LONDON (Reuters) – A year that started disastrously for Arsenal will end with the Gunners moving to Brighton and Hove Albion to win their first Premier League title in almost 20 years.
As they prepare for their New Year’s Eve mission on the South Coast, the contrast couldn’t be greater.
Mikel Arteta’s side have been unable to win five games in all competitions this year, being eliminated in the League Cup and FA Cup and dropping down the order to finish in the top four of the Premier League.
Fast-forward 12 months and Arsenal are entering the final game of 2022, having won eight of their last nine games and trailing the leaders by five points.
Even the six-week suspension of the Qatar World Cup couldn’t slow Arsenal’s progress. His 3–1 victory over West Ham United this week showed that Arsenal are poised to maintain their title tilt, even without the injured Gabriel Jesus.
The next few weeks will be packed with schedules that will test Athrenal’s resolve. Seventh-placed Brighton won’t push hard, next up are high-flying Newcastle he United, Tottenham he Hotspur and Manchester he United.
But Arsenal are determined, and full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko is no stranger to title battles with Manchester City, so he’s confident they have what it takes.
“We have such a great group of people. We have this sense of solidarity,” he told the Arsenal website.
With Brighton taking four points away from Arsenal last season and also being eliminated from the League Cup in November, Arteta will be well aware of the challenges his stellar side will face on Saturday.
“It will be a huge test for that team and we have to be ready,” said the Spaniard.
By the time Arsenal kick off, their lead may have shrunk to two points, as second-placed Manchester City host struggling Everton early in the day’s program.
City returned to action on Wednesday night after losing 3-1 to Leeds United with a double from Erling Haaland, who has scored 20 goals in just 14 appearances since joining from Borussia Dortmund.
Third-placed Newcastle, seven points behind Arsenal, are looking to extend their seventh consecutive league win when they face Leeds United at home on Saturday.
Fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur won’t be able to play Aston Villa at home until New Year’s Day, so a rejuvenated Manchester United will be in the top four on Saturday when they kick-off against third-bottom Wolverhampton Wanderers. there is a possibility.
The Premier League’s final game of the year kicks off on Friday night, with sixth-placed Liverpool hosting Leicester City and West Ham United before facing Brentford as they seek a fourth consecutive defeat.
West Ham’s loss to Arsenal was part of a disastrous restart for a team close to the bottom six, with only the bottom six Wolves scoring points.
Nottingham Forest, second to last, will play Chelsea on Sunday, while Southampton will face Fulham.
(Additional reporting by Adam Millington; editing by Pritha Sarkar)