Arsenal have to beat to be the best

Arsenal are 90% of the way to winning the title for the first time since 2004, but are missing the 10% that could ultimately fail to win the Premier League this season. With eight matches remaining, the fine lines between success and failure are starting to work against the Gunners and second-placed Manchester City, who are six points behind and have a game in hand vs. West Ham.

Arsenal still have time, and a huge game at the Etihad on April 26, to get the momentum back on them. But in Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Liverpool at Anfield — when Mikel Arteta’s side went 2-0 up, lost focus and then equalized in the 87th minute — that elusive 10% and they didn’t do it most when it counted. .

For all their progress this season and the pleasing manner in which they have led the title race for most of the campaign, Arsenal still struggle against their main rivals when the pressure is on.

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A 3-2 win over Manchester United at the Emirates in January was a big win, but United are a team in transition under Erik ten Hag so that win cannot be classed as a significant difference-maker. Yet the only results Arsenal can chase if the title slips out are a 0-0 draw at home to Newcastle in January, a 3-1 loss against City at the Emirates in February and Sunday’s draw with Liverpool – games when a win felt like more than just three points.

Arteta has rectified Arsenal’s long-standing error of a soft touch against teams they would expect to lose. Years have seen the team finish fourth as a success, but a new standard has been set and with only a handful of squad members playing under Arsene Wenger before his departure in 2018, a new ethos has developed. The final piece of the jigsaw is winning when the pressure is most intense against the best teams in the league

In their head-to-head matches against the current top four, they have picked up no points against City (one loss), one at Newcastle (one draw) and three against United (one win; one loss). The fact that Arsenal still have to play their return matches against City (April 26) and Newcastle (May 7) — in between at home to Chelsea (April 29) — will be a source of worry or concern for either Arteta and his players. However, looking at their record, this must be a concern for their fans.

We will only know how good this Arsenal team is at the end of the season. They have been excellent so far, showing a huge improvement in recent years, but their 2022-23 title race could go straight back to the final if they fail to win against their rivals. Few trophies are claimed without a test of nerve during the run-in, so if they are to finish the season as champions, they will likely need to come away with a win at either City or Newcastle, or hope Pep Guardiola’s side drop points. Street.

The harsh reality though is that Arsenal could end the season with 94 points and still finish second. Currently on 73, they will likely need to collect 95 (22 from the remaining 24 on offer) to be crowned champions — five more than the club’s biggest Premier League points tally, which was recorded by Wenger’s “Invincibles” in 2003-04.

Arsenal must overcome heights that are a testament to the strength of their opponents. City have been so ruthlessly efficient under Guardiola that they have broken the 90-point barrier three times in the last five seasons, won four titles and even reached 100 points in 2017-18. When Wenger’s side made history by winning the title unbeaten in 2003–04 they won 26 games and drew the remaining 12; Arteta’s side have already won 23, drawn four and lost three. Incredibly, 30 wins this season may still not be enough as City have raised the bar to such a level.

The questions still being asked about Arteta’s Arsenal do not apply to Guardiola’s City as they have emphatically answered many times in the recent campaign by beating their rivals both home and away. Last season, they topped the ‘Big Six’ table (vs Liverpool, Chelsea, Man United, Arsenal and Tottenham) with 20 points from 30 and six wins from 10 games; Arsenal at the bottom with nine points, and seven defeats from 10 points.

City also tends to get better during the run-in rather than fade, in fact, over the last 10 games of the past three seasons they averaged 2.4 points per game (ppg) in 2019-20, 2.1 ppg in 2020-21 and 2.4 in 2021-22. ppg. In the same period, Arsenal managed 1.6ppg, 2.0ppg and 1.5ppg.

And, as if that wasn’t already tough enough for Arsenal fans, City’s record against the Gunners in the Premier League since the start of 2013 is P20, W14, D4, L2, including seven wins in nine games. The Etihad

So Arsenal know they must beat strong opposition to win the title, but if they can somehow come out of the Etihad with a win or even a draw, it will give them the confidence to take the final step to glory in the final five games. . Now they just have to do it.

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