KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- Mikel Arteta’s face said everything. Arsenal are second in the Premier League table and are likely to slip to third if Manchester City win their ‘spare game’ at home to Brentford on Tuesday.

But the Gunners’ manager struggled to keep a smile from bursting across his face in front of the television cameras after their 5-0 win at Burnley.

Arsenal had maintained their title challenge by winning easily, with no problems and no injuries. By contrast City were looking far below their best on the way to a 1-1 home draw against Chelsea while leaders Liverpool had emerged from a 4-1 victory over Brentford with more injury problems ahead of Sunday’s League Cup Final against the improving Blues.

Arteta’s team, before their winter break in Dubai last month, had struggled for goals to maintain their momentum in the title race. Yet now they have scored 21 goals in five games, conceding only two, and have started a year with five consecutive Premier wins for the first time.

The goals began to flow through Martin Odegaard after only four minutes. Kai Havertz, operating from the left of midfield, played a central role as Arsenal raced away with the three points. He set up Leandro Trossard for the penalty which Bukayo Saka converted. Saka, scoring in a fourth consecutive league game for the first time in his career, extended the lead after halftime.

Trossard claimed the fourth after Havertz had a shot blocked then Havertz made it five after nutmegging defender Hannes Delcroix.

Havertz said: “We are in a good moment. We have won all of our league games so far this year so it feels good. Behind it was hard work and we know there are many hard games to come. We just have to continue the hard work.”

The 24-year-old’s performance vindicated Arteta’s comments on the eve of the match. Arteta said: “I love him. I think we all love him a player, as a person, everything he brings to the team. You ask him to play as a No9, as a right attacking midfielder, as a left attacking midfielder, at the base defending and he does it. He’s a joy to work with.”

No such joy for Pep Guardiola after Manchester City’s world, European and English champions had needed a late equaliser from the reliable Rodri to wipe out a Chelsea lead provided by ‘old boy’ Raheem Sterling. Rodri engaged in an unusual celebration — running off the pitch and banging his head with both fists — after relieving his frustration over the poor form of some of his more celebrated team-mates.

The last time Rodri lost with City was February 5, 2023, and he stepped up with a crucial goal, just as he had done in the Champions League final. His goal was City’s 31st shot of a game in which they had looked unusually vulnerable against Chelsea’s rare but dangerous counter-attacks.

Erling Haaland missed more chances in the 90 minutes than City would expect of a whole season. For the first time in his career he had nine attempts without scoring, his worst miss a 77th-minute header over an open goal. A television camera came too close to Haaland at full-time and he angrily shoved it away.

Manager Guardiola said: “It’s good to have nine shots and next time he’s going to score. I played for 11 years and scored 11 goals, one goal a season. I’m not the proper man to give advice to strikers. We create the chances and next time he’s going to score.”

Guardiola thought City deserved to have won for a 12th successive time. He said: “We played incredibly in the second half. The first half was not our normal level but to compete against these quality of teams you have to play 90 minutes, not just one half.”

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino might have felt the same about the possibility of winning. City keeper Ederson, before Rodri’s goal, made a superb double save with his feet from Sterling and Ben Chilwell.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will not have wasted any thoughts on the contrasting fortunes of Arsenal and City. Above all Klopp was satisfied to see substitute Mohamed Salah score on his return from African Nations Cup injury in a 4-1 victory at Brentford secured with further goals from Darwin Nunez, Alexis Mac Allister and Cody Gakpo.

Now, looking ahead, Klopp will spend more time than he would wish checking out the fitness of his squad ahead of Sunday’s Wembley trip.

Liverpool went to west London already missing goalkeeper Alisson, rightback Trent Alexander-Arnold and midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai, as well as longer-term absentees Thiago Alcantara and Joel Matip. Then midfielder Curtis Jones and forward Diogo Jota had to be substituted before half-time and Nunez replaced at the interval.

Klopp said: “We don’t yet how much this will all cost us. Curtis got a knock on the lower part of his shin, or above the ankle. That Curtis could not play on tells you that it must be something difficult or he would have played on at all costs. Diogo’s knee injury looks probably the worst. Darwin, we took off because he felt a little something which was enough for us to immediately push the brake and take him off.”

Liverpool, chasing a 20th league title to climax Klopp’s nine-year Anfield reign, were leading only 1:0 at the time but keeping Nunez fully fit to face Chelsea was a priority.

The Uruguayan has become a more consistent player than the unpredictable striker who arrived at Liverpool for £64m from Benfica in 2022. His goal, a beautiful chip over keeper Mark Flekken, was his sixth in his last 11 games, to add to four assists. The last time Liverpool lost with Nunez in the starting line-up was against Real Madrid in March last year.

Klopp, summing up a day of mixed emotions, said: “We won what was a very good game in difficult circumstances. As long as we have 11 players we will go for it.”