Arsenal seek swift response to take title fight to Man City
Arsenal has no time to lick their wounds after losing the top spot in the Premier League to Manchester City as the Gunners aim to snap a four-game winless streak at Aston Villa on Saturday.
City must end Nottingham Forest’s five-month unbeaten run at the City Ground in the league if they are to maintain their momentum towards a fifth title in six seasons.
Liverpool’s trip to Newcastle could have big implications on who finishes in the top four come the end of the season, while there is a huge relegation six-pointer at the bottom as Leeds visit Everton.
AFP Sport looks at some of the key talking points ahead of the weekend’s action.
– Arteta still believes –
Arsenal’s unbeaten home record came to an end on Wednesday as City stormed the Emirates 3-1 and went top for the first time since November in the process.
After dropping just seven points in their opening 19 league games, Arsenal have let eight slip away in the last three, following defeat at Everton and a controversial 1-1 draw with Brentford.
“I have more belief than I had before the game,” said a defiant Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta after losing to City.
“With the performance and the level the team put in, we had the feeling we could beat them. Until the second goal, we had them.
“But we gave them three goals and the game at the end. Certain errors at this level, you can’t make. At the same time, the team put the level very high.”
City lead only on goal difference, and Arsenal still have a game in hand on their title rivals.
Victory at Villa Park would right the ship for Arteta’s men, but there are fears fatigue and injuries are beginning to hamper a young squad.
Influential midfielder Thomas Partey is expected to miss Saturday’s clash due to a muscle injury, while Gabriel Jesus remains out injured.
Last chance for Liverpool?
Liverpool’s first league victory of, 2023 against Everton on Monday night brought the Reds back into contention for a top-four finish.
Jürgen Klopp’s men still have a lot of ground to make up if they are to qualify for the Champions League for a seventh consecutive season.
Liverpool are nine points behind fourth-placed Newcastle but have a game in hand on the Magpies and the chance to cut that gap at St. James’ Park on Saturday.
Newcastle’s only league defeat of the season so far came at Anfield in August.
But five draws in their last six games have slowed their charge towards a place in the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.
– Everton back to earth –
An upturn in form for West Ham, Wolves and Leicester means it is increasingly likely that one if not both Leeds and Everton face the drop.
The Toffees were brought back to reality in the Merseyside derby on Monday after shocking Arsenal in Sean Dyche’s first game in charge.
Everton’s struggle for goals will not be helped by the continued absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin due to a hamstring injury.
“The Arsenal game’s a reminder of the quality that is here,” said Dyche. “Of course, the striking department has got fewer options than you would like in the Premier League, and especially for a club of this size and the expectation of its fans.”
Leeds remains in the caretaker charge of Michael Skubala after failing to land a series of targets to replace Jesse Marsch as manager.
Skubala oversaw two positive performances against Manchester United last week, but they only reaped one point as Leeds remain without a league win since November.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Aston Villa v Arsenal (1230), Brentford v Crystal Palace, Brighton v Fulham, Chelsea v Southampton, Everton v Leeds, Nottingham Forest v Man City, Wolves v Bournemouth (all 1500), Newcastle v Liverpool (1730)
Man Utd v Leicester (1400), Tottenham v West Ham (1630)