The Citizen (KZN)

Gunners aim for a Real hit


London – Mikel Arteta (above) urged his wounded Arsenal stars to show character and leadership after their Premier League title challenge suffered a hammer blow in Sunday’s 2-0 defeat against Aston Villa.

Arteta’s side would have gone back to the top of the table with a victory at the Emirates Stadium.

But instead Arsenal were beaten for the first time in 12 league games as two goals in the last six minutes from Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins rocked their title dreams.

The second-placed Gunners are two points behind leaders Manchester City with six games left in their bid to be crowned English champions for the first time since 2004.

Facing the prospect of blowing the lead in the title race for a second successive campaign, Arteta issued a plea for his team to stick together.

“That is the reality right now. We knew this moment could come. Now it is about reacting in the right way and keep believing,” he said.

“Now is the moment to stand up as leaders and show character. We don’t have any other solution. When you win and win and win, it is easy. Now is a big test for us.

“If you want to win the Premier League and Champions League, you have to stand up.”

City will lift an unpreceden­ted fourth successive Premier League title if they win their remaining games.

It is a stark reality for Arteta, whose side had won 10 of their previous 11 league matches.

“We cannot control that. In any other league in the world if you won the number of games in a row that we did, you would be six or eight points clear. That is not the case here. That is the challenge,” Arteta said.

“We had one of the best performanc­es we had all season in the first-half. It should have been three or four but we couldn’t do it.” –

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