While some Arsenal fans will be despondent and some pundits will write off their hopes of becoming Premier League champions after twice throwing away two-goal leads in a week, Gunners captain Martin Odegaard is staying positive.
Everything looked rosy for Arsenal after only 10 minutes of their game on Sunday at London Stadium against a struggling West Ham side.
Gabriel Jesus had opened the scoring after only seven minutes, with Odegaard’s volley making it two as the Gunners looked set to restore their six-point advantage at the top of the Premier League.
But, just as they did seven days ago at Anfield against Liverpool, 2-0 to the Arsenal early on became 2-2 at full-time.
Said Benrahma’s penalty, after poor play from firstly Thomas Partey and then Gabriel, gave West Ham hope, Gunners forward Bukayo Saka fired his own spot-kick wide and Jarrod Bowen scored an equaliser soon after in a Premier League thriller.
Even Gunners manager Mikel Arteta admitted his side should have secured the three points.
“Very disappointing,” said the Spaniard. “The way we started was superb again, we were in total control, then we lost purpose.
“We gave them hope, conceded a terrible penalty, then credit to them. We got on the rollercoaster where everything is going, corners and throw-ins, and we never got away from that.
“The purpose we needed for the third and fourth goal, I didn’t see it.”
As Odegaard says, Arsenal are still clear at the top, by four points, but reigning champions Manchester City have a game in hand and, with Erling Haaland breaking goalscoring records, Pep Guardiola’s side are looking unstoppable as they chase down a potential fifth title in six seasons.
It is now 10 wins in a row for City in all competitions as they push to win the Treble of Premier League, FA Cup and the long-term target of the Champions League.
City entertain Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, 26 April and if the Gunners lose will then need Guardiola’s team, who also have a better goal difference, to drop points in their remaining matches.
Arsenal are aiming to become English champions for the first time since Arsene Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ of 2003-04, who won the title without losing a league match.
“The key for them now is don’t let the doubt creep in,” said former England defender Matt Upson on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“The job for Mikel Arteta and his staff is to not allow the players feel down or negative about themselves.
“But the manner of how Arsenal lost that two-goal lead will be a concern for Arteta, who looked a bit of a dejected figure, understandably.
“You have to keep winning and this fixture was a massive opportunity – they started brilliantly but they’ve just let it slip away again. What that means for them psychologically moving forward is going to be interesting to see.
“They are still in a great position – you have to maintain that mentality, you have to keep believing, that’s the job for Arsenal at the moment and they have to keep it rolling on.”
Arsenal gave up a two-goal lead in consecutive Premier League games for the first time and became only the fifth side in the competition’s history to do so.
Arteta challenged his players to focus better on the whole 90 minutes, saying his team were “too comfortable, just playing around them”.
He added: “When a team is there [for the taking], you have to take that opportunity. We gave them hope.
“Every single game, you really have to be at your best [for the whole game], you have to really earn it.
“Every team is fighting for what they want, 30 minutes [of playing well] is not enough.”
Former striker Chris Sutton, a Premier League title winner with Blackburn, feels Arsenal could end up regretting their 2-2 draws with Liverpool and West Ham.
He said: “The question to Arsenal fans is ‘was today the day where their title dream ended?’
“I’m really surprised Arteta used that language ‘we were too comfortable at 2-0 up’.
“For Arsenal to squander, in the last two games, two-goal leads, you have to question whether they have that mental resilience to go on and win the title now.
“Of course it is still in their hands but the way Manchester City have been in previous seasons, we know they are capable of going on big runs.
“I suspect the Arsenal players would have sat in the dressing room at the end of the game and there will be that doubt that is really kicking in.
“It must filter through the fanbase as well because they were in such a good position. And it’s not like they have come from behind in the last couple of games – they have squandered two-goal leads and I think that could really hurt them.”
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