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Arsenal’s title belief continues to build after dramatic last-gasp win at Luton – Premier League hits and misses | Football News

Arsenal’s title belief keeps building

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Luton and Arsenal

We were seconds away from talking about Arsenal’s Premier League title charge stuttering and hitting a bump in the road.

Luton had gone toe-to-toe with the league leaders and were moments away from grabbing a famous point on what was becoming a frustrating night for Mikel Arteta’s men.

However, Declan Rice’s late show meant that in the blink of an eye the whole mood and narrative changed as the winning goal, in the seventh minute of added time, sparked wild Arsenal celebrations.

Rice described it as a ‘massive moment’. Arteta savoured a ‘special night’.

Mikel Arteta celebrates Arsenal's stoppage time winner
Mikel Arteta celebrates Arsenal’s stoppage time winner

Once again it wasn’t pretty from the Gunners. It wasn’t Arteta’s men at their free-flowing best of last season. However, importantly, just like against Manchester United, Manchester City and Brentford earlier in the season, and now Luton, they found a way to get over the line and win.

Not being at your best but finding a way to get the three points. That’s a special characteristic. Many would say a title-winning characteristic.

Rice’s magic moment and the dramatic victory only add to the Gunners’ belief that this could actually be the year that Arsenal end their 20-year long wait to bring the tile back to north London.
Oliver Yew

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Jamie Weir and Oliver Yew react to Arsenal’s last-gasp win against Luton which moved them five points clear at the top of the table.

Relief for Raya after big blunders

Luton Town's Elijah Adebayo scores their second goal of the game after a mistake by David Raya
Luton Town’s Elijah Adebayo scores their second goal of the game after a mistake by David Raya

David Raya had more reason than most to run the length of the pitch to celebrate with Declan Rice in the 97th minute.

It was his two errors that had left Arsenal losing a game they were in control of and has kept the debate going over whether he or Aaron Ramsdale should be their first-choice goalkeeper.

Raya was having a quiet evening until he was dominated in the air Elijah Adebayo for Luton’s equaliser before letting Ross Barkley’s strike squirm under his body just eight minutes later.

The pressure has ramped up again on Raya but he still has the backing of boss Mikel Arteta.

“We have to defend better the situations as a team,” said Arteta on Raya’s mistakes. “There are certain things leading to the goals. It’s not about blaming. We have never done it and we won’t do it now.”

The Arsenal goalkeeper saga goes on.
David Richardson

Barkley shines in Luton loss

Luton Town's Ross Barkley celebrates with team-mates after scoring his side's third goal (AP)
Luton Town’s Ross Barkley celebrates with team-mates after scoring his side’s third goal (AP)

Amongst the chaos at Kenilworth Road, Ross Barkley showed he’s still got it.

The 30-year-old, capped 33 times for England, held his own against Arsenal’s £204m midfield in an all-action display.

Barkley had the most touches (63), accurate passes (27), passes in the final third (14), dribbles (8), duels won (15) and aerial duels won (6) of any Luton player.

He played with the same hunger and bite in covering 11.2km so rarely seen since he broke through at Everton in a career spoiled by injury.

Then there was a flash of quality for his goal. A single stepover to buy himself some room in the Arsenal penalty area before firing a low and hard left-footed shot under David Raya. His first Premier League goal in 562 days. Barkley’s next should come sooner.
David Richardson

Sarabia shows he has Wolves role to play

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Wolves and Burnley

In a game low on quality it was the deft touch of Pablo Sarabia that helped capitalise on Burnley’s error in the build-up to Hee-Chan Hwang’s winner at Molineux. Sarabia’s previous appearance here was also a dramatic one as he turned it around against Tottenham.

This was not so spectacular but it was a reminder he has characteristics that are otherwise a little lacking in a Wolves team full of endeavour. Finding a place for him in the team has been a challenge because he is not a natural fit for the Premier League.

The Spain international has undoubted pedigree as evidenced by a career that has taken him from Real Madrid to Paris Saint-Germain via Sevilla. At 31, and with pace having always been a weakness, his ability to cover the ground and handle the speed has been an issue.

Gary O’Neil has been more comfortable using him as a second striker than out wide because of his struggles tracking back but it is impressive that Sarabia appears to be trying to make it work rather than flouncing about his diminished status since Julen Lopetegui’s exit.

Pablo Sarabia celebrates after scoring a late equaliser for Wolves against Spurs
Pablo Sarabia celebrates after scoring a late equaliser for Wolves against Spurs

Against Burnley, he came close to scoring himself on three occasions as well as helping set up the goal. He took the set pieces and had some neat touches. There are more important players at Wolves but O’Neil recognises there is still a place for Sarabia.

“I thought he was excellent. It was obviously a tough decision between him and Jean (Bellegarde) but just seeing Pablo in training the last few weeks, if you do that much, I can’t ignore you, basically. Pablo has managed to put himself right in the front of my mind.

“I am really pleased for him. I know he has been frustrated with the limited time he was on the pitch. I thought he was good for the group tonight, I could see him organising, pushing people, making people come out of their disappointment quickly which is important.”
Adam Bate

Kompany’s style of play under scrutiny

Hwang’s goal was the fourth that Burnley have conceded following a defensive error this Premier League season, according to Opta. Under Vincent Kompany, they only made five errors leading to goals in their 46-game Championship title-winning season.

The style has not changed but the standard has. Teams press quicker – Mario Lemina was onto Sander Berge almost as soon as the ball had been passed to him. Once the ball had been won back, Hwang was ruthlessly clinical in finding the net. That is the difference.

Kompany has no intention of altering his approach. How can he? This is what has brought Burnley their success and it was interesting to hear him make a straightforward defence of his style of play when speaking to reporters in the post-match press conference.

“If you line up all the goals we have conceded this season, surely you have seen other types of goals as well? It has not just been about one thing. That has not been the theme. When the other team has had the ball has been when we have really had problems.

“We have had more problems when the other team has had the ball and we were trying to recover it high up the pitch. That is when we were more hurt. If you go through our last five or six games, we have created a lot of chances from [playing out from the back].

“The goal against Arsenal. The penalty against West Ham. If you go through it, nearly all of our chances come from moments like this. The point is more that when you have those chances, you have to take them. This is where we need to step it up.”

Kompany is not going to compromise. The plan is not to adopt plan B but to improve plan A. That is certainly possible. But defeat at Molineux was another unwelcome reminder that mistakes are not just more likely at this level but more likely to be punished.

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