LONDON – Premier League leaders Arsenal have been questioned about their title credentials all season but their last-gasp win over Manchester United silenced many of the doubters.
Eddie Nketiah scored the winner in stoppage time in a thrilling game at the Emirates on Sunday as the home fans believed it could be their year.
The game against in-form United was seen as a big test for the Gunners, especially after Manchester City closed the gap at the top of the table to just two points earlier in the season. day.
They were defiant but did not panic, hitting hard after Marcus Rashford’s first goal and staying calm after Lisandro Martinez canceled out Bukayo Saka’s second-half strike.
Arsenal, who have made their best start to a season in the English top flight, have 50 points after 19 games — five ahead of defending champions City with game in hand about halfway through the campaign.
“I don’t think it can get any better than this,” said Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta.
“It was a great moment, it was really special because we pushed and pushed and pushed and the goal didn’t come and it finally came… just electric. him.”
Arteta said he hopes the result, which follows last week’s 2-0 win over Tottenham in the north London derby, gives his team the belief that Arsenal can be crowned champions. for the first league title since 2004.
But he wants to keep his team’s feet on the ground despite a remarkable season that saw them lose just once in the league.
“We know where we are, we know how much we still have to improve,” said the Spaniard, who was Pep Guardiola’s assistant at City.
A beatable game
Arsenal face the champions in the middle of next month but the upcoming games look all winnable and it’s getting harder to see where they slip up.
Leaving aside the game against City, Arsenal’s next opponents in the league are Everton, Brentford, Aston Villa, Leicester, Bournemouth, Fulham, Crystal Palace and Leeds.
City, with a title-winning streak, seem to have found their form again after the shock and the bottom-of-the-table side will be fighting for their lives when the doors open.
But former Arsenal captain Arteta has transformed his team from last season’s runners-up to title favourites, through luck and judgement.
Saka has grown in strength while Nketiah has stepped up in the absence of new signing Gabriel Jesus, injured while playing for Brazil at the World Cup.
The 23-year-old now has six goals in six games in all competitions, starting in the tournament in Qatar.
“What Eddie did was incredible,” Arteta said. “We can’t say we saw it. We expected him to be able to do it because of his character, because of his attitude, because of his character.”
Asked to sum up the first half of the season, Arteta said it had been “extraordinary” but was again careful to avoid the impression that his team was the finished article.
“It doesn’t get much better than that, but that’s the reality,” he said. “I think we deserve the points we have.
“We have played well enough to win most of the games but the fact is we still have a lot of things we can do better.”
So does he believe Arsenal are now title favourites, to win the Premier League for the first time since Arsene Wenger’s last triumph nearly two decades ago?
“I have no idea,” he said. “It can be a perception. I know my team well, I know where we are, I know why we are here and I know where we want to be.
“And we are still far from that and I know the level of other teams, especially one that has won everything in the last five or six years and we are not there yet.”