Arsenal

Arsenal are SMARTER than they were last season and have ‘more devil about them’ in this title fight, Ian Ladyman tells It’s All Kicking Off… but Chris Sutton insists ‘the hardest yards are still to come’ for Mikel Arteta’s side

Arsenal have more ‘devil’ about them this season and look ‘smarter’ in their title bid, Mail Sport’s Football Editor Ian Ladyman believes.

Mikel Arteta’s side handled the daunting trip to title rivals Liverpool and came away with a creditable draw.

Arsenal fell away down the stretch in their title battle against Manchester City last season, but Ladyman, speaking on the latest It’s All Kicking Off, feels fans are now seeing Arsenal 2.0 after the disappointment of 2022-23.

see a greater mental strength about Arsenal this season,’ Ladyman said. ‘They’ve got stickability. I think they’ve trained on from last year.

‘They were very close last year and if we can see that Man City are not quite the team they were last year then that tells you that it could be very close.

To me right now I’d say that if I was going to pick a real challenger it would be Arsenal. I’m surprised that I’m saying that. I didn’t expect it.’

 

He continued: ‘I just look at Arsenal and I see a team that stepped up from last season.

‘We’ve talked about the fact that they’re meaner across the back. I think they’re smarter. I think they’ve got a little bit more devil about them.

‘I think they do the slightly dirtier parts of the game better and, you know, not necessarily to sing the praises of things like little tactical fouls, but Manchester City have been doing it for years.

‘Just to explain, a tactical foul is generally accepted to be one of those that, maybe a trip on a breaking play or a little obstruction or a tug of the shirt. All top teams do it.

It can, say, be the difference between conceding a goal and not. I see a little bit of that in Arsenal. Bukayo Saka is even doing it.’

Co-host Chris Sutton has been left impressed with Arsenal but is eager to pump the brakes given the Gunners excelled for large spells of last season before falling away.

‘I don’t see how you can say this season, because of how good they were last season, that they are better off,’ Sutton said.

The hard yards are still to come for Arsenal. I think we both accept that.’

Nonetheless, Arsenal are top at Christmas and even with Man City’s game-in-hand, would hold a three-point lead on the team seen as their greatest threat to the title should Guardiola’s side win it.

January will be a big month for Arsenal to see how much they will spend in a bid to consolidate their title bid.

‘January is massive,’ Sutton continued, ‘because you made this point earlier about Arsenal needing a genuine No 9 and that still seems to be, maybe the difference to me.

‘It’s good to have the numbers and squad depth, but you really need that strength at centre forward if you’re Arsenal and you want to go on to win the title.’

Arsenal, who went ahead at Anfield through centre back Gabriel Magalhaes before being pegged back by Mohamed Salah’s goal, have Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah as their primary options at No 9.

Brentford’s Ivan Toney is among the strikers Arsenal have interest in ahead of the January window.

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