Arsenal’s show of character and perseverance has guaranteed that the Premier League championship race has plenty of life left in it.
After David De Gea’s latest error in another Manchester United away defeat, the battle to finish in the Champions League qualifying spots is far from finished.
By inflicting a rare home defeat on Newcastle, Arsenal atoned for one of its most bitter defeats under Mikel Arteta and put the pressure on Manchester City just as the reigning champions seemed to be cruising to the crown.
Arsenal’s 2-0 victory in a tense environment at St. James’ Park gave City a one-point lead with three weeks remaining in the season. City has a game in hand, but the harder schedule, with three away games in its last four games.
“Let’s keep going and digging and digging and see what’s there,” Arteta said following a victory secured by Martin Odegaard’s long-range shot in the 14th minute and Fabian Schar’s own-goal in the 71st.
Arsenal’s players were shoved and roughed up in a tough contest, while riling the home supporters with streetwise tactics that may have stretched the rules of gamesmanship.
Anything to keep the club’s first league championship prospects alive since 2004.
“We had to be very smart and very ugly at times,” Odegaard said. “It’s a big step for a young team like ours to come here and do the things we did.”
Away victories are becoming more difficult for United, which is making the race for Champions League qualifying fascinating.
It’s just one of six away journeys for Erik ten Hag’s shaky club, who fell 1-0 at West Ham only three days earlier on a 99th-minute penalty.
West Ham’s winner came considerably earlier, with De Gea allowing a poor drive from beyond the area by Said Benrahma to glide past his extended arm and gently into the goal in the 27th minute.
According to Opta, no Premier League player has committed more mistakes leading to goals this season than De Gea, who has four. De Gea also made a costly error in the Europa League semifinals against Sevilla last month.
United remained fourth in the table, two points behind third-placed Newcastle.
Liverpool, which sits fifth and a point behind United, was the major winner on Sunday, despite having played one more game.
Arsenal’s players were shown film highlights from last season’s 2-0 defeat at Newcastle, which denied them a chance to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League, before making their way to St. James’ Park from the team hotel.
That day, they were bullied and outplayed, but they looked to have learnt their lesson.
“We had to see our faces and understand the emotions of everyone, not just the players,” Arteta said of the film. “You don’t want to be this way any longer; it’s a horrible feeling.” Today, we had to demonstrate a new level of competition, drive, and quality.”
Odegaard scored against the flow of play. By the time the Norway playmaker smashed a low effort between the legs of Newcastle defender Sven Botman and past custodian Nick Pope, Newcastle had already hit the post via Jacob Murphy and had a penalty disallowed after a VAR review.
Alexander Isak also struck the post with a header, and Newcastle paid the price when Schar deflected Gabriel Martinelli’s cross into his own net.
“The noise was there today,” said Newcastle manager Eddie Howe, whose club suffered its second home defeat of the season. “We just needed to score, and it would have helped us take off.”
West Ham now have 37 points, seven more than the bottom three, with three games remaining, two of which are against lower-ranked opponents in Leeds and Leicester.
West Ham remains in the Europa Conference League, with a two-leg semifinal against Dutch club AZ Alkmar beginning on Thursday at home.