5 games that may cost Arsenal a first Premier League title in 20 years

5 games that may cost Arsenal a first Premier League title in 20 years

Mark Kinyanjui 12:34 - 17.05.2024

The five key games that may well have cost Arsenal the Premier League title ahead of make-or-break season finale.

Since Pep Guardiola came to the Premier League to take charge of Manchester City in 2016, he has set the bar so high that any margin is seen as vital in making or breaking a team’s dream of securing a league title.

This has proved so in three of the eight seasons he has been at Man City. In 2019, Liverpool finished second on 97 points and still could not win the title. 

In 2022, City were trailing 2-0 to Aston Villa at the Etihad on the final day, giving Liverpool one hand on the title, only for the Cityzens to mount a dramatic comeback and win 3-2, which won them the title on 93 points to the Reds’ 92.

Last season, the story was the same. Arsenal slipped in the race in April which allowed City a foot back, and it is likely going to be the same case again this year.

Despite an impressive run in 2024, Arsenal’s title hopes have been jeopardised by critical slip-ups earlier in the campaign. As they approach the season's final match, the Gunners find themselves reflecting on five key games that could have solidified their position at the top.

1. Arsenal 2-2 Fulham (August)

The August encounter with Fulham at the Emirates was a game that highlighted Arsenal’s early-season vulnerabilities.

 An unforced error just one minute into the match saw Andreas Pereira capitalize on a weak back pass from Bukayo Saka, putting Fulham ahead. 

Although Arsenal rallied in the second half to take the lead, Joao Palhinha’s late equalizer from a corner sealed a 2-2 draw. This game was symbolic of Arsenal’s early inconsistencies and their struggle to close out matches.

2. Arsenal 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur (September)

In the North London derby, Arsenal once again failed to secure three points due to avoidable mistakes.

 After Saka gave Arsenal the lead, Jorginho’s costly error allowed Tottenham to level the scores almost immediately.

They then had to come from behind to rescue a draw away at Chelsea when David Raya’s aggressive positioning was caught out by Mykhailo Mudryk’s cross-cum-shot. Arsenal got three points from a possible nine in that trio of games, with each match including preventable goals.

3. Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal (December)

You may say the recent 2-0 loss to Villa in April is what really cost Arsenal the league which is true, but the first leg defeat away was even more damning .

A disappointing performance at Villa Park further dented Arsenal’s title aspirations. The Gunners conceded early due to a defensive mix-up and were unable to recover. 

This match was a stark reminder of their propensity for unforced errors and passive play, particularly during the busy winter period when squad rotation was critical. To rub salt in the wound, it is a Villa side managed by -yes, you guessed it - Unai Emery.

4. Arsenal 0-2 West Ham

The same could be argued during their 2-0 loss to West Ham United, also in December. A mix-up at the back post resulted in their opener before Dinos Mavropanos headed in the sucker-punching winner for the West Londoners.

The score could have been much worse, as David Raya had to step in to save a penalty by Said Benrahma, to spare Arsenal blushes.

5. Fulham 2-1 Arsenal (New Year’s eve)

Arsenal missed the chance to go top of the Premier League at new year

Saka put the Gunners ahead inside five minutes but Raul Jimenez equalised on his return from suspension, before Bobby Decordova-Reid scrambled home the winner on the hour.

Fulham’s equaliser came from a pattern that had occurred four times beforehand, and then Arsenal were unable to change the momentum of the game and generate “enough threat”, according to Arteta, before and after De Cordova-Reid struck the winner in the 59th minute.

Reflecting on the Season

Entering 2024, Arsenal had already accumulated four draws and four defeats from 20 league games. Their form in the new year was exemplary, with only one additional draw and one defeat in the next 17 matches. Despite this, Manchester City’s consistency kept them ahead, gaining 48 points from 18 games compared to Arsenal’s 46 from 17.

City's own winter stumble, which saw them go winless in four league games, briefly opened the door for Arsenal. However, the Gunners’ earlier missteps meant they could not fully capitalize on these opportunities.

For Arsenal, this season has been about proving that last year’s title challenge was no fluke. They have demonstrated that they belong in the race, but as with every campaign under Arteta, there is room to improve and widen the margins for success. 

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