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Monday, January 30, 2023

More points home and away in Arsenal’s forward march

FeaturedSports NewsMore points home and away in Arsenal's forward march

Halfway through a season Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has described as extraordinary, his side top the Premier League pile with 50 points. Erling Haaland’s fourth hat-trick on Sunday meant that Pep Guardiola and Arteta, master and protégé, could be in for an exciting run until the summer.

Fittingly, Arteta refrained from talking about the league title, which would be Arsenal’s first since 2003-04, after a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Manchester United on Sunday that did not bow until the end. But only once in the Premier League has a team got 50 points and not finished first. It was Liverpool in an incredible 2018-19 season. According to The Athletic, the three-point margin for the win is the only time since 1888-89.

After Marcus Rashford’s superb strike from range – it was just the fourth time in all competitions that Arsenal had scored the first goal in 2022-23 – Eddie Nketiah’s strikes either side of a superb effort from Bukayo Saka. Helped the leaders take their revenge. The league only lost in that period. Lisandro Martinez’s brilliant header, his first for United, gave the visitors hope of pulling something away from north London but Nketiah’s late flick under constant pressure – and when United missed the suspended Casemiro badly. What – ensured that the better team won.

With 19 goals in his last 26 starts and 13 at home, Nikita has proved to be a worthy replacement for the injured Gabriel Jesus but surely, the sight of the Brazilian shining on the pitch after the game will delight the Gunners. As will Emile Smith-Rowe’s return from injury and Arsenal’s loss of Mihajlo Mudrac, new signing Leandro Troussard will start in what Arsene Wenger will call “financial doping”.

Arsenal have been the best team in the league and that is not something that has been written about very often in the last 20 years. Unbeaten in six games (five wins) since the World Cup, they have picked up wins against tough opponents in the second half of the season. A 2-0 victory over north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur was Arsenal’s first in nine years. From an average of 1.5 points per away game in 2021-22, Arsenal have scored 2.5 points in total this time around. The domestic record also improved from 2.2 to 2.8.

On Sunday, the reaction after Rashford’s goal and the way they finished the game showed two things: Arsenal are not fazed by adversity and three points in every game is their target. “It’s how we deal with those moments when we lose that control, and we’re able to reset and take the game in the direction we want and find different ways to do it,” Arteta said. do.”

Just as nothing seemed to go right in the first three games of last season, nothing seems to be going wrong for the Gunners now. Arteta has assembled a formidable force that includes captain Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka, Gabriel Martinelli, Saka, Aaron Ramsdale, Gabriel Magalhas and Oleksandr Zanchenko. They are more comfortable on the ball than before and more composed at the back. They play quickly between each other – see how Arsenal broke down after Said Benerhamma’s shot against West Ham or how quickly Odegaard got the ball after Harry Kane lost in the north London derby – and try to beat the press. do

But if any team knows how easily things can go south, it’s Arsenal. A Champions League berth was theirs last term but injuries and a lack of depth in the squad led to defeats at Spurs and Newcastle. In 2015–16, Arsenal defeated eventual champions Leicester City twice but did not end their campaign at home.

If Arsenal should slip, City know how to step up in the second half. Unaccustomed to losing two games in a row, they overturned a 0-2 deficit at home to beat Spurs 4-2, before Haaland gave them a 3-0 win against Wolves. There were moments against Manchester United and Spurs when City were not getting fit and a team used to playing sophisticated football looked different. “I want a reaction from the whole club,” manager Pep Guardiola said after the 4-2 win over Spurs. He got one on Sunday. Also, City have a lot of depth and have won four of the last five league seasons so they should push Arsenal to the end.

As Liverpool did to City last term. But hit by injuries to forwards and a midfield in need of a reshuffle, they are 29 points behind Arsenal after a 0-0 draw at Chelsea, where new $494m signings and a new coach have them There is yet to be a league left. Wins in six games. The tie was also Klopp’s 1,000th game in charge. His main goal will be to seal a Champions League berth which was crucial for Liverpool to overtake Manchester United in the latest world club rankings.

Top four fight

Erik ten Hague failed to become the first manager since Alex Ferguson to win 10 consecutive games in all competitions but got United where it looked unlikely after their worst finish in the Premier League in 2021-22. Offloading Cristiano Ronaldo has helped make the new signing cost around $250 million. But ten Hague’s biggest contribution has been in bringing back Marcus Rashford. With Wout Weghorst in bed, Bruno Fernandes at the top of his game, David de Gea set for a new deal, things look bright for United, the only English club still in four tournaments.

“We have already seen how the mentality of the players has changed in the last two months, but we also have to see today that we have a way to go to the top level,” ten Hague said on Sunday.

That means anything above sealing a top-four finish would be a bonus. The same can be said of Newcastle who, like United, are on 39 points from 20 games. They have conceded a goal in their last 10 games in all competitions but, equally, have scored just once in four league games. Newcastle are third behind Liverpool (44) and City (37) in terms of missed chances, with 36, according to stats provider Opta. Unbeaten in 15 league games, a club record, manager Eddie Howe has transformed the team into a place where a Champions League berth no longer feels like a mid-summer pipe dream. Six points off the top four and still a work in progress under Antonio Conte, Spurs, however, may have something to say about that.

With three points separating the bottom seven teams, the battle for survival should be no less enticing. They include Everton, who have not won their last 10 league games, Leicester City, whose squad needs an overhaul with the likes of Jamie Vardy and Uri Tielemans, and West Ham, who have gone seven games without a win. Finished the run. at the weekend. After a 5-2 win over Cardiff City in the FA Cup, Leeds United manager Jesse Marsh had plenty to do. He could speak for all seven.

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