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Kai Havertz scores late winner sends Arsenal top with Brentford win

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Arsenal travelled to the Gtech Community Stadium on Saturday knowing three points would send them top of the Premier League, and left it very late to get the job done through super-sub Kai Havertz

Both teams had opportunities to lead at the break, but it was goalless at half-time thanks to a goal-line clearance and a narrow offside call. The visitors had only failed to score in one of their games this season, in all competitions, but were made to work hard by their fellow Londoners.

Mikel Arteta’s team needed their defenders to have their wits about them, with Declan Rice and Oleksandr Zinchenko both producing goal-line clearances. And they got their reward in the final minute as Havertz snuck home a header at the back post.

The Gunners survived an early scare after a nervy moment for goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, but grew into the first half and gradually began to pose more of a threat to Mark Flekken’s goal. They thought they had a breakthrough shortly before half-time, only for VAR to rule that Leandro Trossard had strayed narrowly offside before finding the net.

There were chances in the second half as well, but there was always a danger the Bees might take advantage of gaps at the back. Neal Maupay almost did just that, only for Zinchenko to rescue the away side.

READ  Arsenal smash six to secure top spot in Champions League group

Just as it looked as though the game would end all square, Havertz found a late, late breakthrough with a goal which could well kick-start his Arsenal career. Here are the main talking points from West London.

Talking points:

1. Ramsdale feeling the pressure

Aaron Ramsdale was always going to start this game, with David Raya ineligible to face his parent club. The England international will have been hoping for a quiet start with limited pressure, but he brought some on himself and was very nearly caught out.

After taking too long on the ball, he allowed Yoane Wissa to nip in and take the ball off his toes. Ramsdale’s distribution has come under scrutiny, at least compared to that of Raya, and on this occasion only a goal-line clearance from Declan Rice saved the Gunners after Wissa teed up Bryan Mbeumo for what looked like a certain goal.
Late on, though, he seemed to have his mojo back. After claiming a high cross, he was praised by his team-mates for helping seal victory

2. Havertz responds to being dropped

Leandro Trossard kept his place in the Arsenal team despite Gabriel Jesus joining Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka in the front three. The Belgian operated in a deeper role occupied by Kai Havertz earlier in the campaign.

READ  Jesus' brace help Arsenal beat Leicester City to maintain 100% start

Late in the first half, it looked as though the attacking tweak had paid off for Mikel Arteta as Trossard bundled the ball home. It wasn’t to be, though, with the narrowest of offside calls denying Arsenal’s number 19.

There were fewer positive after the break, with Brentford seemingly having more of an answer to the visitors’ tactics. Sure enough, Havertz got his introduction late on and delivered the crucial late winner for the away side. A start in Europe in midweek may well be his reward.

3. Both teams could do with Toney

For everything Gabriel Jesus offers in link-up play, he has never been a prolific goalscorer. An interview in Brazil during the international break appeared to reinforce that, and all eyes were on the number nine as he came back into the starting XI.

For all the initial debate over Trossard’s disallowed goal, Jesus could have made the flag immaterial. He timed his run perfectly to meet a Bukayo Saka cross, but gave Flekken the chance to make a save when a more accurate connection would have put Arsenal in front.

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At the other end, Mbeumo’s early failure to convert and a mistimed second-half effort from sub Neal Maupay saw some people’s attention turn to Toney. The England striker has been linked with Arsenal himself, with a summer move appearing more likely than a January switch, but on this occasion the focus was on what Brentford are lacking without the man who hit 20 league goals last term.

4. PGMOL escape more Arteta drama

Arsenal were victims of VAR controversy in their 1-1 draw with Brentford last term, and the officials will have been keen to avoid a repeat. After all, there has already been long-running drama between Mikel Arteta and the PGMOL in recent weeks.

The Gunners boss made clear his issues with the officiating when his team lost to Newcastle before jokingly insisting he wanted to praise VAR when his team followed up that defeat with a victory over Burnley. Whatever happened at the Gtech Community Stadium, any contentious call was likely to get plenty of attention.

Fortunately, then, even Arteta couldn’t have any complaints about the disallowed goal. Well, apart from perhaps being frustrated Trossard wasn’t able to hold his run.

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Dominant Arsenal thump Newcastle to close gap on title rivals

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Arsenal proved their Premier League title credentials as they recorded their sixth straight win with a dominant display against Newcastle.

The result sees Mikel Arteta’s side sit two points behind leaders Liverpool and a point behind second-placed Manchester City at the top of the table.

The outcome of this contest appeared inevitable from the moment visiting defender Sven Botman turned the ball in after Gabriel’s header from a corner had been well saved by Newcastle goalkeeper Loris Karius.


While there was an element of bad luck to that for the Dutch defender, who simply could not get out of the way as his Newcastle team-mate Tino Livramento tried to clear, there was little else about Arsenal’s performance that was owed to good fortune.

The Gunners’ intensity and fluent passing repeatedly carved Eddie Howe’s side apart, particularly down the Magpies’ left flank with Livramento and Botman enduring difficult evenings.

 

Kai Havertz swept in a deserved second shortly after, with Gabriel Martinelli making the most of indecision in the Newcastle defence to cut the ball back into the German forward’s path.

READ  Arsenal to seal loan and buy deal for Odegaard


With Arsenal continuing to press, Bukayo Saka twisted and turned Livramento one way and then another before dispatching a left-foot shot into the bottom left corner add to the hosts’ advantage.

