ARSENAL’S title challenge, which for so long has looked impenetrable, appears to be disintegrating before their own eyes.
The Gunners, who led the league since the start of the campaign in August and at one time had an eight-point cushion at the top of the standings, were brought back down to earth with a serious loss in midweek.
They were beaten by champions Manchester City, who assumed the top spot by virtue of a superior goal difference – both teams have 51 points (City from 23 games, Arsenal from 22).
In the early kick-off today, the Gunners will be aiming to retake pole position, even if it’s only for a couple of hours or so. City play Nottingham Forest in a later game.
Mikel Arteta will rally his side in a bid to overcome Aston Villa at Villa Park. And before midweek, one would have given Arsenal a head start – but not now.
Now, Arteta must somehow get his players to believe that they still have it in them to win, only because of the defeat at the Emirates on Wednesday.
It was a devastating loss, brought about by a stylish second-half performance by probably the best team in club football on their day.
And that is why not too much should be attached to the loss.
But what will worry Arteta is that they have dropped eight points from a possible nine in their last three league matches.
Across all competitions, they have now lost three of their last four games, including two against Man City, who are by far England’s barometer.
Manchester United, third on the log and five points behind the Gunners, who have a game in hand, welcome Leicester City in a match that they should win.
The Red Devils, unbeaten in their last seven matches, will most surely look to Marcus Rashford to see them past a Leicester side that is at last beginning to show signs of emerging from a great slump.
They have scored four goals in each of their last two league games and won three at a trot, if one takes in the FA Cup win over Walsall.
Brendan Rogers’ Foxes can be quite stubborn on their day, but they have also been way too erratic to be considered a great threat to teams like in-form Manchester United.
Perhaps a score-win for the home team is the more likely result.
More so after the Red Devils held Barcelona in midweek in the Europa League – when Man United manager Erik ten Hag sneakily said that Barca midfielder Frenkie de Jong was a “unique” player that would “strengthen any squad in the world”.