Arsenal’s title dream hangs by a thread

Arsenal bounced back from behind to salvage a 3-3 draw with Southampton in a Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium on Friday. With that draw, the Gunners are still at the top of the league table with 75 points from 32 matches. Mikel Arteta’s men have thus drawn each of their last three matches to throw the title race wide open.

However, Manchester City, who is five points adrift with a couple of matches in hand, will have a very good chance of catching up with Arsenal. The two clubs face off in an all-important match at the Etihad Stadium next Wednesday.

The attacking unit of Arsenal is still in top form

Arsenal has an enviable set of attacking players in their line-up. They probably have the most potent pair of wingers in world football. Gabriel Martinelli has made it a habit of getting into the opposition penalty box to score goals, his goal against Southampton being the latest testimony to that.

Bukayo Saka continues to reaffirm his status as the most improved youngster in English football. The 21-year-old produced a tireless performance yet again versus Southampton. He has a very creditable 14 goals and 11 assists from 42 matches this season, and keeps delivering with his speed, consummate dribbling, and crossing skills.

Martin Ødegaard remains a number 10 with and his ability to find the net with shots from outside the penalty box. Gabriel Jesus is a very mobile centre-forward. Add to the fact that players like Leandro Trossard and Reisse Nelson can change the complexion of a match coming off the bench, and that plays into the Gunners’ hands.

With the help of these players, Arsenal absolutely tormented Liverpool and West Ham United for the initial half hour of those matches. They also bounced back quite creditably to salvage a precious point against Southampton to keep their nose in front.

The Gunners’ defense has suffered without William Saliba

However, Arsenal’s vulnerability in defense has caused them to suffer of late. They have looked shaky against quick attacks by their opponents as well as incisive through passes that have often breached their defensive line.

Both Liverpool and West Ham United managed to erase two-goal deficits to snatch a point from Arsenal. The Gunners started Fabio Vieira instead of Granit Xhaka in the midfield against Southampton in what was obviously an attacking move, but conceded a couple of goals within the first 15 minutes of the match.

Thomas Partey is a very good passer, but does not have the tendency to sit between the two centre-backs to play as the de-facto sweeper. He is more comfortable playing a little further up the pitch and spreading the ball around.

William Saliba’s prolonged absence owing to an injury has not helped the Gunners either. They have looked a lesser side in the absence of the young French central defender. Arteta should, therefore, think about reinforcing his team’s defense by instructing Xhaka to play close to the centre-backs against Manchester City. After all, it is a match they can seldom afford to drop points in.

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