Much has been said about Arsenal’s title chances this season, but with just eight games left it is now obvious the Gunners are well in the hunt to emerge as Premier League champions. And their ability to keep going for 90 minutes is proving invaluable at the moment. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat (or a draw, at least) is a virtue that Manchester United have demonstrated to perfection on so many occasions under the magnificent rein of Sir Alex Ferguson and it seems as though this year Arsene Wenger’s men are getting the hang of it. The North Londoners have scored more goals in the last 10 minutes than any other side this campaign and Nicklas Bendtner’s last minute strike earned the Gunners a vital three points at Hull on Saturday. There was such expectation upon them to deliver a win, with the pressure mounting as the season nears its final straight, and with their large army of travelling fans getting extremely edgy. For these reasons the importance of the Denmark striker’s winner should not be overlooked.
Bendtner told Arsenal’s official website: “If you give up after 80 minutes then you cannot be a player. We showed great character as we did against Stoke and we are going to keep on doing this. I always believe until the last minute that we can do it because I have seen it so many times. We pass the ball around and you think it’s over but then we score a goal out of nothing. I always had that belief and I think the rest of the team had it and that showed again.
“We said to each other before the game that we were going to have to be patient because they were going to put a lot of men behind the ball when they don’t have it. Even when they got the red card, they defended really well. It was important for us to keep going and even in the 90th minute of the game you can still score.”
As Bendtner said, It was a similar scenario to the one Arsenal found themselves in away at Stoke last month. The Britannia and The KC stadiums are both difficult places to visit, where the home side scrap and give away little. But nevertheless three points is still the only acceptable outcome for a championship chasing side and in both instances the Gunners were trying, and struggling, to break down the 10 men of the opposition. But, as with Bendtner’s late finish on Humberside, Arsenal managed to dig their way out of trouble and actually saw the net bulge twice during stoppage-time in Staffordshire.
While these victories against lesser sides, depleted by sending-offs, may not look that impressive on paper, if Arsenal find themselves lifting the Premier League trophy in May they should look back on these critical four points they snatched late on as decisive. Not only are the actual points they mustered in the closing stages of these games so important but so, too, would the sense of belief that they will be able to provide similar late rescue acts further down the line when the pressure is even more suffocating. And while many Arsenal fans may not like the comparison to one of their most bitter rivals, such feats are similar to ones pulled off by the Red Devils in seasons gone by. It may just be proof that this is going to be Arsenal’s year.