On Friday, Arsenal staged an incredible late fightback to rescue a 3-3 draw against Southampton. However, the Premier League leaders were still left frustrated by a damaging result that put their title challenge in jeopardy.
Mikel Arteta’s side managed to escape with a point despite trailing 3-1 with just two minutes of normal time left at the Emirates Stadium. Martin Odegaard’s goal sparked Arsenal’s revival, and Bukayo Saka snatched the equalizer in stoppage time.
Despite the thrilling escape, Arteta finished with his head in his hands because the Gunners will travel to second-placed Manchester City on Wednesday knowing that it is Pep Guardiola’s team who control the destiny of the title. Arsenal is currently five points clear of City, but the champions have two games in hand due to their involvement in the FA Cup semi-finals against Sheffield United on Saturday.
If City manages to win or draw against Arsenal and then win their remaining matches, they will be crowned champions no matter what the north Londoners do. Therefore, this match against Manchester City is a do-or-die showdown for Arsenal.
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After blowing successive two-goal leads in damaging 2-2 draws against West Ham and Liverpool in their previous two matches, Arsenal showed tremendous spirit to reverse the trend. They had blown an early lead against both West Ham and Liverpool, and that had put their title chances in jeopardy. However, against Southampton, they showed that they have the ability to fight back from difficult situations.
Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale had handed Southampton’s Carlos Alcaraz the opening goal after just 27 seconds. In a painful twist for Arsenal fans, it was former Gunners forward Theo Walcott who doubled bottom of the table Southampton’s lead. Gabriel Martinelli pulled one back for Arsenal before Duje Caleta-Car headed in Southampton’s third.
However, Odegaard and Saka ensured Arsenal avoided a first defeat in 10 league games. But City’s six successive league wins put Arsenal under intense pressure, and Arteta’s young team is in danger of crumbling unless they can win their match against Manchester City.
Arsenal’s title hopefuls had the support of the last Gunners group to lift the trophy in 2004 as Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, and Sol Campbell joined the crowd at the Emirates. However, even the presence of that iconic trio couldn’t inspire them as the nerves tormenting Arteta’s team were laid bare by Ramsdale’s astonishing blunder inside the first minute.
Taking possession inside his own area, Ramsdale played a suicidal pass towards Thomas Partey that completely missed the midfielder on the edge of the area. Alcaraz gleefully accepted the gift as he smashed his shot past the exposed Ramsdale to reduce the Emirates to stunned silence. The anxiety pulsing through Arsenal, both on the pitch and in the stands, was palpable, and Southampton struck again after another calamitous error from the hosts in the 14th minute.
Partey gave the ball away to Alcaraz, and his sublime pass caught Gabriel Magalhaes out of position, allowing Walcott to surge into the area and slot past Ramsdale with unerring precision. Walcott’s decision not to celebrate out of respect for his old club hardly softened the blow. Oleksandr Zinchenko tried to rally Arsenal’s shell-shocked stars as he called them into a huddle immediately after the goal.