Not many would have bet on Arsenal running away with the title at the beginning of the 2022-23 Premier League. Yet here we are, just beyond the halfway mark of the season and the Gunners have built a five-point bridge between themselves and second-placed Manchester City, with a game in hand.
Arsenal’s credentials as prospective champion received further validation when it pulled off a thrilling, late win over Manchester United at home. The 3-2 scoreline provides a faulty reflection of the game, vastly dominated by Mikel Arteta’s men, who look hell-bent on breaking the barren run in the league since Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles did it in 2003-04.
In fact, at this point in the competition, Arteta’s side has gathered more points than Wenger’s from ’04’.
Manchester City did manage to pull one over Arsenal, after it knocked out its title rival from the FA Cup, thanks to a Nathan Ake goal.
Pep Guardiola’s side will be spurred on in the league by the record-gobbling Erling Haaland, who scored yet another hat-trick, this time against Wolves, as he overtook last season’s golden boot tally, just beyond the halfway stage of the season.
Amidst all the drama at the top of the table, two traditional top-six sides, Liverpool and Chelsea played out a drab 0-0 draw, in a display which exemplified a disappointing season, looking set to end outside European spots, for both sides.
After stumbling in the opening rounds, Bayern Munich soon regained its customary spot atop the Bundesliga table. But hopes of walking away with yet another title took a hit as the 10-time defending champion stuttered to back-to-back draws to restart the league.
A 1-1 draw with RB Leipzig, was followed by two more damning 1-1 deadlocks against Cologne and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Meanwhile, Leipzig followed up its point against Bayern with a 6-1 dismantling of bottom-placed Schalke and a 2-1 win over Stuggart to park itself two points behind the Bavarians in third, with surprise package Union Berlin currently between the two.
Borussia Dortmund’s floundering season received an emotional prop, with its Ivorian forward Sebastian Haller returning to competitive football after fighting off testicular cancer. His comeback was marked by an electrifying 4-3 win over Augsburg.
There is no stopping the Napoli train and certainly no stopping Victor Osimhen, who scored against Salernitana and Roma.
The 2-1 win over the Jose Mourinho side meant Napoli enhanced its lead at the top of the table to a whopping 13 points.
Its title charge received a further boost, thanks to Lazio and Sassuolo, who annihilated defending champion and second-placed AC Milan in back-to-back games.
The Roman side Lazio, despite the absence of Ciro Immobile, ripped apart Stefano Pioli’s side for a 4-0 win. Milan was then mauled 2-5 at home by Sassuolo.
Atalanta’s goalscoring spree continued as it snared Juventus in a 3-3 draw before claiming a 2-0 win against Sampdoria.
Atlanta’s Nigerian striker, Ademola Lookman, is on the heels of Osimhen in the golden boot race, scoring in both games.
Barcelona preserved its three-point lead over Real Madrid with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Getafe before it snuck past Girona, again by the same scoreline, with its young sensation, Pedri finding the winner on both occasions.
Xavi Hernandez has successfully overseen a rebuild and will look to lock down on a first league title in four years.
Defending champion Real Madrid dropped further behind after it was held to a goalless draw at home by Real Sociedad. Earlier, Carlo Ancelotti’s side had secured a comfortable 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao, with senior players Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema delivering the goods.
Atletico Madrid returned to winning ways with a fluid performance against Real Valladolid, resulting in a 3-0 victory and followed it up with a well-earned 1-0 win over Osasuna.
PSG’s woeful run in the league continued as it dropped two more points to Reims, at home, with hopes of running away with the title fast disappearing.
In a game dominated by the less-fancied Reims, the Parisians took the lead thanks to a wonderfully worked goal by Neymar. But a Marco Verratti red card in the second half pushed the defending champion onto the back foot and the visiting side took full advantage of it in the very last minute of injury time with a sumptuous finish from Arsenal loanee Folarin Balogun.
Thankfully for PSG, title-chaser Lens too dropped points on its visit earlier in the week to Troyes, meaning it could preserve its three-point advantage on top of the league.
Goal of the week
Only a goal separated Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao, and the home side was out on the look for an equaliser with growing intensity. With just a minute left on the clock, Real Madrid pounced forward on a counter. Rodrygo rushed into the box from the right flank, creating time and space for him to pick a pass.
He chose to lay it on to an onrushing Kroos at the edge of the box, but failed in doing it with perfection, as the pass was behind the German.
But the midfield maestro showed his supreme technical quality by readjusting his body shape, just enough to wrap his foot around the ball and place it into the bottom corner, past Unai Simon. It was a goal of true genius.
Save of the week
Arsenal had just snatched the lead from Manchester United. The visiting side was desperate to get back into the game and was driven forward by the irrepressible Marcus Rashford.
The 25-year-old, once again, swung past multiple Arsenal defenders, before finding time to shoot amidst flailing limbs.
The on-target shot took a deflection, forcing Ramsdale to deploy his quick reflexes to palm the ball away from danger and help Arsenal preserve the lead.
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