Arteta has game-changer Rice to thank as Arsenal again find a way to win against admirable Luton

Jason Soutar
Declan Rice was heavily linked with Chelsea before moving to Arsenal.

It should have been one of those nights for Luton Town at Kenilworth Road against Arsenal but Mikel Arteta’s men once again leave it late to win on the road.

Tuesday’s Premier League match between Luton and Arsenal was epic. Mikel Arteta’s side had the lead three times and Luton once. There was a last-gasp winner from the Gunners’ best summer signing. A third goal in four games for a heavily debated, but improving summer signing. And two howlers from a summer signing who has been in the spotlight since making their debut.

£100million bargain Declan Rice has been a monster in the Arsenal midfield, adding so much defensively and once again coming in clutch like he did against Manchester United back in August. He has been a game-changer in the middle this season.

Rice had one of his quieter nights against Luton but was still impressive nonetheless, doing the dirty work on which he thrives. But it was all about his 97th-minute header to send Arsenal five points clear at the top of the Premier League – the biggest lead any side has had at the summit this campaign.

So many times this season the Gunners have not been at their best and still won. Is doing this sustainable for a team looking to win a league title? Probably not, as Jamie Carragher has already said. Although, Fergie time and all that.

As Carra’s pal Gary Neville has also said, Arsenal’s steel as opposed to their free-flowing football from last season is a sign that they will not run out of steam come April.

Rice in that midfield has made a huge difference, but the story of the night from an Arsenal point of view will be all about David Raya in goal. Yes, that debate goes on. We want it to end but Raya loves giving us something to talk about.

There is no longer a debate about who is the No. 1 between Raya and Aaron Ramsdale. Arteta believes Raya is better than Ramsdale, but is he so much better that the noise around the goalkeeper situation can be justified? Most certainly not. It is a bold tactic from the Spaniard but he is going to back his compatriot to the moon and back. Two errors against Luton do not mean Ramsdale will start at Aston Villa on Saturday.

Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya struggles to defend a corner as Arsenal concede to Luton.

It is also fair to say that Raya made two mistakes and was punished, while Ramsdale made two at Brentford and was somehow not punished.

The other summer signing who has been spoken about a lot is Havertz, who now has three goals in his last four games. The German is improving every single week, looking more confident on the ball and getting into scoring positions. He scored a huge goal at Brentford last month and he got another one against the Hatters.

Arsenal’s ability to win without playing particularly well will worry some and encourage others, but there is no doubting the mentality of Luton fans, who will no doubt be gutted by the result but will also be extremely proud and have plenty of belief they can do the unthinkable and stay up.

The Hatters have shown so much more than Burnley and Sheffield United this season. In terms of their management, their know-how, and the look of top-flight experience, the Premier League debutants have been more convincing and Tuesday’s match against Arsenal should have been one of those nights at the Kenny.

Rob Edwards set up his team to get at Arsenal and they scored three goals. It is worth noting that the visitors had conceded three away goals all season before kick-off.

Luton’s confidence is growing despite results like Tuesday’s. They should have beat Liverpool at home and were unlucky in defeat against Tottenham. Manchester City at the weekend could be the day the penny finally drops. It won’t be easy by any means but the signs are there and they will have learned from the defeat to the Gunners.

It is important not to get the wind knocked out of you by this sort of defeat and there is no doubt that Edwards will not let that happen.

While he urges his side to keep going, Arteta will do the exact same. The goalkeeper won’t change, Rice will keep doing his thing, and if his current form is anything to go by, Havertz will keep getting better and better.

They might underwhelm, but they are winning. Winning is all that matters and everyone knows that. And the latest win sees Arsenal go five points clear on top of the Premier League.

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