NOTTINGHAM, England (AP) — Another week, another Arsenal stumble.
Mikel Arteta has a job on his hands to keep his team’s title challenge on track.
It was a case of history repeating itself as the Premier League leaders let another two-goal lead slip and dropped valuable points for the second week in a row. A 2-2 draw with West Ham on Sunday followed the same score line against Liverpool seven days earlier.
It’s a costly habit to pick up, especially at a time when the wins are rolling in for second-place Manchester City.
While it all appears to be so easy for defending champion City, which recorded a 10th straight victory in all competitions by beating Leicester 3-1 on Saturday, Arsenal’s form is wobbling.
As if back-to-back draws weren’t bad enough for Arteta, it is the nature of his team’s mini-meltdowns against Liverpool and West Ham that will be of most concern.
On both occasions Arsenal was cruising. But at the London Stadium, just like at Anfield, the Londoners unraveled when under pressure.
“My worry is after 2-0 that we made that huge mistake and did not understand what the game required in that moment,” Arteta said. “We need that ruthless mindset to go kill a team and today we haven’t done it.”
Gabriel Jesus and captain Martin Odegaard appeared to put Arsenal on course to move six points ahead of City when both scored inside the first 10 minutes.
That was until Said Benrahma’s penalty in the 33rd set up a fightback and Jarrod Bowen equalized in the 54th.
In between Bukayo Saka missed a penalty which would have put Arsenal 3-1 ahead.
Even after dropping four points in two games, Arsenal remains four points clear of City having played a game more. But its lead over City was eight points less than a month ago.
City also has a better goal difference.
Arsenal plays City at Etihad Stadium in a pivotal game on April 26 and Arteta must hope the wounding recent results will not be too damaging to his players’ confidence.
“We have to remember we are still top of the league with everything in our own hands,” Odegaard said.
UNITED GOES THIRD
Manchester United had a collapse of its own against Sevilla in the Europa League when throwing away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2, but there was no repeat of that at Nottingham Forest on Sunday.
Leading 1-0 through Antony’s goal in the 32nd, Erik ten Hag’s team piled the pressure on relegation-fighting Forest and sealed the 2-0 win through Diogo Dalot in the 76th.
Victory saw United take advantage in the race for Champions League qualification after defeats for rivals Newcastle and Tottenham on Saturday.
United moved up to third, three points ahead of Newcastle.
While Antony scored one goal and provided the assist for another, the return of Christian Eriksen for his first start since hurting his ankle in January was a timely boost for Ten Hag as the injuries mount for United.
Marcel Sabitzer was a late withdrawal after picking up an injury while warming up at City Ground. The on-loan Austrian midfielder joins Lisandro Martinez, Raphael Varane, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw on the list of key absentees for United.
“You see how quickly things can change,” Ten Hag said. “Last week we had nine top-fit defenders, today we had four. We need the numbers, we are one of the few teams in three competitions … We are in a lot of games, we need the numbers to stay in those competitions because we want to bring a good team every time onto the pitch.”
Eriksen only started because of Sabitzer’s injury but looked like he had never been away with a classy performance in the heart of midfield.
“It’s the nature, a natural talent, everything is going so smooth with him, so many skills, game understanding,” Ten Hag said, adding “when you bring on Christian it’s not a disadvantage for your team and he proved it.”
FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL
While West Ham picked up a valuable point against Arsenal to move four points from the relegation zone, Hammers manager David Moyes said Saka’s penalty miss was a crucial moment in the game.
“Sometimes the fine lines are so small,” Moyes said. “They got a penalty and at 3-1 it’s going to be difficult. We got a bit of fortune, but then we grew and I quite fancied us to get a third one.”
Meanwhile Forest manager Steve Cooper was dismayed by the failure to award his team a spot kick when United’s Harry Maguire appeared to handle the ball with the game still at 0-0.
“I am not going to say it is the absolute reason why we lost the game, but I think it is a definite penalty from Maguire and possibly a second yellow card and could be a game changer,” Cooper said.
Forest remains in the bottom three with Cooper under increasing pressure.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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