Football

We’re ‘on our way’ to top-four target: Emery

Arsenal's 2-1 triumph at Huddersfield Town on Saturday was their fifth away English Premier League win of the season - having won four in the whole of the last campaign - but the manner of victory suggested much improvement is still needed, particularly if the Gunners are to secure a top-four spot.

After losing their first two league games to champions Manchester City and Chelsea, Unai Emery's reign as Arsenal manager went smoothly and they did not taste defeat again until Dec 16 - a run of 22 matches unbeaten in all competitions.

Since that loss at Southampton, however, things have not gone so well and Arsenal have been beaten five more times, four in the EPL, in less than two months. Even before the Southampton reverse, the warning signs were there.

Before Saturday's match, Arsenal had held a half-time on only three occasions in the league this season and had won 12 points from losing positions - only Leicester City have more.

Arsenal have also won the joint-most points this season in the final 10 minutes of matches, but relying heavily on second-half turnarounds and late shows could only go on for so long.

At the heart of the problem is their defensive record - Arsenal remain the only team in the league without an away clean sheet.

"Defensively they are one of the worst sides I've ever seen in the top six of the Premier League," former Arsenal midfielder Paul Merson said.

Against Huddersfield, the league's bottom side who had not scored a goal in eight hours and 27 minutes before Saturday, Arsenal, even with a two-goal advantage via Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette, never looked comfortable.

With better finishing, the hosts would have made a game of it even before Sead Kolasinac's injury-time own goal. But Emery insists his side remain on track for a top-four finish and a return to the Champions League.

He said: "It is game 26 and there is a one-point difference between Manchester United and us. If we ask if it's easy or difficult for us, then I think it's difficult, but we can .

"On game 26 we are on our way. Our motivation is very great and every player wants to, in every match, and have regularity and consistency in the Premier League in 38 matches.

"And now we are getting close to our target and to the other teams." - REUTERS

Football