In what could turn out to be a crucial last-gasp winner come May, Arsenal laid down yet another title marker as they snatched an epic 3-2 victory against Manchester United on Sunday afternoon.
Watching Manchester City breeze their way to a routine 3-0 romp at home against Wolves earlier in the day, the Gunners knew that they had all eyes on them at the Emirates.
However, despite falling behind to Marcus Rashford’s speculator early strike, Mikel Arteta’s youngsters showed their mental resolve after as they mounted a stellar comeback in north London.
Although World Cup-winner Lisandro Martínez might have dragged United level after Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka found the net on either side of the half-time break, there was time for Arsenal to lay down another crucial marker.
With the red-hot Nketiah poking home from close range in the 90th-minute and sending the Emirates crowd into overdrive, the Gunners also handed their historic rivals a critical blow.
In what was yet another thriller between the two English heavyweights on Sunday afternoon, we have taken a look at the five main talking points.
It’s Arsenal’s title to lose
While Manchester City might have briefly moved within two points of the Gunners following their 3-0 victory against Wolves earlier in the day, that result didn’t seem to have any effect on Arteta’s youngsters.
Although many might have wondered if Arsenal could keep up the same momentum after returning from the World Cup interval, Sunday’s hosts have only continued on what could be a history-making campaign in north London.
Despite eventually missing out on a Champions League return last season, Arteta’s young squad have lost just a single Premier League appearance so far and they have received a string of praise from across Europe.
Showing real mental resolve once again as they snatched a last-gasp winner against their historic rivals, Arsenal have also laid down a pair of clinical statements over the past week.
Claiming north London bragging rights thanks to that deserved 2-0 win against Spurs on January 15th and with the mood in their camp at a red-hot high, Arteat’s side will know this is their title to lose.
Nketiah is going above and beyond
With many Arsenal fans left hugely concerned last month after watching new attacking talisman Gabriel Jesus suffer a knee injury while away with Brazil on World Cup duties, Nketiah knew that he had plenty of expectations put on his young shoulders.
However, while some might have been concerned by who would lead Arsenal’s charge in Jesus’ absence, Nketiah has certainly proven that he is more than an understudy for the ex-Manchester City striker.
Grabbing a last-gasp winner for the Gunners on Sunday evening and eventually leaving the Emirates with another brace to his name, the England U21 record-breaker is in the midst of a stellar purple patch.
Clearly enjoying life as Arsenal’s leading man, Nketiah has now bagged seven strikes in as many appearances on either side of the World Cup break.
Underlining why Arteta was so desperate to keep him in north London last summer, it will be interesting to see how Nketiah features when Jesus returns from his knee injury.
United suffer more last-gasp heartbreak
While some around Old Trafford might have been dreaming of a shock title charge during the second-half of the season, there is no doubt that Manchester United have come crashing back down over the past week.
However, despite eventually having to settle for more last-gasp heartbreak as they played out a 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace in midweek, Erik ten Hag’s men have undoubtedly made a string of improvements since returning from the World Cup break.
Despite suffering their first domestic defeat since returning from the festive interval on Sunday afternoon, United find themselves sat in pole position to claim a much-needed Champions League return in 2023.
Although the mood on their return to Manchester will be glum after missing out on what was their own chance to lay down a title marker, ten Hag was filled with praise for his side’s display here.
With the former Premier League champions making it clear at the start of the season that a top-four return was their number one priority, United still hold a commanding five-point buffer over dropping out of the Champions League spots.
Rashford is in the form of his life
Although ten Hag might feel that his squad deserved to leave north London with something to show for their troubles, the ex-Ajax boss will be hugely excited by Rashford’s remarkable free-scoring run.
While there might have been much speculation last year that United’s homegrown superstar could be on his way out of Old Trafford, the England international has come roaring back since returning from the World Cup interval.
Bagging three Goals as Gareth Southgate’s men reached the quarter-finals last month, Rashford certainly didn’t deserve to be on the losing side here.
Opening the scoring with a thunderous 25-yard strike that left Aaron Ramsdale helpless, the 25-year-old is certainly the man who is spearheading United’s Champions League charge.
Now bagging nine domestic strikes in as many appearances since returning from the World Cup break, Rashford is undoubtedly in the best goalscoring run of his career.
Proving to be a crucial part of ten Hag’s plans, it is no surprise why United are so desperate to tie the 51-cap international down to a new long-term deal.
Saka joins an elite Arsenal list
While it might have been Nketiah’s brace that eventually dragged Arsenal to maximum points on Sunday afternoon, Saka has also continued to spearhead the Gunners’ title charge on either side of the break.
Producing a sublime effort eight minutes after the interval and now bagging three Premier League strikes in his last five appearances, the England ace also made his own piece of history here.
In fact, now finding the net in each of his last three straight Premier League meetings against Manchester United, Saka joins an illustrious list of Arsenal legends.
Playing another crucial role as Arteta’s side once again widened their buffer at the top of the table to five points, Saka has joined Thierry Henry and Freddie Ljungberg to become one of three Arsenal players to have scored against United in three consecutive league games
Arsenal: Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Odegaard, Partey, Xhaka, Saka, Nketiah, Martinelli
Subs: Holding, Tomiyasu, Trossard
Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw, McTominay, Eriksen, Rashford, Fernandes, Antony, Weghorst
Subs: Fred, Garnacho
Goals: Arsenal: Nketiah (24′, 90′), Saka (53′) – Manchester United: Rashford (17′), Martinez (59′)
Yellow Cards: Arsenal: White – Manchester United: Antony, Shaw
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Anthony Taylor
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