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Premier League: Arsenal's grip on league title slipping despite late comeback

Arsenal's title bid suffered another big setback on Friday night as they were held to a 3-3 home draw by bottom-of-the-table Southampton.

A win would have put pressure on Manchester City ahead of the crunch meeting between the two sides on Wednesday and with Southampton struggling at the bottom of the table, it was expected to be an easy night's work for Mikel Arteta's side.

However, it proved to be the exact opposite. Ruben Selles' side raced into a 2-0 lead in the capital, and bet365 customers that backed the Saints were rewarded via our Early Payout Offer. 

The visitors could not hold on, though, and in the end, Friday's 3-3 draw was no good for either side. 

bet365's Steve Freeth said: "Incredibly, it's the third Arsenal game running where the 2 Goals Ahead Early Payout Offer has been triggered in the first half, but fortunately for us and unfortunately for the Gunners' title challenge, a draw wasn't as costly as the previous two against West Ham and Liverpool.

"Pre-game Southampton backers, and there were a few with the Saints shortening from 16/1 into 11/1, certainly won't be complaining - even if Ruben Selles and Co will be disappointed at throwing away a 2 goal lead not once but twice in their attempt to stay in the Premier League."

Arsenal will certainly need to stiffen up in defence if they are to thwart their in-form title rivals Manchester City at the Etihad on Wednesday night, with the Cityzens having hit three past Arteta's side in a commanding 3-1 win in the reverse fixture at the Emirates back in February.

Freeth added: "Next up for the Gunners is a trip to Manchester City - and that's a game where we definitely do not want the 2 Goals Ahead Offer triggered for a fourth successive match!"

View 2 Goals Ahead Early Payout Offer Terms & Conditions

Arsenal's night did not go to plan

Arsenal boss Arteta has learned from the very best, and he rightly kept his emotions in check during his post-match interview on Friday. 

His head was in his hands after just 30 seconds when an Aaron Ramsdale mistake gifted Carlos Alcaraz possession, and the Saints forward slotted the ball home with ease from the edge of the box. 

Just when Arsenal fans did not think it could get any worse, former player Theo Walcott doubled Southampton's advantage to leave the Emirates crowd stunned, as plenty of customers profited thanks to our Early Payout Offer. 

Even though Gabriel Martinelli pulled a goal back in the first half, Arsenal toiled for most of the second half. 

Late goals rescue point

Like they have done several times this season, they found a way back at the death as Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka scored in the final two minutes of normal time. 

Even after Leandro Trossard rattled the crossbar in stoppage time, Arteta reverted back to his calm persona, and he has tried to reassure his team that the title is in their hands if they can get a result against Guardiola's men at the Etihad Stadium in midweek. 

He told BBC Sport: "I cannot wait. This young team reacts in a way that is incredible when it is against the odds, but the chances they created and the spirit they had, it was a joy to watch. 

"The message is clear that I love them. We are down, and they are more willing than anybody to win it. 

"You can see that spirit and fight in the dressing room, but it is clear we have to do defensively things better."

The Cityzens are 8/15 to win Wednesday's huge Etihad showdown, the draw is 10/3, while Arsenal are 19/4 to collect all three points. 

And if they do, they will go eight points clear at the top. 

Plenty of positives for Selles

After three consecutive defeats in the Premier League, Southampton fans would have been forgiven for expecting to lose heavily on Friday. 

But after leading by two goals for most of the match, they will have been deflated on their journey back to the south coast. 

With three minutes remaining, the Saints were climbing off the bottom of the table and above Leicester, but they are still four points away from safety after Arsenal's dramatic comeback. 

Selles says his team need to take the positives after proving they can mix it with the best in the division, but Saints now need to prove they can build on Friday's performance. 

They face Bournemouth next in a huge relegation six-pointer before finishing the season against Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, Fulham, Brighton and Liverpool. 

Despite their improved display, Southampton are still as short as 1/12 to be relegated, while they are 7/1 to avoid the drop.

All eyes will be on the Etihad

Wednesday's game in Manchester will have a huge bearing on the title race, and it is the stuff of dreams for TV schedulers. 

A few weeks ago, it looked like the title could be destined for the Emirates, but Arteta's team appear to be feeling the pressure as the season reaches its conclusion. 

Three draws on the spin, in which they have twice surrendered 2-0 leads, means City are now 2/9 to retain their title, and there is a sense that if there is a winner on Wednesday, they will go on to win the trophy.  

Arsenal are 10/3 to get their hands on the crown, but they will surely now need to turn in their best performance of the season to prevail on City's patch.

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