Premiership title race now down to two as United end Arsenal hopes

By Hilton Yip Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-29 23:18:01

Three teams went into the weekend in the chase for the league title, and each found itself under pressure and desperately needing to win. Leicester and Spurs were able to find their inner steel to achieve that, and the Premiership title race is now down to two.

In what is one of the most exciting title chases in recent years, Arsenal have been in the thick of it, with some even favoring them to win it. Instead, the Gunners showed up at Old Trafford and promptly got shown up by a young, inexperienced Manchester United team that was coming off of two days' rest.

The game ended in a thrilling 3-2 that may have revitalized United manager Louis van Gaal but was disastrous for ­Arsenal. They were taken apart by ­United's teenage sensation Marcus Rashford, who was making his Premier League debut at 18 and scored two goals in the space of three minutes in the first half.

The Gunners did not seem to learn their lesson when loose defending in the second half allowed Ander Herrera to score United's third goal with a strong shot that took an unlucky ­deflection off an Arsenal defender.

Blame for Arsenal's lackluster performance was evenly distributed. Forward Theo Walcott was virtually anonymous throughout the game, while Aaron ­Ramsay and Alexis Sanchez were also poor. Brazilian defender Gabriel, playing in place of usual center back Per Mertesacker, had a game to forget. The ­introduction of Olivier Giroud for ­Walcott in the 63rd minute was too late.

Leicester continued their fairytale run, but it took 89 minutes before they found a way past a resilient Norwich. Spurs trailed for a long time against Swansea before getting the comeback win with two goals in the second half. These two had what Arsenal lacked: the grittiness to take control of games when things are not going their way.

Arsenal did beat Leicester two weeks ago, but in their 0-0 draw with Hull in the FA Cup and 2-0 Champions League defeat to Barcelona since then, they have shown little offensive firepower. Arsenal are still just five points away from Leicester, but with a harder schedule and only 11 games left, it would take a brave soul to fancy the Gunners to catch up.

Arsenal play Spurs on Saturday in what would have been a title eliminator involving two of the league's top three teams. The derby is still hotly anticipated, except that United may have done Spurs' job for them.

The author is a Beijing-based freelance writer.

Posted in: Extra Time

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