Brighton thrashed Arsenal 3-0 in the Premier League to virtually end the Gunners’ hopes for their first league title in almost two decades. Unless a miracle happens, Manchester City, who beat Everton 3-0, are going to win their fifth league title in six years in a couple of weeks’ time. City now have 85 points from 35 matches, while the Gunners have 81 from 36.
In fact, a disastrous second half of the season led to the Gunners’ undoing. Arsenal, who got a very impressive 43 points from their first 16 matches, only managed to get 38 from their last 20. The contrast becomes even starker if we consider that Mikel Arteta’s men have got only nine points in their last seven matches.
Moreover, Manchester City have beaten them quite handsomely on both occasions that the two sides have met, which proves their superiority. Those two victories were decisive ones in hindsight.
A team with a brittle defence cannot win a marathon league
The shortcomings in Arsenal’s defence have been exposed mercilessly by their recent opponents and it has become clear that no team can win the league title with such a brittle defense. William Saliba’s long absence owing to an injury has hurt them.
Arteta’s reluctance to switch to a back-three also seemed to compound their misery. It was evident that Rob Holding did not do enough to help Gabriel at the heart of Arsenal’s defence and Arteta’s decision not to strengthen it by playing an additional centre-back backfired.
Thomas Partey also could not contribute enough defensively as a defensive midfielder and had to be replaced by Jorginho in the last few matches. For all Partey’s passing brilliance and Granit Xhaka’s marauding forward-runs, Arsenal have lacked players who can shield their defense consistently.
Gabriel Jesus’ injury not helping the Gunners’ cause
Jesus started the season in great form but suffered an injury during the World Cup in December of last year. He made a return after a long injury lay-off, but has not been able to produce the same magic since then. Leandro Trossard has often been reduced to sitting on the bench because of Jesus’ return and Arsenal’s attack has suffered as a result. Eddie Nketiah has also failed to impress for the most part.
Hence, the Gunners have primarily depended upon their two wingers and Martin Odegaard for scoring goals. Both Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli have been exceptional, but they often lacked support as Odegaard was a bit underwhelming in the big matches against Manchester City.
Arteta must be ruing a missed opportunity but will take heart from the fact that his team has the ability to contend with the very best in the Premier League. With a few new signings, the Gunners will continue to be a force to be reckoned with next season.