Gary Neville believes we are seeing the “Arsenal of 20 years ago” – when Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles ruled English football – following another seismic outcome in a thrilling title race.
Mikel Arteta has seen his Arsenal rebuild their five-point cushion in the Premier League following a 3-2 win over Manchester United – but insists a successful title tilt will ‘require near perfection’ ” election campaign.
The Gunners are unbeaten in their past 13 Premier League games, their longest league streak since December 2018 when they went 14 games.
“I really like it,” Neville said on his latest podcast sky sports“I just felt that in the last half hour Arsenal were stronger.
“It feels like Arsenal was 20 years ago. When I was a player for them, I used to expect them to shoot from long range or cross – but they would pass more and play wide.
“They would keep pushing you into the box. I would find myself getting deeper and narrower and more pressured. It felt like the goal was coming. It was just wave after wave, You play against such a good Arsenal team like 20 years ago.”
Arsenal have scored 50 points from their opening 19 games and with five of the last six champions scoring over 90, Arteta knows they must keep a strong pace.
Now is the time to cool your head.
Arteta was not in full swing when an altercation between Arsenal goalkeeper Ramsdale and Tottenham striker Richarlison in early January culminated in a fan kicking Ramsdale before running back into the crowd. Unpleasant incidents in a game against Tottenham.
He then switched to emphasizing the importance of his players keeping their heads in the heat of the action as he saw defender Rob Holding sent off less than half an hour after the defeat to Tottenham in May.
Arsenal’s temperament will be tested in the second half of the season, but Neville believes the additions of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko – ironically from Manchester City – will provide the best for Arteta. The team provides the necessary experience to respond to the review.
“I don’t think the managers of 20 years ago were as exemplary as what we see today, like Conte, Klopp, Pep and Arteta,” Neville said when asked about the Arsenal boss’ touchline. The show said it got him warned by referee Anthony Taylor.
“Those Arsenal players are going to be under a lot of pressure for the next 19 games and it needs to be calm – especially in the last 10.
“When you’re fighting for the league title, there’s really a lot of pressure on those players. Not only do they need that passion, but they also need calmness and some calm authority at times.
“They need to settle down. They have players like Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus, they know what it’s like, they’ve been there before. It’s exciting to think what this Arsenal team can achieve.
“They now need to go on and show us they can win the title and it’s going to be tough. They still have to play City twice and they’ve got them on their shoulders.”
“They’re a huge strong team, Manchester City and Pep Guardiola. You can imagine them sitting there tonight and not being bothered by it.”
Heading into the weekend, Guardiola questioned the aspirations of his players after their 4-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur and said Arsenal would “destroy” them in the Premier League title race if they continued as they were.
City responded with a 3-0 win at Wolves thanks to Erling Haaland’s fourth Premier League hat-trick of the season – and Neville insists he’s ultimately still ahead despite Arsenal’s current five-point advantage will fall behind.
“I don’t think they’re going to go on to win the league, I still think Man City will. I think Man City have something special about them, when they lose a game or two, a point for the season comes. Man City they will With a heavy load on their shoulders, it’s going to be very difficult for them, but they can win the league.
“I don’t think they’re so far from winning the league, I can’t believe they’re even chatting. The fact that they’re talking about winning the league is unbelievable, so it’s not a bad thing for me. I think Manchester City Will win the league because that’s what I thought at the start of the season.
“I thought City would go after them but they were yelling and it was really unbelievable for Mikel Arteta because at the end of last season I was really worried about him.”
Neville: Nketiah deserves England call-up
Eddie Nketiah has scored 19 goals in his last 26 starts for Arsenal, including 13 in his last 13 starts at the Emirates Stadium.
“Eddie Nketiah’s England call-up has expired,” Neville added. “Gareth Southgate has been very good at giving players a glimpse into their U21 careers and not bringing them into the first team prematurely.
“But Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s form isn’t there at the moment, Callum Wilson is fine but will he be in form for the next four or five years? We know Harry Kane is great but lacks a centre-forward. Marcus Rashford is playing Sideways, I think that’s where he’s going to stay.
“Erik 10 Hag wants him to stay there so he has a real chance, but at the moment the best Nketiah can do is to contribute to this Arsenal team, to the very special game they’re playing. and the special season they’re going through.”
Arteta praises Arsenal’s first half of season
The win took Arsenal to 50 points from their opening 19 games for the season – a club record at this stage of the season – and even five points clear of Arsene Wenger’s unbeaten run.
“Extraordinary,” Arteta replied when asked what he thought of the first half of the campaign.
“It couldn’t have been better. We deserved the points. I think we played well enough to win most games.
“But the reality is, there are things we can do better. Offensive and defensive in transition. That’s the goal.”
Arteta, who worked as an assistant to Pep Guardiola before taking charge at the Emirates Stadium, will now lead his side to take on Manchester City in Friday night’s FA Cup fourth-round tie.
They still have two league games to go and Arteta believes everyone in the division is trying to catch City.
“I know my team very well,” he added. “They have enough quality to play against these teams and they’ve done that. We’ve talked about that in the last two or three days.
“We know our reality, we know how much we need to improve, we know what got us to where we are and we have to strengthen that every day.
“I know where we are, I know why we are here, I know where we want to go, but we are nowhere near that.
“I know the level of other teams, especially those that have won in the last five or six years, and we haven’t.”