Well, that was dramatic, to say the least. Now, let’s get into the nut and bolt of this pulsating encounter.
Declan Rice scored a last-minute header to seal all three points for Premier League leaders Arsenal against newly promoted Luton Town. Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring for the Gunners in the 20th minute but the home side equalised five minutes after through Gabriel Osho. Gabriel Jesus restored Arsenal’s lead on the stroke of half time with a thumping header but Luton came out for the second half flying and deservedly got their equaliser.
The next goal sent shockwaves to the rest of the Premier League when former Everton and Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley scored in the 57th minute to send Kenilworth Road into a frenzy. Kai Havertz equalised for Arsenal three minutes later to restore parity. With Luton set to take a point home, Martin Odegaard found Rice with a floating cross into the box and the England international stooped high to score the winner in the 97th minute.
3 positives & negatives from Arsenal’s dramatic win at Luton Town
The win takes Arsenal five points clear of second-placed Liverpool with 36 points, albeit playing a game more. The game was more than perfect as illustrated by the scoreline, but, let’s take a look at three positives and negatives from the wild game.
Positive #1: Late win shows champions mentality
How many times have you heard of the phrase ‘champion mentality’? Well, Arsenal have displayed that all season and you can never write this team off even in the last second of a football match. While everyone enjoys a last-minute winner, I rather prefer a comfortable routine victory, but that was not the case at Luton.
There are different factors to look at in this game. First, the size of the pitch at Kenilworth Road is smaller than what the Arsenal players and most of the established Premier Leagues stars have become accustomed to. Arsenal loves to keep the ball, move the opposition about and create space to run on to, that was not the case here. The Luton players have become used to their stadium and decided not to sit deep, they came out to play and were very coordinated in their approach. They blocked passing lanes which forced David Raya to kick long from goal kicks. It was a positive approach from the home side and it almost yielded results. It worked for them a few weeks back against Liverpool with that 2-2 draw and I think they were a little bit unfortunate tonight.
Secondly, it is redundant to talk about tired legs at this point of the season. But when you take into consideration that Arsenal played in the Champions League on Tuesday, played on Saturday in the league and three days after were at it again, it makes perfect sense to have heavy legs. The players have played too many games and it is taking a toll on them, but as champions the team is aiming to become at the end of the season, it is imperative they find a way here to win.
Thirdly, defense lapses and errors from Raya which has taken me to what I consider as negative from this game.
Negative #1: Defensive frailties a big concern?
Arsenal made the short trip to Luton Town with the best defense in the division after conceding only 11 goals this season, but on the night, they let in three goals against a team that ordinarily should be struggling to score against them. The big concern from the game is David Raya not being able to command his area and catch a cross from the corner which allowed Adebayo to head home and how he allowed Barkley’s shot to squeeze beneath him.
But as Arteta puts it in his post match conference, the team could have defended better. Gabriel Jesus allowed Osho to have a free header in a crowded box, they also failed to deal with their second goal, again, from another corner and I think Ben White should have done better to close down Barkley for the third.
Arsenal have not conceded more than two goals in a single match this season. Luton could be an off day but Mikel Arteta should take a closer look at why this has happened and fix it ahead of a busy schedule.
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