Arsenal face a potential title decider away against Manchester City on Wednesday, but first they must beat Southampton at home.
The Friday night game favours them on paper – they’re at home against the team who are bottom of the league. However, football isn’t that simple as Arsenal have discovered in recent weeks.
Arsenal probably should be eight points clear in first place rather than four. In two consecutive games at Anfield and the London Stadium, they surrendered two goal leads to draw 2-2.
Is the pressure getting to them? Are they running out of legs? Are their defensive injuries catching up with them? It’s probably a combination of all three of those factors, but they haven’t been disastrous.
In fact, since losing to Manchester City in February, they’ve won seven games and drawn two. If their rivals were anyone other than City, that may have been enough to have secured the title by now.
Instead, draws feel like defeats and the perceived inevitability of Pep Guardiola’s team weighs heavy. A win against Southampton is necessary for both their confidence and their position in the league. The draws against Liverpool and West Ham used up the Gunners’ margin for error.
They will have hoped they could have used their margin for error at the Etihad and perhaps at St. James’ Park. Now, they cannot blink before City again and at least a draw against them is essential.
In terms of Friday’s game, Arsenal will still be without William Saliba and Oleksandr Zinchenko. Their replacements Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney simply don’t help them control the ball in the same way. A win against Southampton is a good opportunity for those two players to build some confidence ahead of the Manchester City clash.
All eyes on the Emirates Stadium, then. Will Mikel Arteta’s men earn the right to play in a potential title decider? Their fans, as well as most neutrals dearly hope so.