•      Fri Jun 21 2024

Arsenal throw away two-goal lead and title suffers setback

For the second Sunday in a row Arsenal threw away a 2-0 goal lead and, with it, have severely again diminished their chances of winning a first Premier League title since 2004. They were flat. West Ham United burst their bubble.

Drawing away to Liverpool is a setback that can be rationalised but doing the same at relegation-haunted West Ham suggests that the pressure is getting to Mikel Arteta’s young side who appeared to panic after being pegged back.

Having scored twice by the time 10 minutes were played it looked like the takeaway from this pivotal fixture would have been West Ham manager David Moyes being on the brink of the sack. He may well not have lasted the day while Arsenal’s only concern at that time would have been by how many they could reduce Manchester City’s advantage in goal difference.

Instead Moyes has surely saved himself, at least for the time being, and although Arsenal extended their lead over City to four points they have played a game more, they have to go the Etihad Stadium a week on Wednesday and there has undeniably been a significant shift of momentum away from them.

It all swung on two dramatic minutes when Bukayo Saka missed a penalty, the first he has failed to convert since the shoot-out in the final of Euro 2020 with England, which would have restored Arsenal’s two-goal advantage at 3-1 and see them home.

Instead, soon after, it was the outstanding Jarrod Bowen who scored to draw West Ham level and, following that and alarmingly for Arsenal, they appeared the more likely team to score again.

Everything – the title race, Moyes future – appeared to change in those two minutes.

What a difference it was for both sides with West Ham frankly a disorganised shambles in the opening minutes and Moyes appearing out of ideas until Declan Rice led the comeback as he won a key challenge as Thomas Partey dallied in possession and helped earn the penalty which gave them the foothold to fight back. Arsenal claimed handball from Rice but the award stood.

West Ham are only four points clear of danger in 15th place but this was a point and, ultimately, a performance that they did not expect. And neither did Arsenal.