Arsenal was cruising three weeks ago, one hand on its first Premier League trophy for 19 years, albeit with one eye on an impressive Manchester City, then eight points behind in the title race with a game in hand.
But pressure can do strange things, and the Gunners now face the daunting prospect of traveling to the Etihad Stadium to face City on Wednesday in an effective title-decider after three improbable draws, dropping six points and finding themselves just five points ahead of City which now has two games in hand.
First, there was the trip to Anfield where Arsenal dominated Liverpool in every facet of the game for 40 minutes and opened up a 2-0 lead with ease, before somehow Liverpool pulled a goal back, then equalized in the 87th minute and almost scored a winner in injury time.
But, for all its problems this season, Liverpool is still “a very, very difficult team to dominate for 90 minutes … a really good team,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said in his press conference afterwards, and Anfield is still Anfield.
It seemed like it might be a blip, simultaneously a dropped two points and salvaged one point, that injected drama into a title race still balanced on a knife-edge between Arsenal and City.
Then, the following weekend, the exact same scenario played out but this time against 14th placed West Ham, just three points above the relegation zone, and compounded by a missed penalty from Bukayo Saka.
And on Friday, Arsenal suffered a third consecutive draw against bottom placed Southampton at home, although this time it was the one salvaging a draw from defeat.
Southampton raced into a 2-0 lead after less than 15 minutes, and it took two late goals from Martin Ødegaard and Bukayo Saka in the 88th and 90th minute to rescue a 3-3 draw.
“At the end it’s tough because you can see (the players) on the floor and you have to leave them,” Arteta said in his press conference afterwards. “I think everybody has to disconnect tonight, digest it and tomorrow start to think what is the best way to go to Manchester to beat them.”
The Gunners will face a seasoned City this week, one accustomed to winning Premier League titles and still seeking a treble this season with Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid and a FA Cup semifinal against Sheffield United coming up.
“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,” forward Gabriel Jesus told Sky Sports after the Southampton result.
And as the season approaches its climax, City is in sparkling form, following 10 consecutive victories and a draw in the second leg of its Champions League quarterfinal against Bayern Munich, helped by a record-breaking Erling Haaland seemingly finding the goal at every opportunity.
At Arsenal, meanwhile, Arteta has built a title challenge out of a young but talented squad around academy graduate Saka and Brazilian youngster Gabriel Martinelli, integrating summer signings Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, whose experience winning titles at City will likely prove crucial.
“Whether the point makes that much difference to Arsenal, I’m not quite sure,” former Liverpool player and now pundit Jamie Carragher said on Sky Sports.
“They’ve probably got to go to Man City and get three points if they want to go on and win the league. They did have a really sizeable lead, but they are going to have to do something miraculous now between now and the end of the season.”