Sunday 14 February 2016

Arsenal should pip rivals to title

Arsenal's match at home to table-topping Leicester was always going to make it a weekend to remember.

The deadlock was initially broken when a controversial penalty had been given against Arsenal, as Vardy appeared to target Monreal's outstretched leg before deliberately tripping over it. However, the Spanish full back needs to learn from that, as Mahrez almost earned a penalty doing the same. Although, Monreal was innocent, that was only apparent on the replays. He must be less clumsy in future.

Vardy duly converted the disputed penalty, but Arsenal came back through substitute Theo Walcott, who converted Giroud's headed knock-on. It was a well-deserved equaliser.

Leicester were perhaps a tad unlucky to lose Simpson to a second yellow card but, equally, Arsenal were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty or two of their own for handballs in the box.

Just when it appeared to be destined to be a draw, another substitute, Danny Welbeck, snatched a winner.

Nevertheless, it was Leicester's man-of-the-match, N'Golo Kante, took centre stage. The Metro has hurriedly put together a transfer story linking Arsenal with the central midfielder, who outshone an out-of-sorts Coquelin, and it would certainly be a good piece of business if Arsenal did bid for Kante. In fact, Flamini offers more legs in midfield that Coquelin, currently, as the younger Frenchman still looks rather short of match fitness. I'd opt for Flames over Coq-au-vin on current form.

Aside from Kante, the referee Martin Atkinson was perhaps the most influential person on the pitch. After the result, the Gunners shot up to second place in the table, but more controversial refereeing decisions followed in the Man City v Spurs clash.

City boss Manuel Pellegrini was furious about Tottenham's penalty as his team ended up losing 2-1. It was City's seventh defeat and it may have put them out of the race for the title.

So now it appears to be a three-horse race and, as Arsenal have a bit more experience than their nearest title rivals, I wouldn't be surprised if the smart money goes on them to lift the title. The point is relatively inexperienced teams tend to choke at the end of these title marathons so, despite all the promise of Arsenal's rivals, I'm expecting them to fall by the wayside as the pressure grows. We'll see whether these other teams are the 'real deal' by the end of the season, but I would expect them to fade away, leaving Arsenal as the last team standing.

Sent from my iPhone

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