Arsenal ‘rewarded for their courage’ says Mikel Arteta as Gunners get ready to watch rivals

Arsenal's Kai Havertz runs towards the corner flag to celebrate scoring the winning goal against Brentford.

Arsenal's Kai Havertz celebrates scoring the winning goal against Brentford at the Emirates Stadium in London. Picture: Justin Tallis / AFP

Published Mar 10, 2024


Arsenal moved to the top of the Premier League in dramatic fashion as Kai Havertz spared Aaron Ramsdale's blushes with a crucial late strike in Saturday's 2-1 win against Brentford.

Mikel Arteta's side were just minutes away from a damaging draw after Gunners keeper Ramsdale gifted an equaliser to Yoane Wissa.

Declan Rice put Arsenal ahead early in the first half, but Ramsdale waited too long to clear just before the interval and Wissa took advantage to block the ball into the net.

Havertz ensured Arsenal would not miss their chance to climb into first place with a bullet header four minutes from the final whistle at a jubilant Emirates Stadium.

The north Londoners' eighth successive league victory lifted them one point clear of previous leaders Liverpool.

Arsenal will stay top on goal difference if second-placed Liverpool and third-placed Manchester City draw in their blockbuster clash at Anfield on Sunday.

"Tomorrow will be a great day to watch a fantastic game of football. It is not in my hands," Arteta said.

"It's a joy to be part of this league and a joy to be part of something special that we are trying to achieve."

The much-maligned Havertz's ninth goal since his move from Chelsea underlined Arsenal's hunger to make amends for blowing an eight-point lead in the title race last season.

"We showed courage and we were rewarded," Arteta said. "That is the beautiful thing about this stadium. They support (after) mistakes."

On Tuesday, Arsenal will try to turn around a 1-0 deficit against Porto in the Champions League last 16 second leg, while their next Premier League game is at Manchester City on March 31.

Revitalised by a January training camp in Dubai, the Gunners have scored 33 goals and conceded just four during their blistering winning streak.

A 6-0 rout of Sheffield United on Monday maintained Arsenal's powerful surge and they were quickly on the attack against Brentford.

Monopolising possession in metronomic fashion, Arsenal squeezed Brentford deeper and deeper before taking the lead in the 19th minute.

Ben White whipped over a perfectly weighted cross from the right and Rice rose highest to thump a header past Brentford keeper Mark Flekken from 10 yards.

It was the former West Ham midfielder's sixth goal of his impressive first season with the Gunners.

Goalkeeper blunder

Leandro Trossard's long-range blast was well held by Flekken, but Arsenal were so dominant it seemed only a matter of time until they scored again.

Instead, Ramsdale's blunder stunned the Emirates into silence in first-half stoppage-time.

Gabriel's back-pass should have been dealt with by the Arsenal keeper, but he took too long to clear inside his six-yard box, allowing Wissa to close him down and make a sliding block that deflected the ball into the net.

Ramsdale looked distraught as he scooped up the ball and several team-mates made a point of consoling him as he trudged towards the tunnel at half-time.

Ramsdale was making his first league start since the Gunners' last meeting with Brentford on November 25 because Arsenal's first-choice keeper David Raya was ineligible to face his parent club.

The England international was applauded by Arsenal supporters when he reemerged for the second half.

Ramsdale partially redeemed himself with a superb save to keep out an audacious effort from Ivan Toney that was heading for the top corner from 30 yards out.

As the tension mounted, Ramsdale made another fine save to tip over Collins' close-range header.

Rice was inches away from restoring Arsenal's lead with a curler that hit the bar from the edge of the area.

With time running out, Havertz struck in the 86th minute.

He found space in the six-yard box to meet White's cross with a powerful header that sparked wild celebrations from Arteta on the touchline as Arsenal's title dreams live on.