London: The odds on Arsenal claiming their first Premier League title are lengthening by the game but manager Mikel Arteta still believes his young side can hold Manchester City at bay.
For the third game in a row the Spaniard went through the full gamut of emotions as his side drew 3-3 at home to bottom club Southampton on Friday having trailed 2-0 inside 15 minutes.
Late goals by captain Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka salvaged a dramatic point that may yet prove vital in Arsenal’s quest for a first league title since 2004.
But what went before, as Southampton were gifted three soft goals, suggested Arsenal’s lack of experience in the heat of a title run-in will ultimately prove telling.
Arteta admitted to feeling “empty” at the final whistle, yet his side will still go to Manchester City on Wednesday for what could be a pivotal clash, with a five-point lead.
Relishing the battle
Relentless City have two games in hand, however, and defeat for Arsenal on Wednesday will surely prove terminal.
Despite dropping six points in three games and suggestions Arsenal are buckling under the pressure, Arteta praised the character of his players and said he was relishing the battle with Pep Guardiola’s City on Wednesday.
“I cannot wait, these are the games you want to play. When everything is at stake you have to go there to win,” Arteta said.
“It is the beauty of this sport, you want to be in these positions. We will have an incredible trip to Manchester and we will prepare really well.”
Arteta said none of his players were “hiding” on Friday and said the fact they managed to salvage a point, and almost snatch a winner, spoke volumes for their spirit.
“This young team reacts in a way that is incredible, when it is against the odds but the chances they created and the spirit they had it was a joy to watch,” Arteta said.
“The message is clear, that I love them.”
One Arsenal player with experience of title wins is former City forward Gabriel Jesus.
The Brazilian said Arsenal must win at his old club.
“Now is the difficult moment. It is time now to stick together until the end,” he said. “We still have a lot of things to do this season. It’s not over, we are still five points clear.
“Manchester City have two games in hand but if we want to be champions we have to go there to win the game — that is all.”
Arsenal’s chance of winning the title, according to data company Gracenote, was 55 per cent on March 28 but had dropped to 32 per cent before kickoff on Friday.
That figure would have shrunk again after the draw with Southampton but with six games to go and a five-point lead, Arsenal’s destiny remains in their own hands… just.
But Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher summed up the task they face. “They are going to have to do something miraculous now. It is going to have to be really special,” the former Liverpool defender said.