Knocked off the top spot, winless in three games and misfiring in front of goal, Arsenal’s surprise quest for the Premier League title has had a February to forget.
Mikel Arteta’s side finished fifth last season, 24 points off the top, but the Spaniard has masterminded a monumental reversal of form this time around.
Arsenal was eight points ahead in the standings a month ago, but then came a defeat by Everton, a draw with Brentford and then Wednesday’s 3-1 home defeat by Manchester City.
City now tops the table on goal difference, albeit with a game more played, and has set aside its own stumbles to win its last three matches.
Arsenal pressed with intensity on Wednesday and produced a spirited performance, but its frailties were clear to see. Eddie Nketiah put a free header wide, Takehiro Tomiyasu volleyed a chance over and Bukayo Saka fluffed his lines when he took too long to get a shot away.
Arteta’s decision to opt for Tomiyasu, rather than Ben White, at right back, backfired when he handed City the opener with a mistimed back pass which Kevin De Bruyne lifted over Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
Its shortcomings continued, with Tomiyasu sending an effort soaring over the bar soon after. It had 10 shots but only one on target, a statistic which may help to explain why it has scored only twice in its last four games, including the 1-0 FA Cup defeat by City.
It is a familiar story for Arsenal, which has struggled to scrape positive results from disappointing performances like championship-winning sides of recent years.
Against Everton, where it was lost 1-0, it was wasteful in the final third and couldn’t make a late string of chances count.
At home to Brentford Arsenal had more shots overall, the most efforts on target and the lion’s share of the possession but still failed to win.
The momentum may be with the Manchester club, but Arsenal’s title hopes are far from over and the game in hand could see them back on top before long.
The fact that slipping from top place on goal difference is a disappointment also shows how far it has come in a year, where it had battled from a disappointing start to the season, losing 5-0 to City, to sit sixth in February 2022.
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