Wednesday, May 31, 2023

An Emirates Wobble: Are Arsenal limping their way over the Premier League finish line?

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, English Premier League 24 Apr 2023

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While Arsenal might have mounted a stunning late comeback at home against Southampton on Friday night, the Gunners will know that they missed out on a golden opportunity in north London.

Eventually having to settle for an action-packed 3-3 draw against the leading relegation contenders, it appears that Mikel Arteta’s young squad are enduring somewhat of a wobble as the inch closer to the finish line.

Now only collecting a single point from each of their last three straight Premier League appearances, Arsenal have defending champions Manchester City firmly breathing down their neck.

Facing what looks set to be a season-defining trip to the Etihad on Wednesday night, Arteta will know that his squad is set for a heavyweight challenge in the blue half of Manchester.

Yet to find any real stability since returning from March’s international break, we have taken a look at three of the big issues on Arteta’s plate over the final few weeks.

Finding some much-needed defensive stability

While Arsenal might have headed into the World Cup’s winter break with a real reputation for their rugged defensive displays, Arteta will have a growing headache over his side’s inability to keep a clean sheet.

Shipping three at home against a Southampton squad who still find themselves sat rock-bottom of the Premier League standings, the Gunners have now come away unscathed in just one of their previous nine appearances across all competitions – a run that stems all the way back to a 4-0 victory against Everton on March 1st.

Collecting just a single point from each of their last three top-flight outings after playing out back-to-back 2-2 draws against Liverpool and West Ham earlier in the month, Arsenal’s leaky defence has come under some recent scrutiny.

With just a trio of Premier League clean sheets to their name over the past three months, it appears that Arteta’s side are struggling to fill the void left by an injured William Saliba.

Yet to make a single appearance since picking up a back injury last month, it remains to be seen when the French international defender will be able to make his first-team return.

Arsenal’s quest for history hinges on one trip to the Etihad

Although Arsenal might still have ended this weekend’s Premier League fixtures holding a five-point advantage over the reigning champions, Arteta will know that Wednesday’s trip to the Etihad could be a season-defining showdown.

However, while the Gunners might be showing some signs of a psychological struggle in their bid to claim a first domestic crown since way back in 2004, they will meet a Manchester City side who are certainly riding a recent wave of momentum.

Watching Pep Guardiola’s men punch their Champions League semi-final ticket thanks to a 4-1 aggregate romp against German giants Bayern Munich last week, Arteta himself faces a real challenge when he clashes against his former mentor.

Knowing that Wednesday’s trip to the Etihad could prove to be make or break, Arsenal will be desperate to rewrite the script given their woeful recent struggles against their bitter title rivals.

In fact, along with suffering a 3-1 defeat when they welcomed City to north London for their reverse Premier League meeting on February 15th, the Gunners have lost each of their last seven straight meetings against the Sky Blues.

Saka & Martinelli are the key to title success

Although both Gabriel Jesus and Alexander Zinchenko might have impressed many around north London since making the switch from Manchester City last summer, it is Arsenal’s young attacking superstars who hold the keys to their potential Premier League success.

While the Gunners might have shown some extended defensive issues on either side of March’s international break, Bakyao Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have only continued to spearhead Arteta’s young squad.

With both players firmly in contention to be crowned this season’s PFA Young Player of the Year, the duo of Saka and Martinelli have notched 28 Premier League strikes between them so far this season and have added a further 16 assists.

Quickly gaining a reputation as one of the Premier League’s most exciting attacking partnerships, Arsenal’s academy graduates have also broken a string of individual records this year.

With both Saka and Martinelli becoming two of the leading poster boys in Arsenal’s unlikely title charge this season, they certainly have plenty of pressure on their young shoulders over the final few weeks.


Tom Dunstan

Formerly of The Independent, Tom has spent the past six years as one of our senior writers and betting experts. Alongside working with numerous publications from across the globe, Tom also graduated from the University of Falmouth in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Digital Media.
Spending almost the past decade working in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, he has also spent time featuring in sports radio. Tom can be followed on Instagram - @iamtomdunstan



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