Arsenal stumbles again in 1-1 draw with Brentford in EPL

Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli, centre right, and Brentford's Ethan Pinnock, centre left, challenge for the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Brentford at Emirates stadium in London, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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LONDON (AP) — Arsenal’s grip on the English Premier League lead is suddenly looking shaky.

The Gunners were held by Brentford to 1-1 at Emirates Stadium on Saturday, dropping points for the second game in a row and giving Manchester City renewed hope of overtaking them atop the table.

The result means City can cut Arsenal’s lead to three points with a home win over Aston Villa on Sunday. With Arsenal then hosting City on Wednesday, Pep Guardiola’s team would go top on goal difference if it wins both matches — although the Gunners have played one game less.

Leandro Trossard’s first Arsenal goal gave the hosts the lead in the 66th minute when he steered in a cross from Bukayo Saka. But Ivan Toney equalized with a close-range header eight minutes later after the Gunners failed to clear a free kick.

Coming off a 1-0 loss at Everton last weekend, Arsenal looked flat again for much of the game and was even fortunate not to be behind at the break as Brentford wasted two great chances.

Toney’s cross from the right evaded Arsenal defenders to give Rico Henry an opportunity to score into an open net, but the full back couldn’t make clean contact with the ball and it sailed wide.

Toney then nearly scored in the 25th after Bryan Mbeumo teed him up inside the area, but the striker’s shot hit the corner of the goal frame.

With Arsenal’s attack sputtering, Trossard came off the bench to provide a much-needed spark. The former Brighton forward, who joined Arsenal in the January transfer window, was on hand at the far post to slot the ball into an empty net after being picked out by Saka.

But the lead didn’t last long.

After Arsenal couldn’t clear an in swinging free kick into the area, Brentford kept the ball alive with three straight headers before Christian Norgaard squared the ball across the goalmouth, where Toney had an easy header into an empty net. The Brentford celebrations were put on hold for a lengthy VAR check for a possible offside before the goal was allowed to stand.

Arteta, though, insisted the goal should have been disallowed because Ethan Pinnock was offside when he blocked Arsenal defender Gabriel from getting to the ball in the leadup.

“I just looked back and it is offside, yes,” Arteta said. “You cannot block if you are offside.”

Oleksandr Zinchenko shot narrowly wide in the 80th as Arsenal looked for an immediate response but the hosts never came closer to a winner.

For Bentford, it’s now 10 games unbeaten in the league after another big result against the traditional top teams.

Thomas Frank’s team has beaten Manchester United, Man City and Liverpool this season, with draws against Chelsea, Tottenham and now Arsenal.

“We have this secret sauce at the training ground that we give to the players every lunch. No, I wish it was that, that would be a good story,” Frank said. “It’s insane that it’s possible for us with the second lowest budget to be unbeaten and all 10 games well deserved wins or draws. It’s not like we’re crawling over the line. That’s maybe even more impressive.”