Cracks appearing in leader Arsenal’s EPL title bid
The first cracks are appearing in Arsenal’s English Premier League title bid, right before the team’s biggest match of the season.
A 1-1 draw at home to Brentford on Saturday came a week after a lackluster 1-0 loss at Everton.
Hardly the run of results the leader will have wanted heading into the big one on Wednesday, when second-placed Manchester City comes to Emirates Stadium.
Six points separate the teams, though City can reduce that when the defending champion hosts Aston Villa on Sunday. Beat Arsenal, too, and City could even climb into first place — albeit having played a game more.
Arsenal was flat against a Brentford team which — following the playbook of Everton — defended in numbers and hit on the break, leading to lots of sterile possession from Mikel Arteta’s team.
Leandro Trossard’s first goal for Arsenal since his move from Brighton gave the hosts the lead in the 66th minute when he converted a cross from Bukayo Saka.
Ivan Toney claimed Brentford’s equalizer with a close-range header eight minutes later after Arsenal failed to clear a free kick.
It is the first time this season that Arsenal has gone back-to-back games without a win, and this was the just the second time the team has dropped points at home.
“Games are won in margins in this league,” Arteta said, “and when you take the margins away it becomes really difficult. The team had a really strong performance again today but we didn’t get the three points.”
Newcastle has finally hit something of a sticky patch, too.
The Saudi-owned team drew at relegation-threatened Bournemouth 1-1, a week after drawing West Ham 1-1 at home. In fact, Newcastle has had five draws in its last six league games.
Newcastle is clinging on to fourth place but all of these draws will give hope to the chasing pack.
TOTTENHAM’S BAD DAY
Tottenham lost a game and one of its key players.
As if getting thrashed by Leicester 4-1 wasn’t bad enough, Tottenham saw star midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur go off in the second half with what looked like a serious leg injury ahead of a last-16 match against AC Milan in the Champions League next week.
Bentancur gave Tottenham the lead but Leicester replied through goals from Nampalys Mendy, James Maddison, Kelechi Iheanacho and Harvey Barnes.
Manager Antonio Conte was back in the dugout for Spurs after gallbladder surgery.
FELIX’S FIRST GOAL
João Félix’s second match for Chelsea went better than his first.
The Portugal forward scored his first goal for the club in a 1-1 draw at West Ham on his return from a three-game suspension following a sending-off on his debut a month ago.
Félix guided home a volley off a cross from another new signing, Enzo Fernandez, in the 16th minute only for Emerson Palmieri — a former Chelsea player — to equalize in the 28th.
It was a third straight draw for Chelsea’s expensively assembled team, which is languishing in ninth place.
FACING THE SACK
Southampton manager Nathan Jones’ job is in the balance after Saints squandered a lead in a 2-1 home loss to Wolverhampton, which played more than an hour with 10 men and scored goals in the 72nd and 87th minutes.
January signing Joao Gomes scored the winner to leave Southampton in last place and four points from safety.
Under Jones, who replaced Ralph Hasenhuttl three months ago, Southampton has lost seven of its eight league games.
As the fulltime whistle was greeted by a chorus of deafening boos, Jones headed straight down the tunnel.
“I have never done that in my life before,” Jones said. “In terms of 390 games, I have never done that, but I am not sure if me going round clapping would have shown respect.”
Asked if it was likely to be his last match in charge, Jones replied: “I have no idea.”
Fulham beat Nottingham Forest 2-0 to climb to seventh place, and Brighton was held by Crystal Palace to 1-1.
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
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