Kai Havertz spared Aaron Ramsdale’s blushes as Arsenal earned a statement win over Brentford which puts them top of the Premier League before title rivals Liverpool and Manchester City meet on Sunday.

Arsenal, looking to lead the table for the first time since December, went in front through Declan Rice’s flicked header.

The home side continued to dominate possession and Havertz skewed wide their best opportunity to go further ahead.

But, out of nowhere, the good work in an assured first-half performance was undone by Ramsdale’s error.

The England keeper, playing because David Raya was ineligible against his parent club, dallied over a clearance and allowed a sliding Yoane Wissa to score.

Arsenal pushed for a second-half winner without much luck until Havertz popped up in space to head in Ben White’s cross.

Havertz scored in his fourth consecutive Premier League game to put Arsenal a point clear of Liverpool and two ahead of Manchester City.

It led to joyous celebrations at Emirates Stadium, although the Gunners know their title rivals have the chance to go back above them at Anfield on Sunday.

Different performance but same result for Arsenal

What has been so impressive about Arsenal’s sparkling run to the summit is the way they have torn their opponents apart.

Thirty-one goals in seven league wins at the start of 2024 was indicative of their attacking quality, while their refusal to show any mercy once in command demonstrated a ruthless mindset.

But their eighth win in a row required a different type of mentality.

Before the visit of struggling Brentford, Gunners boss Mikel Arteta talked about his side playing with the “same energy, determination and character” as they had in blowing away the likes of West Ham, Burnley, Newcastle and Sheffield United.

Arteta stressed how they needed to earn the right to win the game – and that is eventually what they did.

It was a completely different performance to the type Arsenal have produced in recent weeks – needing to dig in, stay patient and take the big opportunity when it arrived.

The wisdom in signing Chelsea’s deep-lying forward Havertz instead of a more recognised striker has been regularly questioned, but the German proved his worth once again.

Havertz, who also scored a late winner in Arsenal’s 1-0 victory at Brentford, continued to answer any lingering critics with another goal which could prove vital when the champions are decided in May.

What had been a tense atmosphere inside the Emirates instantly became celebratory, with the home fans eventually feeling confident enough to sing “We are top of the league” in the eighth minute of stoppage time.

Kesh Awefada

Kesh Awefada

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