 

Arteta also enjoyed the luxury of being able to take off his captain Martin Odegaard, Havertz and Saka well before full-time after Jakub Kiwior’s effort deflected past the helpless Karius from another Declan Rice corner.

 

Newcastle, who remain eighth in the table, managed a late consolation courtesy of Joe Willock’s looping header, but there was little else for the visiting supporters to cheer.

By this stage last term Arsenal’s title challenge had already begun to implode, with defeats by Everton and City sandwiched either side of a home draw against Brentford.


In the end they finished five points behind Pep Guardiola’s side, having enjoyed an eight-point advantage towards the end of January.

However, while their early-season form has not been as impressive this time around, they look to be peaking nicely for the run-in.

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An outstanding sequence of results since January has included a deserved victory over Liverpool, and they have now scored 25 goals and conceded just three time in six matches in the English top flight.

Not only are they playing with the swagger of early last season, there seems to be a new resilience to this Arsenal team that has perhaps not been evident since their last title triumph in 2004.

At times in the intervening period, Arsenal have been notably targeted aerially by other Premier League sides at corners and free-kicks.


However, Arteta has a physically imposing side – with the likes of Gabriel, Ben White, Kiwior and William Saliba all capable in the air – and no side has scored more set-piece goals than the Gunners’ 19 this term.

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Ruthless Arsenal trash Burnley to close gap at top of table

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Bukayo Saka scored twice as Arsenal continued their blistering goalscoring form to thrash Burnley and close the gap at the top of the Premier League to two points.

 

Following their 6-0 win at West Ham last week Arsenal were soon among the goals again, captain Martin Odegaard opening the scoring on four minutes with a crisp strike into the bottom corner after Gabriel Martinelli’s pass.

 

Saka converted from the spot after Lorenz Assignon fouled Leandro Trossard in the box.

The England forward got his second just after the restart, latching on to a clever Odegaard pass then cutting inside and rifling a shot into the roof of the net.

Kai Havertz’s scuffed effort was blocked in the box but Trossard was alert to curl in for his third goal in as many league games.

Jakub Kiwior’s long throw down the line then found an unmarked Havertz, who ghosted in behind the defence and drilled past home goalkeeper James Trafford to complete a comprehensive win for the Gunners.

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Arsenal, who have 21 goals in five straight wins, move two points behind leaders Liverpool, while Burnley remain in the relegation zone.


Arsenal have scored five or more goals in successive away league matches for the first time in their history
The Gunners, following up last week’s comprehensive win at London Stadium, have started a calendar year with five consecutive league wins for the first time in their history, and blew Burnley away with their slick football.

 

And the in-form Gunners may even have scored more at Turf Moor, with Trossard going close on two occasions before he eventually found the net.

 

Havertz continually caused problems by picking up pockets of space with his movement off the ball while Saka, Trossard and Martinelli interchanged in the box to regularly threaten.

 

Odegaard led by example, scoring his first goal since December 2 and providing the assist for Saka’s second strike.

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Saka has scored in four consecutive league appearances for the first time in his career, netting six across those four games, more than in his previous 19 league games.

When Mikel Arteta’s side are on song, they are hard to stop.

Goalkeeper David Raya didn’t have a save to make as Arsenal kept consecutive top-flight clean sheets for just the second time this season.

 

Arteta’s side travel to Porto in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday, before hosting Newcastle next Saturday (20:00 GMT) as they look to maintain their flawless start to the year.

Clarets suffer another damaging home defeat
Burnley were comprehensively beaten after putting in a dismal display at home, with manager Vincent Kompany watching despondently in the stands because of a touchline ban.

 

The Clarets did not attempt a shot on target in a match for the first time since Boxing Day and were under pressure from the first minute.

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Kompany’s side have conceded 26 first-half goals in 25 games, more than any other team in the Premier League this season.

 

Being caught out by a long throw for Arsenal’s fifth goal and failing to track Havertz’s run into the box summed up the woeful defending that means Burnley – seven points from safety – are fighting against the odds to remain in the division.

 

To compound their misery, midfielder Aaron Ramsey was stretchered off after suffering a seemingly serious knee injury and requiring oxygen in the 63rd minute.

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Super Eagles move up 14 places in latest FIFA ranking

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The Super Eagles are now 14 places higher in the latest FIFA ranking following a great showing at the just-concluded 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

 

Nigeria lost to Cote d’Ivoire in the final of the competition concluded last weekend and have deservedly climbed up the FIFA ladder after that impeccable showing.

 

“Indeed, across the two continents, no fewer than six teams have scaled ten places or more. Amongst the African sides, Côte d’Ivoire (39th, up 10) reap the rewards of their continental triumph on home soil, secured following an eventful tournament campaign,” FIFA wrote on its website while announcing the latest ranking.

 

“Beaten finalists Nigeria (28th, up 14) make significant strides but are no match for the Angola side they ousted in the last eight (93rd, up 24), who are the biggest climbers in the latest instalment of the global ranking.”

 

The latest move makes the Super Eagles Africa’s number three team only behind Morocco (who are 12th) and Senegal, who are ranked 17th.

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Nigeria displaced Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria, who had a poor outing at the AFCON, to make Africa’s top three.

 

Meanwhile, Argentina maintained the top spot on the global scene and are followed by France and England.

 

Belgium, Brazil, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Croatia in that order, complete the top 10 best teams in the world.

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