Gabriel Jesus believes Arsenal’s top-of-the-table Premier League clash at Manchester City is a “final” after the Gunners were held to a draw by bottom club Southampton.
Having let two-goal leads slip to draw their previous two games, Arsenal had to battle from two behind to secure a thrilling 3-3 result at the Emirates Stadium on Friday night.
Bukayo Saka’s last-minute strike earned Mikel Arteta’s side a share of the spoils after captain Martin Odegaard had reduced the arrears moments earlier but the result still hands the title initiative to City.
Saints had looked on course for a first win at Arsenal in 36 years when Carlos Alcaraz pounced on an Aaron Ramsdale error to open the scoring in the first minute before teeing up former Arsenal man Theo Walcott to double the lead.
Gabriel Martinelli’s strike got Arsenal back in it but the rousing comeback many anticipated failed to materialise as substitute Duje Caleta-Car headed in for the visitors after the break.
The never-say-die mentality of Arteta’s players may have ultimately earned a point but they now sit just five points clear of City, who have two games in hand and host Arsenal on Wednesday night.
“Even if you don’t drop the points we dropped in the last games, nothing changes – it’s a final,” Jesus – who left City to join Arsenal last summer – said of the trip to the Etihad Stadium.
“Each game is a final, we have to face them like a final. This is the most important game of the season for us.
“We have to manage ourselves to come back and be focused again and strong, because anything can happen from now until the end of the season.
“Like the last two games, it’s two points dropped. With all respect to our opponents tonight, Southampton, they came to play the game of their lives because of the situation they’re in now, and us too.
“This is the Premier League, it’s so difficult to win this competition. We are not here to always give excuses but it’s a tough league – there are some good games and tough games.”
If Southampton had held on for the win it would have lifted them off the foot of the table.
Instead, the point leaves them bottom but goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu aims to take the positives from what ultimately proved to be a frustrating night as they gear up to face Bournemouth next.
“I think the immediate sense is disappointment,” the Republic of Ireland international told the club’s official website.
“To be two goals up with only eight, 10 minutes to go and to concede two goals is really disappointing, but we’ve got to take the positives from it.
“It’s obvious from the performance the belief and the spirit we have as a team and the togetherness, and if we continue to bring that fighting spirit into the last few games we’ll get more points.
“The manager has spoken to us and told us how well we’ve done to come here and score three goals and put a positive spin on it and we’ve got to take this and go into Thursday.”