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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at the TH Stadium

Revealed: The secret behind Arsenal not repeating last April's title run-in implosion

Arsenal fans were probably fearing the worst when that defeat to Aston Villa came. Their first in the league in 2024 sandwiched between a Champions League exit at the hands of Bayern Munich.

This time last year, the wheels started to come off the title chase as leads were surrendered at Liverpool and West Ham and a draw was coughed up against a doomed Southampton before the final crushing defeat at Man City which ended the fantasy.

It was unkindly put down to a lack of bottle by lazy critics, but more likely it was just a little missing extra quality and fortune needed to handle misfortune. Undoubtedly the Gunners seem better equipped now to deal with adversity.

And look what they have done in three potential banana skins - Winning 2-0 at Wolves, thrashing Chelsea 5-0 and now upending Spurs 3-2 in the North London derby - a win that ought to have been far more comprehensive and would have been but for the David Raya error which gifted Spurs a way back into the match.

After the game, Mikel Arteta talked about fine margins that undid his side last year. He sees improvement but was not about to declare a massive difference from last term, even though his side, with just three to play, look capable of pushing Man City all the way to the final match against Everton this time.

There is one factor that has been probably overlooked in seeing this impressive charge to the tape, however. Could it be something as banal as a reaction to the weather?

Sunday followed the pattern of other games this month, offering up a slate grey sky, freezing wind and rain. It did not feel anything like a typical end-of-season spring day, when the sun should be shining and the extra warmth hinting at the endgame...hinting at the heighten stakes in every single remaining minute on the field.

Could it be that the Gunners played as if it was January - because it certainly felt like a January day - which is a month when they were at their strongest? Did the team bus to the ground take a route avoiding all signs of seasonal Wisteria to make sure the players were hoodwinked into believing they were still in the dead of winter?

When so much psychology is at play as well, as skill and energy levels, who is to say that hasn't played a part? They showed the sort of mental fortitude that seemed second nature during their great run of victories at the start of the new year.

Speaking about the psychology of the team in this crucial final push, Arteta said: "It's about how much do you want it. Don't feel sorry for yourself . It's part of the journey. When you are the highest competitive level, you are going to have disappointment, the margins are so small and they are not always going to go for you. It's how you react to that.

"You must face the challenge, face the opportunity and be brave and I think this team has a lot of courage and determination to make it happen.

"When you win it's always the case [that you are ready to win a title]. Last year we went to West Ham and missed a penalty and against Liverpool, you concede in the 91st minute, then [it means] you are not capable. So in the end, that judgment is going to be based on the result. You concede a goal in the last minute [today] and it's 3-3, then we're not ready - so the margins are so small."

Arteta added: "It was a really emotional game. A very tough place to come, obviously, incredible atmosphere in the stadium and a great team to play against. Coming in 3-0 up, we were dominating the game and creating chances, then an individual error happens that puts a wrong message in your brain, but I think we started to deal with the situation better.

"We had to dig in and react and I'm very pleased the way the team's done it. The error is part of football. It can happen. You misjudge the situation and the scorer takes advantage of that. What I love is that David does that and then he was sensational for the last 20-25 minutes of the game and this is what I love about our players.

"We've done it here two years in a row, which is extremely difficult."

Spurs boss Ange Postecoglou refused to blame the team's failure to deal with set pieces as the main failing - even though two of Arsenal's goals came from corners. said: "It's not just about the set pieces. If I thought fixing set pieces was the answer to us bridging the gap I'd spend all my time and effort to that, but it's not where we are at. We are not as focused on the details.

"There are a lot of moments in games when we don't sense that you give good opposition the time and the space to do things and they are going to hurt you. I think they maybe had four attempts on goal in the first half and scored three, so I don't think it's one part of it, it's a broader picture than that. There's a lot more to fix."

The Australian added: "We didn't get the outcome we wanted, so obviously it's very disappointing. When I think about the performance, it's still the outcome that sits upon you. I think our general football was good, it was decent. I think we controlled it for the most part. We know we are a team that can do that. Arsenal are a team that deal with the details well and we don't."

Those details might now include the weather. Gunners fans should probably keep their fingers crossed that the unseasonable chill lingers a little longer.


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