Footballing Weekly: Weekend classics say a lot about top clubs
Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool involved in memorable matches that could define their EPL seasons
SINGAPORE — It doesn't always happen, but sometimes an English Premier League (EPL) match weekend will throw up classic games that could define the season for the top clubs.
This past weekend, there were not one, but two of them.
One was, of course, that utterly bonkers match at Anfield on Sunday (5 March), where Liverpool - who had struggled for much of the season - somehow conjured a 7-0 humiliation of their fierce rivals Manchester United, just a week after the fast-rising Red Devils won the Carabao Cup trophy.
A day earlier, Arsenal also pulled off a stunning turnaround at their Emirates Stadium home ground, coming from 0-2 down against Bournemouth to steal a 3-2 victory right at the death.
In terms of repercussions, perhaps it would be felt most among the shell-shocked Man United players. Their capitulation was so sudden and severe that accusations of unprofessionalism were piled onto them - by their very own manager, Erik ten Hag.
It was so unexpected as well, after their great form in recent months saw them recover from a slow start to the season to having an outside chance at challenging for the EPL title. The Carabao Cup win seemed to be a fair reward for their revival.
Yet, the 0-7 hammering by the team they least like to lose to is nothing short of a brutal reality check, that there are still many shortcomings among the Man United squad that need to be address before they can ascend to the heights of their past EPL-winning glories.
Liverpool, on the other hand, would have enjoyed the massive boost to their underwhelming season. Poor form and numerous injuries have wrecked the Reds title hopes, but the big win would have given them fresh impetus to make a late surge for the Champions League qualifying spots.
More than that, the victory gives fans optimism that their rebuilding project is at least on the right track. It is a tall order to replace the departed Sadio Mane and the departing Roberto Firmino, but Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo showed against Man United that they have the potential to form a lethal strike partnership in the future.
In terms of significance though, Arsenal's comeback win was absolutely crucial to the top-of-the-table title chase. Before Reiss Nelson brought the house down with his 97th-minute half-volley winner, the league-leading Gunners looked to be heading for a demoralising draw that would have cut their lead over Manchester City to three points.
Instead, their lead is back to five points with the victory - celebrated deliriously by the players, fans and manager Mikel Arteta alike - and the EPL title chase is still within their hands as they head into an important April with key clashes against Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea.
More than that, this is the third time this season that Arsenal have pulled off a stoppage-time winner (they did the same against Man United and Aston Villa). It is testament to their fortitude and never-say-die attitude that they are able to sustain this unlikely title challenge this late into the season.
Only 12 more matches to go. Can Arsenal end up as champions for the first time in 19 years? Don't bet against them.
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