Arsenal keep title chase on track with effortless Luton win

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Arsenal keep title chase on track with effortless Luton win

Arsenal kept their title chase on track with a straightforward 2-0 victory over relegation-threatened Luton, rising to the top of the Premier League table as a result, one point ahead of second-placed Liverpool.

Jurgen Klopp’s side meet Sheffield United on Thursday at Anfield with the chance to reclaim the lead, but for now, it is Arsenal at the summit, sealing victory via Martin Odegaard’s first-half strike and a Daiki Hashioka own goal.

Mikel Arteta made five changes for the visit of the Hatters, who caused the Gunners untold problems in the reverse fixture at Kenilworth Road, but this contest was far more one-sided. Arsenal barely got out of second gear.

Arsenal's Martin Odegaard celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal

Image: Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard scored his 10th league goal of the season

The opener was scored by the hosts’ outstanding captain in the 24th minute. Emile Smith Rowe – making his first start since January – picked the pocket of Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu and fed Kai Havertz, who squared to Odegaard to side-foot home. In-form Havertz has now been involved in five goals in his last six appearances at the Emirates.

Arsenal’s second knocked the stuffing out of Rob Edwards’ depleted side entirely, with Smith Rowe involved again, as the forward escaped wide left and waited for the perfect moment to tease a cross towards the run of Reiss Nelson, forcing Hashioka to turn inadvertently into his own net.

Luton remain 18th, three points shy of safety, with seven games left to pull off an increasingly unlikely escape.

Team news headlines

  • Arsenal made five changes from a battling 0-0 draw with Manchester City at the weekend. Bukayo Saka was not involved at all, while Declan Rice and Jorginho were only named among the substitutes.
  • Oleksandr Zinchenko replaced Jakub Kiwior at full-back, alongside starts for Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson and Leandro Trossard.
  • Fred Onyedinma made his first Premier League start of the season in one of two Luton changes, as Daiki Hashioka also came into the team.

How title-chasing Arsenal reclaimed top spot

Martin Odegaard celebrates his goal

Image: Martin Odegaard celebrates Arsenal’s opening goal

Having battled to a commendable goalless draw at Manchester City four days prior, suffering without the ball for the majority, Wednesday’s meeting with Luton was not a night for overexertion by title-chasing Arsenal, who remain unbeaten in 2024.

Arteta deployed his charges to deliver a professional but profitable performance, and that is exactly what they did – lift-off in a season-defining month. Champions League commitments will add to Premier League pressures, with eight games to contest across a busy April.

Odegaard’s 10th goal of the season set the Gunners on course for a straightforward evening.

Smith Rowe dispossessed the dawdling Mpanzu inside the visitors’ half before the Norwegian exchanged passes with Havertz to slam a left-footed finish beyond Thomas Kaminski.

Luton Town's Daiki Hashioka (L) in action with Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe

Image: Emile Smith Rowe enjoyed a productive evening and was involved in both Arsenal goals

Luton dug in, but suffered a second setback a minute before the break when Hashioka turned Smith Rowe’s low centre into his own net.

The injury-hit Hatters posed very little threat in north London – only managing to amass an xG of 0.18 – and failed to score for the first time in 19 league outings.

Arsenal return to action at Brighton on Saturday, live on Sky Sports, ahead of next week’s European first leg with Bayern, while Luton’s quest for survival continues at home to Bournemouth.

Arteta: We need whole squad for run-in

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta: “I look at our squad in a different way, I want maximise what we have. They [fringe players] have to play. They responded so well, good confidence, physically with rhythm and they’re going to be really important for us.

“When they have a moment they have to take it – they give me every reason every day [to pick them]. I was confident they would respond.”

Asked whether he will be watching Liverpool vs Sheffield United on Thursday, Arteta said: “We’ll be watching it, I love to watch top teams play. That’s what we do.”

Speaking about Bukayo Saka, who was not involved in the matchday squad, he added: “He was close, but he felt something in a similar area against Man City. It was a short turnaround, hopefully he’ll train tomorrow [Thursday] and be available for the weekend.”

Edwards: We believe PL survival is possible

Luton manager Rob Edwards: “I’m really proud to represent this football club at the moment. Our supporters understand what we’re going through. It’s difficult. Arsenal give you nothing.

“I saw us create decent openings and get behind them but we didn’t capitalise. The lads are giving us so much out of possession, it’s hard to get on the front foot. But we didn’t go under. You can always guarantee that.

“I’ve believed it from day one [that we can avoid relegation]. I believe in this group. Towards the end of January, I thought ‘I really like what I’m seeing’. We’re competing in this league, but injuries have knocked us.

“I still see a team that’s competing. We’re in it. Arsenal don’t give anything away but we weren’t out of it. The players are with me, they believe, and all their focus has to go onto Saturday now.”

Opta: Arsenal are all business

Martin Odegaard celebrates with Kai Havertz after scoring his side's opening goal

Image: Impressive Kai Havertz has been directly involved in 12 league goals this season

  • Arsenal made five starting XI changes from their 0-0 draw with Man City last time out – their most from one Premier League fixture to another since September 2021 against Norwich (7).
  • Kai Havertz has now been directly involved in 12 goals in the Premier League this season (8 goals, 4 assists), the outright most he has contributed in a single season.
  • Luton’s 38 away goals conceded is the most of any team in the top flight, with the Hatters conceding an average of 2.4 goals per away match (38 in 16).

What’s next?

Saturday 6th April 5:00pm Kick off 5:30pm

Sky Sports Premier League HD Sky Sports Premier League HD

Arsenal are back in action on Saturday Night Football, taking on Brighton in the Premier League, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 5.30pm.

Luton also play on Saturday in the Premier League, hosting Bournemouth; kick-off 3pm.

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