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Mikel Arteta. Picture: JASON CAIRNDUFF
Mikel Arteta. Picture: JASON CAIRNDUFF

Last season Arsenal’s title challenge crumbled during the run-in, but Gunners’ manager Mikel Arteta believes his team are in a better frame of mind than a year ago.

These and other talking points from the weekend’s Premier League matches.

‘Chokers’ tag rears its head: Arsenal’s league form in 2024 has been scintillating, the side picking up 31 points from 11 games before a 2-0 defeat by Aston Villa on Sunday saw them lose ground on Manchester City.

But the nature of the loss, squandering multiple chances in a dominant first-half display before conceding a late quick-fire double, will revive questions about the Gunners’ mentality after their title challenge petered out last season.

This term Arsenal have largely answered those questions, displaying greater mental strength, and remain just two points behind the City juggernaut.

Manager Mikel Arteta was asked if he feared Arsenal’s season fizzling out. “If one result is going to do that, then we are not strong enough,” he replied.

Their response to the Villa setback will show just how strong they are now.

Manchester City’s depth: Manchester City’s prolific striker Erling Haaland was misfiring on Saturday against Luton Town before he finally netted a Premier League-leading 20th goal of the season, but it was City’s depth that proved decisive in a 5-1 thrashing.

Mateo Kovacic, Jeremy Doku and Josko Gvardiol also scored, prompting manager Pep Guardiola to say: “Everyone has permission to score, and it’s so important.”

Phil Foden, who netted a stunning hat-trick against Aston Villa nine days earlier, was back on the bench after leaving Tuesday’s first leg of their 3-3 Champions League quarterfinal draw with Real Madrid through injury. He was not required.

Slow start sinks Liverpool: Liverpool have been tempting fate by conceding the first goal in four of their last five Premier League games at Anfield — and on Sunday it proved costly.

Eberechi Eze struck in the 14th minute to complete Crystal Palace’s dazzling string of 21 passes and they held on to beat Liverpool 1-0 in a huge blow to the Reds’ title hopes.

The hosts were better in the second half and peppered Palace with 21 shots overall, but this time they were unable to keep their title bandwagon rolling.

Watkins and Solanke jostle: Harry Kane remains the first name on England manager Gareth Southgate’s team sheet as Euro 2024 approaches, but suddenly strikers are queuing up to be his support act.

Ollie Watkins took his Premier League tally for the season to 19 with a sublime goal in Aston Villa’s 2-0 win at Arsenal on Sunday, just one off Golden Boot leader Erling Haaland.

On Saturday Dominic Solanke netted his 17th of the season for Bournemouth in their 2-2 draw with Manchester United to add weight to the argument he should be in the squad for Germany.

West Ham United’s Jarrod Bowen has 15 league goals, one fewer than Chelsea’s Cole Palmer, so when it comes to scorers Southgate will have plenty of options as he makes his final cut.

Generous Forest need to stop gifting points: Since Nottingham Forest’s return to the Premier League at the start of the 2022-23 season no team has lost more points from winning positions — a reason they are in a relegation battle for the second season in a row.

Forest were at it again on Saturday when they led 2-1 at home against mid-table Wolverhampton Wanderers deep into the second half but had to settle for a point in a 2-2 draw as a goalkeeping error allowed the visitors to equalise.

That is now 50 points they have let slip after taking the lead since the start of last season, 27 in the 2022-23 campaign and 23 so far this term. They need to fix that run in their remaining five games to ensure top-flight survival.


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