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Arsenal’s late winners show resilience and boost confidence in their Premier League title bid

Arsenal’s late winners show resilience and boost confidence in their Premier League title bid

They say not to read too much into the Community Shield, the traditional curtain raiser on the English football season.

Maybe this year is an exception.

Back in early August, Arsenal scored an equalizer through Leandro Trossard in the 101st minute of normal time, and went on to beat Manchester City on penalties at Wembley Stadium.

Aside from winning a piece of silverware, Arsenal’s players hailed it as a clear victory – despite the non-competitive nature of the match.

“The mental block is gone,” goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale said the other day, referring to his side’s late stumble in the Premier League title race last season and finishing behind City.

Well, maybe they’re right.

And it’s not just because Arsenal woke up on Wednesday to a five-point lead in the Premier League. This is because of the way the team got there.

Scoring late goals – a trait that shows resilience and character – has become the norm for Arsenal. Dare we say, it’s the sign of a champion team.

Only in their first 15 league games this season have Arsenal scored in the 96th and 101st minutes to beat Manchester United 3-1; In the 86th minute, Manchester City won 1-0; In the 84th minute, in a 2-2 draw with Chelsea; In the 89th minute, to beat Brentford 1-0; And on Tuesday, in the seventh minute of stoppage time, to win 4-3 over Luton.

That’s nine points gained from goals scored from the 84th minute or later. This late rally in the Community Shield was perhaps a harbinger of how this season would go.

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Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta said: “We don’t want a draw, we want to win.” “That drive, that energy, that risk and passion that we put on the field, you can feel it.”

The seeds of these victories were sewn last season when Arteta’s side produced a number of late-match recoveries to snatch crucial points in the title race.

Most memorable was Reiss Nelson’s winning goal against Bournemouth which enraged the Arsenal fans at the Emirates Stadium. That was in the 97th minute and gave Arsenal a five-point lead in the league, just as Declan Rice did with his winning goal over Luton.

Arsenal once again look like the team most likely to prevent City from winning the Premier League.

Last season, his bid for the title collapsed in the last two months, burdened by injuries to key players – William Saliba, in particular – and naiveté in dealing with holding off a strong, fast-finishing side like City.

Could this season be different?

Arsenal have some things going for them.

Rice, who was signed in a club record deal for $138 million in July, is considered an upgrade in central midfield and has already contributed crucial goals against United and Luton.

There is better strength in depth across the squad, in terms of numbers and experience.

Arteta’s approach also appears to be different this season, as he seeks more control rather than chaos – ahead of the Luton game, anyway – to help the team better carry on in a grueling campaign that also includes Champions League play. In this regard, Arteta appears to be using the playing rules that City coach Pep Guardiola has followed since last season.

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Arteta said: “You play every three days and you have to win every game and every game. The requirements are there.” “It’s the way they act, how much they want it.”

After the pain of last season’s end, Arsenal’s players may want more.

There are question marks over the wisdom of Arteta’s decision to bring in goalkeeper David Raya and promote him above Ramsdale, the first-choice goalkeeper last year. Raya was at fault for two goals against Luton and looked shaky in other matches, particularly in the draw with Chelsea.

Whether Kai Havertz, another summer signing, is an upgrade over the departed Granit Xhaka, is also up for debate. Playing Havertz as an attacking midfielder could make Arsenal more vulnerable, although he has scored crucial goals against Brentford and Luton over the past two weeks.

“He is improving,” Arteta said of Havertz.

Arsenal’s season could be derailed by injuries, a deep dive into the Champions League – where the team has already qualified for the last 16 – or another relentless end to the season from City.

However, psychologically, Arsenal appear to be in a good position for another attempt at a first league title since 2004.

Going deep and scoring those late goals regularly is proof of that.

Associated Press report.

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