Mikel Arteta 'certain' Arsenal can handle title pressure despite West Ham setback

For a second successive week, the Gunners squander a two-goal lead in a game they were dominating, and were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw against West Ham at the London Stadium

Arsenal's Bukayo Saka (L) reacts after missing a chance to score from the penalty spot during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham United and Arsenal London in London, Britain, 16 April 2023.   EPA/ANDY RAIN EDITORIAL USE ONLY.  No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services.  Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation.  No use in betting, games or single club / league / player publications
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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta believes his players can cope with the pressure of the Premier League title race despite a damaging draw against West Ham United on Sunday.

For a second successive week, the Gunners squander a two-goal lead in a game they were dominating, and were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw against West Ham at the London Stadium.

The leaders raced two goals in front inside the opening 10 minutes through Gabriel Jesus and Martin Odegaard, but, just as they had against Liverpool last weekend, they faltered badly.

Said Benrahma’s penalty and Jarrod Bowen’s volley, either side of a missed spot-kick by Bukayo Saka, rescued a surprise point for the hosts and put another dent in Arsenal’s bid for a first league title since 2004.

"I'm certain it is not the pressure," Arteta said. "It is we misunderstood what was needed in that moment.

"It was very different to Liverpool in terms of the pattern of play. But that is the next stage, you have to play with the same purpose when it is 2-0.

"You have to have more composure to finish the game. When you drop your level so quickly the game is there for the opponent."

Although Arsenal are four points clear of second placed Manchester City, it is the champions who have all the momentum heading into the final weeks of a gripping title battle.

With a home game against Arsenal looming on April 26, City know they will be crowned champions if they win their last eight games.

Ominously for Arsenal, Pep Guardiola's men have already beaten them twice this season, winning 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium in the league in February, just weeks after knocking the Gunners out of the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory in Manchester.

Before the summit meeting with City, Arsenal host Southampton on Friday.

A victory over the bottom-of-the-table Saints would move Arsenal seven points clear of City, who don't play in the league next weekend due to their FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United on Saturday.

Man City beat Leicester 3-1

Fuelled by Erling Haaland's record-breaking goal-spree City – winners of their last 10 games in all competitions – have the edge in the remaining matches after the Arsenal showdown.

Their toughest tests could come on trips to Fulham and Brentford, although their progress in the Champions League might also pose a distraction.

Arsenal's trickiest fixtures could be a daunting visit to Newcastle and a home game against in-form Brighton, while a London derby against struggling Chelsea can't be taken for granted.

Arteta doesn't believe Arsenal's young squad are running out of steam towards the end of their unexpected title bid.

"Fatigue? No. The best way to put it is to convince the team they can do it. We have to dig very deep and find the solution," he said.

"We stopped playing with the purpose to score a third and fourth one. It looked too easy. We gave them hope and credit to West Ham, they took it.

"We need that ruthless mindset to go kill a team and we haven't done it."

The points looked safe when Michail Antonio handled in the area and Saka stepped up to take the penalty, but the England winger put it horribly wide.

Moments later Bowen swept in a high ball from Thilo Kehrer to equalise, and relegation-threatened West Ham could have won it when Antonio’s late header clipped the crossbar.

“Very good after going 2-0 down,” said Hammers manager David Moyes.

“When you ever go 2-0 down to the team leading the league you’re thinking ‘my goodness’. But I didn’t think we deserved to be 2-0 down.

“We tried to put Arsenal under pressure and we looked a bit quicker all round the pitch. We need to get back to that. But we’re pleased, it’s a big result.

“Sometimes the fine lines are so small. They got a penalty and at 3-1 it’s going to be difficult. We got a bit of fortune, but then we grew and I quite fancied us to get a third one.”

Updated: April 17, 2023, 9:31 AM