Football NewsArteta’s Touchline Body Language as Arsenal Handed Man City Title.
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Mikel Arteta was probably wondering how a title challenge that lit up the Premier League could be extinguished with such painful predictability.

Amid the bedlam of a City Ground survival party, Mikel Arteta cut a subdued, thoughtful figure.

He was probably wondering how a title challenge that lit up the Premier League could be extinguished with such painful predictability.

The formal termination of their ultra-faint hopes of somehow clambering back above Manchester City came with an ordinary performance against a fired-up Nottingham Forest but they knew – and we all knew – that this was just a case of officially accepting what has been in plain sight for some time.

Arsenal ’s despair will be nowhere near as great as Forest’s joy at staying in the Premier League. But the way they failed to respond to City’s pressure will still hurt after being in control of their own destiny for so long this season.

The problem with labelling Arsenal as bottlers or chokers is that it insults their mentality and their mentality has not been the issue.

The issue has been that the squad’s limitations have caught up and ambushed them at the wrong time of the season.

No matter how accomplished he is, one player’s absence should not be felt as much as William Saliba’s absence has been felt.

That is one obvious difference between Arsenal and Manchester City, who have five individuals who can do an elite-level job at centre-half.

Without Saliba, Arsenal have proved too easy to score against, simple as that.

Forest’s winning goal, early in the first half, was typical of the Gunners’ defensive struggles as the outstanding Morgan Gibbs-White was allowed to drive through the heart of Arteta’s rearguard.

Still, Aaron Ramsdale, with a nice new contract in his glove bag, and Gabriel should have dealt with the threat posed by a pass aimed for the path of Taiwo Awoniyi.

But the Arsenal keeper dawdled, forcing his centre-half to intervene and Gabriel’s tackle only succeeded in producing an unwitting finish from Awoniyi.

After his initial anger, Arteta looked a little nonplussed, as well he might have.

When Gibbs-White released his pass, there was no one inside the City Ground who thought it had not been overhit yet it still produced the deadlock-breaking goal.

And that sort of scenario has been created too often by Arsenal, particularly since Saliba was struck down by injury. In the past eight Premier League games, the Gunners have conceded 18 goals and that sort of vulnerability simply cannot seal the deal in close title battles.

The strength of Manchester City’s squad was always going to come into significant play at some point during the closing laps of a Premier League campaign.

But while it goes without saying that few teams could match the phenomenal run of form that City have yet again produced, it does not mean Arsenal are blameless.

Physically – particularly in terms of pressing – their standards have slipped and Forest were allowed too much breathing space for large parts of this contest.

Gabriel Jesus, for example, has not been at his effervescent best since his return from a long lay-off and cut a frustrated figure at the City Ground.

Mind you, he had every right to be frustrated when Anthony Taylor somehow failed to penalise Joe Worrall for yanking the Arsenal striker to the deck inside the area.

To rub salt into the wound, Jesus was booked for protesting, summing up his and Arsenal’s day.