized by inconsistency and underperformance.
When Arteta led Arsenal to an eighth consecutive Premier League finish in his first two seasons in charge, many believed the club’s struggles would last forever.
But the league’s youngest team – with an average age of just over 24 – have defied all expectations, with their only defeat coming to United in September.
Concerns about Arsenal’s lack of squad depth or strength compared to their opponents never came to pass.
Ukraine international Oleksandr Zinchenko has been a revelation since joining from Manchester City last year, former loanee Martin Odegaard has scored eight league goals and provided five assists, while the sometimes temperamental and unruly Xhaka has been outstanding this season. .
Man City’s other summer signing, Gabriel Jesus, made an impressive start before his season was cut short by injury, while the recent arrival of Brighton’s Leandro Trossard has further bolstered Arsenal’s attacking options.
“I think today [against United] we showed we can play at a different level,” Saka told Arsenal media. “When we are under pressure, we can play.
“I think it’s the first time this season that we’ve come from behind and fought back, and even towards the end we went to the last minute and made a breakthrough.”
Before Arsenal and Manchester City play in the league, the two sides meet in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Friday.
Win that and the prospect of silver in a few events – a distant thought at the start of the season – suddenly feels very real to you.
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