9.11 seconds. That’s all it took for Philip Billing to put Bournemouth ahead at the Emirates and in turn, heap pressure onto Arsenal’s title bid. Most had thought this would be a relatively easy win for the home side, given how they had smashed Everton 4-0 in midweek.
However, Billing’s goal - the second-quickest in Premier League history after Shane Long - stunned the hosts after Manchester City had reduced the deficit to just two points in the early kick-off.
We had thought Arsenal’s title challenge may fall apart when they lost at home to Man City a couple of weeks ago, but instead Arteta’s men rallied. Three consecutive wins against Aston Villa, Leicester and Everton respectively got them back on course, and it was thought they would cruise past a struggling Cherries outfit. But football rarely follows a script.
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In the second half, when you thought that the Gunners would launch a comeback, instead they crumbled. Bournemouth stunned them with a second. Marcos Senesi looked to have blown the title race wide open with a glancing header from a corner after losing Thomas Partey.
But Partey would make amends for his defensive error as he pulled one goal back and Arsenal mounted a comeback. Arteta must take some responsibility for the woeful start too. Fabio Vieira and Leandro Trossard both started, while Emile Smith Rowe suffered the ignominy of being subbed on and off the pitch as he returned to fitness.
Jorginho was left on the bench and Ben White had to come on for Takehiro Tomiyasu again, and the England man was the one who bagged the vital equaliser. Reiss Nelson, another substitute, crossed the ball into the box and the makeshift right-back forced the ball over the line.
Then, Arteta’s men showed the heart of champions. With the clock showing 96:59, Arsenal had a corner that fell to Nelson on the edge of the box and he fired home a remarkable winner. This looked like a horrendous banana skin for the home side, but that goal saw the stadium explode with joy.
Arteta and his team on the bench went wild and there were scenes of utter jubilation in the stands. Although some of his decisions may have backfired across the 90 minutes, the decision to bring on Nelson dragged his side to three points. It was an emotional high, and a three points that will be a dagger to the heart of those watching with a sky blue persuasion.
Just as it looked like they would close the gap on their title rivals, Arsenal came up with another late winner. Just like they did at Aston Villa. Four wins in a row. With 12 games to go in the Premier League season, Arsenal are moving ever closer. But it’s hard work.
A match against Bournemouth should have been straightforward. But it was anything but. Arsenal will need to calm their emotions in the final run-in if they are going to finally seal their first Premier League title since 2004.
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