Arsenal twice comes from behind to hold Man City in league
ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 03, 2017 09:35 AM
Arsenal's Shkodran Mustafi, 2nd right, scores his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates stadium in London, Sunday, April 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer
LONDON (AP) — Arsenal twice fought back to hold Manchester City 2-2 in the Premier League on Sunday after the attacking resilience of Arsene Wenger's side was undermined by defensive deficiencies.
Although goals from Theo Walcott and Shkodran Mustafi prevented Arsenal from sinking to a fifth loss in six league games, the failure to collect three points further damages the team's bid to qualify for the Champions League.
Arsenal remains seven points behind fourth-placed City, albeit with a game in hand over Pep Guardiola's side. For City, which led through Leroy Sane and then Sergio Aguero, it is now about locking down a Champions League spot rather than winning the league trophy for the first time since 2014.
After a third consecutive league draw, Guardiola complained that his team "forgot to play" in north London.
"We missed a little bit, forgot a little bit to attack," he said. "Of course, we had the chance to make the counterattacks, but we missed easy balls and when this happens, you cannot control the ball."
Chelsea gave title rivals a glimmer of hope by losing to Crystal Palace on Saturday, but City is 11 points behind the leaders with nine games left.
Guardiola has time to turn it around at City with the Spaniard in his first season in charge. Patience is wearing thin at Arsenal, though, with the title drought in its 13th year.
Arriving at the Emirates Stadium can now resemble attending a political protest movement. There are street rallies against the long-standing immovable leader and trucks carrying campaign messages.
Gauging how deep the feelings run against Wenger is hard to assess. One supporters' trust published a survey earlier in the week that showed a clear majority of fans want the manager to leave in May rather than sign a new contract, but it yielded only a few hundred responses.
"I am here for 20 years and if I have shown one thing it is complete loyalty to this club," Wenger said. "I will continue that and I will always support this club and wish after me it goes very well and even much better."
Inside the 60,000-capacity stadium, there was more apathy than anger throughout the game in the spring sunshine — even after conceding within five minutes of kickoff.
Kevin De Bruyne picked out the run of Sane with a long ball and the German outpaced Hector Bellerin, then rounded goalkeeper David Ospina before slotting in his eighth goal of the season.
This should have been a game when City was more susceptible in defense with Jesus Navas deployed as a makeshift right back but Arsenal was producing little to unsettle goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
It took a defensive muddle for Arsenal to equalize five minutes before halftime.
Nicolas Otamendi's poor clearance was seized on by Mustafi who headed high over the defense and, as Gael Clichy dithered, Walcott knocked in the equalizer.
Parity only remained for 131 seconds before City was back in front. Once again, Arsenal was too open at the back and made to pay for it. David Silva laid the ball off to Aguero and the Argentina forward slotted into the bottom corner.
"We started with quite a high level of anxiety and we are punished straight away," Wenger said. "It was a mental test and overall you could see that the team was touched on the confidence front. The fluency in our game suffered, but as well we have shown great mental resources, because we are twice down and one time at the worst moment in a football game, just before halftime."
Arsenal did draw level again eight minutes into the second half. Mesut Ozil was the provider, and Mustafi rose above Otamendi to head in the forward's corner.
"We came back to 2-2 and overall I would say that it will help us to rebuild confidence," Wenger said, "because ... we have shown some mental strength and that will help us to come back to our natural fluency."