Arsenal are still “a long way off being title contenders” despite being top of the Premier League, according to former Gunners midfielder Paul Merson.
Mikel Arteta has led his side to the Premier League summit with Arsenal currently five points ahead of second-placed Manchester City – who lost to Manchester United 2-1 on Saturday – and they could extend that lead when they face Tottenham in the north London derby on Sunday.
Arsenal are still looking to strengthen their position with Arteta and technical director Edu reportedly still looking to make two signings despite missing out on Mykhaylo Mudryk to Chelsea.
But Merson doesn’t think the Gunners bench is strong enough to challenge for the title this season and the former Arsenal midfielder insists Arteta “doesn’t seem to trust” Fabio Vieira.
“Arsenal have done amazingly but they are a long way off being title contenders, in my opinion,” Merson told Sky Sports. “Just look at that Newcastle game. They couldn’t bring anybody on when they needed to change it.
“There’s nobody on the bench bar Fabio Vieira, who Mikel Arteta paid £34m for and doesn’t seem to trust. Then, two days after that game, Man City are looking like they might draw against Chelsea, but they just bring on Grealish and Mahrez and one crosses it, one scores.
“That showed the quality Pep Guardiola has to work with and I just don’t see how Arsenal are going to be able to live with Man City over a period where there are 60-odd points up for grabs. Arsenal would have to take four points off Man City in those two games to have absolutely any chance of winning it. Otherwise, I just don’t see how Arsenal are going to do it.”
Tottenham beat Arsenal 3-0 in the corresponding fixture last season with the Gunners; Champions League hopes taking a major blow – but Arteta thinks his side have “learned” from that experience.
“It was a very difficult day, especially the way the game developed and what actually happened in the game, but obviously you learn a lot from difficult moments. We certainly did,” Arteta said.
“Whether it is actually directly linked to a change of behaviour or the team performing better, there are many factors to that. But hopefully we have learned some lessons from that day and we still have something for Sunday.”
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