The Premier League has new league leaders as the Gunners squander an eight-point lead in just two weeks
Last Updated: 01.35 PM, Feb 16, 2023
When Arsenal beat a resurgent Manchester United 3-2 at home in late January, thanks to an injury-time winner by Eddie Nketiah, there was a significant belief in North London that this could be the year that they win their first league title in 19 years. But since that dramatic win over their old rivals, they are without a win in four games that followed, with three defeats and one draw in all competitions. Their eight-point lead at the top has evaporated and now sit second to Manchester City on goal difference. Their defeat to City last night has raised questions about their credibility as serious title challengers. Even though they have a game in hand when compared to their closest rivals City and United, they have to face City again, a team who has already beaten the Gunners twice in the space of two weeks, including the 1-0 defeat in the FA Cup.
Defending champions City, despite their off-field problems, appear to be the new favourites for the title as they hunt for their third consecutive league title — a feat that has only been achieved by United in the Premier League era (1999-2001 and 2007-2009). City boss Pep Guardiola is a serial winner and the tail end of the season is when he thrives, unlike his protege and current Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta. Arsenal’s young manager failed to guide his side to a top-four finish last season, despite being in a comfortable position for most of the 2021-22 season, as his team imploded towards the final matches and their North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur pipped them to the final UEFA Champions League qualification spots. But to Arteta’s credit, his young team has shown great spirit and determination this season, whilst also playing some eye-catching football. Their unexpected push for the title was something not even the most ardent Arsenal fans would’ve predicted at the start of the season.
Unfortunately for Arsenal, they are up against Guardiola’s men who are serial winners. Then there is the additional threat of Manchester United, their old rivals from the glory days of the late 90s and early 2000s, who have become the outside favourites for the title under the new leadership of Erik Ten Hag. United are the most in-form team in England since the World Cup, which has also coincided with the departure of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. United fans and the club itself would certainly play down their title aspirations, but they currently sit just five points behind league leaders and derby rivals Manchester City.
The title race is far from over, and one can expect many more twists and turns as the season draws to a close in May. Arsenal are certainly in with a shout, and City have a few chinks in their once impenetrable armour despite Erling Halaand scoring goals for them as if he was playing FIFA 23 on the easy difficulty. Whereas United are an injury or two away from their surge to the top being halted. United’s midfield general Casemiro’s absence in recent games, especially against Arsenal, has visibly affected their performances, and an injury to Marcus Rashford or captain Bruno Fernandes could have a significant impact on their season.
The Premier League has not witnessed a three-way title tussle in years. Liverpool and Chelsea continue to struggle in mid-table and Spurs are enduring another season of ups and downs, despite their talisman Harry Kane being at his very best yet again. Then there is Newcastle United who are sitting comfortably at 4th — an incredible feat considering they were 19th when Eddie Howe took over the side last season. It is still Arsenal’s title to lose, but City are more than capable of going on a winning streak to lift the trophy come May. And if either of these teams slips up, Ten Hag’s Red Devils will be more than willing to capitalise on the situation.