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Arsenal ‘enjoying’ Premier League title race as maturity, ruthlessness grows

LONDON — Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya revealed they are ‘enjoying the challenge’ of the Premier League title race as they take it down to the wire.

Raya, who made a big mistake in Arsenal’s 3-2 win at Tottenham on Sunday but was lauded by Mikel Arteta for the way he responded, said that the Gunners are revelling in the pressure of being top of the Premier League table with three games to go.

Manchester City are one point behind Arsenal and have a game in-hand, but that doesn’t worry Raya as Pro Soccer Talk asked if he and his team are enjoying the title race.

“I am! I like challenges and I don’t feel under pressure,” Raya smiled. “I feel like that when things are pressure, in the way that you say, it’s an opportunity to show what you are capable of. I am really, really enjoying this challenge.”

The way Arsenal celebrated at the final whistle at Tottenham showed how much they’re enjoying the title race this season and their extra steel and maturity in the big moments is sustaining this title push as they chase a first Premier League title in 20 years.

Maturity, ruthlessness growing as Arsenal progress

Arsenal’s players are locked in. They have a clear plan of how they will approach each game and the way they played at Tottenham was very similar to the way they played in their draw at Manchester City in March. Less possession, less pressing and looking for opportunities on the counter.

It worked and aside from the blip of losing at home to Aston Villa, they have won 13 of their 15 Premier League games in 2024 to put themselves in a brilliant position and they have taken a huge step forward in their development this season.

After Arsenal’s north London derby win Tottenham duo Micky van de Ven and Dejan Kulusevski praised Arsenal for being ‘ruthless’ and having a stronger ‘mentality’ in the key moments.

“I don’t think in the football part we are worse than Arsenal. I wouldn’t say we have that problem. The mentality from them is strong but I wouldn’t say that either. But you see their goals and they were ruthless, they took every chance that they had and I think that makes the difference,” Van de Ven explained.

Kulusevski added: “That is the only thing that matters. The head. You can be how good you want in football but you’ve got to be strong in every situation. Of course, they, Arsenal have obviously done that in the last period. They fight to win the league... They are much more disciplined. Much more disciplined and a little bit more mature.”

Raya wasn’t mature when he clipped the ball straight to Cristian Romero to hand Tottenham a way back into the game and he held his hand up for his mistake. But Arsenal didn’t crumble under severe pressure late on and that is another big step forward this season.

“You are playing against really, really good opponents and they are really good at pressing. It showed on the mistake I made. I shouldn’t have played that ball, I should have gone a little bit longer, but I wanted to control the game a little bit more, but it didn’t happen,” Raya said. “It showed how good they are at pressing and the plan was different. That’s part of football... Every away game in the Premier League is tough. But you have to believe in yourselves and believe in what the gaffer tells us to do, and the game plan that will help us to get the points that we need. I think we have showed, especially away from home, how good we are.”

It is that development of their tactical game, and their maturity to stop their instincts to keep the ball and press high like they usually do, which has them in this position. They have added an extra layer to their game and that is why Arsenal have been able to sustain their title push this season.

Title race will go down to the wire this time

With three games to go — home games against Bournemouth and Everton with a trip to Manchester United sandwiched in-between — Arsenal know three wins will force Man City to win out to win the title.

Raya believes the win at Tottenham gives Arsenal momentum but is taking the title race one game at a time and is not focused on playing ahead of Manchester City this Saturday against Bournemouth (7:30am ET kick off) and any kind of advantage that may give the Gunners.

“Every game is important and we have got three games. We have to think about the next game - which is Bournemouth at home - we have to focus on that and learn from this game,” Raya said. “There are things we can do better. We just have to carry on with this momentum, try to get the three points on Saturday and we will see what happens in the end... We have to focus on ourselves, no matter what. We cannot focus on other teams, because you lose your focus on yourself and you don’t start playing the same way. You have to focus on yourself and the team, on what you can control. If you focus on things that you cannot control, things are not going to go well.”

It seems like the game at Old Trafford on May 12 is going to be Arsenal’s last big challenge to overcome if they’re going to win the title for the first time in 20 years.

Given their win away at Tottenham, plus their draws at Man City and Liverpool, Raya and Arsenal are confident they can put in another big away display to potentially take the title race down to the final day.

“It is a massive confidence boost, especially the games that we won away from home,” Raya said. “I don’t know how many games we have won away, but I think we have won a lot. That shows the character of the team. You have to win away games to be able to push for the title - and I think we are showing that.”