Updated: Apr 29
Alvin Jones, Staff Writer
Eddie Nkethiah (left) scoring the winning goal for Arsenal. Photo//Tom Jenkins/The Guardian
There is perhaps no team in Europe experiencing a more dramatic turnaround than Arsenal. After a slow start to the 2021-2022 season, the Gunners went on a solid run of form that saw them reach the top four of the league, which would have secured them a spot in the Champions League.
However a late season slide, punctuated by heartbreaking losses to bitter rivals Tottenham and rising Newcastle, caused Arsenal to slip to fifth place, missing out on the Champions League.
The bitter finish overshadowed a promising season for Arsenal, which saw key players like Bukayo Saka, Aaron Ramsdale, Eddie Nketiah, and Ben White make impressive strides. This season, buoyed by new signings like Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Fábio Vieira, alongside the arrival of William Saliba, have vaulted Arsenal to be the best team in the league. They have won all but three games so far and sit at the top of the table.
The only loss of Arsenal’s season was to Manchester United, as new United boss Erik Ten Hag grabbed a 3-1 win at Old Trafford. United went into the Emirates on Sunday with an eight-game undefeated streak trying to replicate that early season performance.
Picking up where they left off against the Gunners, it was Manchester United who struck first through Marcus Rashford’s golden boots. In the 16th minute, Rashford took a pass from Bruno
Fernandes, skipped past Arsenal’s Thomas Partey in midfield, and rifled a driven shot from outside the box into the bottom left corner. This was a stunning goal from the English star, his ninth in as many games. 1-0 United.
However, Arsenal did not take long to respond. Eddie Nketiah managed to finish off a string of Arsenal passes after heading a Granit Xhaka cross into the back of the net from close range. United keeper David De Gea's outstretched hand could not stop the bullet header, which prompted Arsenal fans at the Emirates to erupt in cheers. The teams traded blows for the rest of the half, but went into the half tied 1-1.
United defender Lisandro Martinez celebrating his equalizing goal. Photo//Manchester United/Getty
Arsenal began turning the screws in the second half. In the 52nd minute, a moment of brilliance from star player Bukayo Saka lifted them into the lead. Saka received the ball on the right wing, took a couple touches past United’s Christian Eriksen and fired a 25-yard curling shot into the bottom left corner. United’s defenders watched the ball squeak past the diving De Gea, which made it 2-1 to Arsenal.
Manchester United was not done yet though, and the equalizing goal came from a surprising source. In the 58th minute, a United corner was deflected by Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale into the direction of United defender Lisandro Martinez. Martinez dove forward and headed the ball into the net, beyond Arsenal defender Gabriel. 2-2 game.
Arsenal pressed and came close through a 69th minute strike from Saka that hit the post. After a long stalemate, the 89th minute approached. New Arsenal signing Leandro Trossard passed the ball out wide to Oleksandr Zinchenko. Zinchenko crossed the ball into the box finding Martin Odegaard. Odegaard’s shot took a deflection and floated towards Nketiah, who got a strike on the ball, and beat De Gea again for the winner. After a lengthy VAR check, Arsenal was confirmed to have had the winning goal. 3-2 Arsenal.
This signature win pushed Arsenal to go five points clear of second place at the top of the table. After 17 games, Arsenal have amassed a whopping 50 points, which is more than their fabled 03-04 squad at this stage, who won the league without losing a game. Arsenal have a lot of work to do, but this game may be seen as a defining moment if Arsenal can manage to hang on to win the league.
Erling Haaland (left) scoring City’s opening goal. Photo//Matt West/Shutterstock
A few hours prior, Manchester City faced off against the Wolverhampton Wanderers. The last few weeks had been disappointing for City given their extremely high standards. A shock 2-0 defeat in the EFL Cup to Southampton saw the Citizens crash out of the cup for a second consecutive year.
That game was followed up by a controversial 2-1 loss to Manchester United. An offside goal was given by the refs to Manchester United, tying the game at 1-1. City crumbled and went on to concede the winning goal a few minutes later. A comeback win at Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the week helped calm panicked fans going into the weekend.
Manager Pep Guardiola was defiant in his post-match interview, challenging his players and fans to reach another level, lest Arsenal run away with the title. City was up for the challenge against the Wanderers, thanks to arguably the Premier League’s best player, Erling Haaland.
After consistent City pressing and huge chances, Haaland netted the opener. A 30th minute Kevin de Bruyne cross from the right found Haaland at the far post in which Haaland out jumped Wolves defender Nathan Collins to head the ball in. 1-0 to City.
The second half saw another two goals from the Norwegian striker. Ilkay Gundogan was brought down in the box in the 48th minute, resulting in a penalty. Haaland stepped up to take the pen and placed the shot low and to the left, sending Wolves keeper Jose Sa the wrong way. 2-0 City.
In the 53rd minute, Sa misplaced a pass and gave the ball to City’s Riyad Mahrez. Mahrez passed the ball to Haaland, who finished past a scrambling Wolves defense to make it 3-0. This all but secured the game for City.
For City, brilliant play has won them the league four times out of the last five years. They will need to find that brilliance once more for the upcoming fixtures with games against Spurs, Villa, and two massive games against Arsenal.
West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen (center) celebrates his goal against Everton. Photo//Getty
While Wolves have struggled all season, Everton lies even further beneath them, as the Toffees looked to break their nine-game winless streak Sunday against West Ham.
West Ham, who were themselves in poor form with five winless Premier League games, hosted Everton in a crucial game in the relegation race. With no intent of getting relegated, West Ham’s Jarod Bowen, in the 34th minute, finished with a tap-in from a flick provided by teammate Kurt Zouma to make it 1-0.
Bowen struck again in the 41st after a gorgeous finish from a Mikhail Antonio cross to make it a double and 2-0. Bowen, who recently announced he was expecting twins with his partner, celebrated by tucking the ball under his shirt.
Everton decided to sack manager Frank Lampard on the Monday after the match. Lampard finished with only four wins this season, a 27.3% win percentage overall. Everton now sit in 18th place in the table while undergoing a search for a new manager, all the while dealing with rifts between the owner, players, and fans.
Everton have only missed four seasons in the top tier of English football, the last time being the 1953-1954 season. A streak of nearly 70 years in the top flight is in jeopardy, as Everton’s owners struggle to put the pieces together.