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Arteta adamant imploding Arsenal can handle title pressure

China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-04-18 09:53
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Arsenal defender Gabriel (front) cuts a dejected figure following Sunday's 2-2 draw at West Ham. ACTION IMAGES/REUTERS

LONDON — Arsenal's bid to win the Premier League for the first time since 2004 is in danger of imploding, but Mikel Arteta remains adamant the leaders can cope with the pressure of the title race.

Arteta's side blew a two-goal lead for a second successive game as West Ham hit back to snatch a 2-2 draw at the London Stadium on Sunday.

After squandering the same advantage in last weekend's 2-2 draw at Liverpool, the Gunners once again paid the price for taking their foot off the gas.

Although Arsenal is four points clear of second-placed Manchester City, it is the champion who has all the momentum heading into the final weeks of a gripping title battle.

With a home game against Arsenal looming on April 26, City knows it will be crowned champion if it wins its last eight games.

Ominously for Arsenal, Pep Guardiola's men have already beaten them twice this season, winning 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium in the league in February, just weeks after knocking the Gunners out of the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory in Manchester.

For Arsenal to no longer be in control of its own destiny is a bitter pill for Arteta to swallow after the north London side's long spell at the top this term.

Arteta concedes Arsenal's untimely collapses against West Ham and Liverpool were self-inflicted wounds, with the Spaniard especially frustrated by the way his players took their strong position for granted on Sunday.

But he refuses to accept it was the tension of being chased so relentlessly by City that provoked the calamitous results.

"I'm certain it is not the pressure. It is we misunderstood what was needed in that moment," he said.

"It was very different to Liverpool in terms of the pattern of play. But that is the next stage, you have to play with the same purpose when it is 2-0.

"You have to have more composure to finish the game. When you drop your level so quickly the game is there for the opponent."

Before the summit meeting with City, Arsenal hosts Southampton on Friday.

A victory over the bottom-of-the-table Saints would move Arsenal seven points clear of City, who doesn't play in the league this weekend due to its FA Cup semifinal against Sheffield United on Saturday.

Fueled by Erling Haaland's record-breaking scoring spree, City — who has won its last 10 games in all competitions — has the edge in the remaining matches after the Arsenal showdown.

City's toughest tests could be west London trips to Fulham and Brentford, although its progress in the Champions League might also pose a distraction.

Arsenal's trickiest fixtures could be a daunting visit to Newcastle and a home game against in-form Brighton, while a London derby against struggling Chelsea can't be taken for granted.

'Ruthless mindset'

Arteta does not believe Arsenal's young squad is running out of steam toward the end of its unexpected title bid.

But he will spend the days leading up to the Southampton game searching for answers to the blip that threatens to ruin its dream season.

"Fatigue? No. The best way to put it is to convince the team they can do it. We have to dig very deep and find the solution," he said.

"We stopped playing with the purpose to score a third and fourth one. It looked too easy. We gave them hope and, credit to West Ham, they took it.

"We need that ruthless mindset to go kill a team and we haven't done it."


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