Arsene Wenger and Arsenal went some way to answering their critics by twice coming from behind to draw 2-2 with Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday, but securing Champions League qualification appears increasingly unlikely for the Gunners, as intense speculation over the manager's future continues.
City led twice through goals from Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero at Emirates Stadium, only for Pep Guardiola's men to surrender their advantage on each occasion and miss an opportunity to close the gap on Chelsea following the league leaders' surprise loss at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Theo Walcott and Shkodran Mustafi were the men to get the hosts level in the first and second half respectively, a share of the spoils leaving Arsenal sixth in the table, seven points behind fourth-placed City and facing the prospect of missing out on a place in UEFA's elite competition for the first time during Wenger's reign.
The Frenchman, out of contract at the end of the season, is yet to announce a decision on his future amid vociferous protests from some Arsenal supporters, who are likely to remain unconvinced by a determined but characteristically inconsistent performance on home soil.
City were in front after just five minutes, when Kevin De Bruyne's quick long pass from inside his own half found a gap in the Arsenal defence. Sane collected the ball and held off Hector Bellerin with ease, before rounding David Ospina and finding the bottom-right corner with a cool finish.
Arsenal settled and gradually grew into the contest, troubling City down the visitors' right, where Jesus Navas had been mystifyingly deployed by Guardiola as a makeshift full-back.
Despite starting to control possession, the Gunners still struggled to create chances, although Fernandinho was called on to make a brilliant sliding tackle to dispossess Alexis Sanchez inside the penalty area in the 29th minute after good work from Nacho Monreal and Mesut Ozil to create the opening.
The home side were deservedly level with five minutes remaining in the first half, Walcott netting opportunistically from close range after City failed to properly clear a corner, a napping Gael Clichy playing the Arsenal forward onside.
Parity lasted barely two minutes, though, before the Gunners' hard work in getting back into the match was undone. This time it was Arsenal who were found wanting defensively, David Silva left in too much space at the top of the penalty area and sliding the ball out to Aguero, who fired a firm, angled finish across Ospina and into the back of the net.
BOOOOOOOOM!!! pic.twitter.com/BShbWcpYS9— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 2, 2017
After a cagey start to the second half, Arsenal equalised for a second time in the 54th minute, Mustafi climbing above Nicolas Otamendi to head Ozil's corner down and into the far bottom corner of the net, beyond the reach of diving City goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
Perhaps surprisingly with so much at stake during the final months of the campaign, the game petered out in the second half, the introduction of Olivier Giroud for Walcott doing little to inspire Wenger's men, while Silva fired wide late on with one of the visitors' few notable opportunities.
Monreal survived a penalty appeal for handball in the 92nd minute, prompting a furious response from Guardiola on the sidelines, the Spanish defender and his team surviving to claim a point.
City now face a crunch showdown away to Antonio Conte's frontrunners – who are seven points clear of second-placed Tottenham – on Wednesday, when Arsenal welcome London rivals West Ham to Emirates Stadium.
Key Opta Facts:
- Arsenal have lost just one of 20 home Premier League matches against Manchester City (W12 D7).
- David Silva registered his 100th Premier League goal involvement with an assist for Sergio Aguero – the Spaniard has scored 37 goals and assisted 63 since his debut in August 2010.
- Leroy Sane has scored in five of his last eight Manchester City matches in all competitions (five goals).
- Mesut Ozil's assist in this game was his 50th for Arsenal in all competitions.
- The Gunners have won exactly the same number of points (51) after 28 games in 2016-17 as they did last season, with exactly the same record (W15 D6 L7).