Thursday, September 7, 2023

Declan Rice is ‘signing of the season’, brilliant William Saliba, and new-found steel – Arsenal’s Premier League title challenge is on

Arsenal have already shown this season why they cannot be counted out as genuine Premier League title contenders.

The Gunners are one of three teams to maintain a 100 per cent record through the first two games, the others being Man City and Brighton.

Arteta will be plotting another Premier League title challengeGetty

City will be the favourites for the title once again, coming off the back of their historic treble, but Mikel Arteta’s side are already shaping up to be their closest rivals.

Arsenal had the title in their own hands last season, but faltered close to the finish line and were pipped by the relentless Pep Guardiola machine.

Now they are back with a bolstered squad and here is why they can be considered Premier League challengers.

New-found steel

Their win against Crystal Palace on Monday night seemed an important one, to both the squad and supporters.

They managed to grind out a 1-0 win despite going down to 10 men for the last third of the match.

“To go down 10 men for the last 30 minutes and still win shows where this Arsenal team are,” Gunners legend David Seaman told talkSPORT.

“A couple of seasons ago, we’d have lost or maybe drawn that game. This team is different, they’ve got a different belief and different steel about them.”

Tomiyasu was dealt a red card against Palace but the Gunners responded superbly

Former Premier League striker and huge Arsenal fan Darren Bent told Drive: “That’s a game that Arsenal of old would have lost. They wouldn’t have gone on to win it.

“I don’t think Arsenal have even got going yet. I’m definitely thinking there’s more to come from them, but those three points were massive.

“What I saw from them was ‘best of the rest’. I still think Man City are in neutral and they still won their two games.
“For Arsenal, it’s about putting in their performances and winning their games like they have done. You can’t argue with that.”

Arsenal have found a way to win ugly, and that’s exactly what title winning teams are able to do.

Arsenal celebrated wildly after beating PalaceGetty

Declan Rice

Arsenal got their main piece of transfer business done early, that was securing Rice for £105million from West Ham.

The England midfielder has slotted in seamlessly into the Gunners starting XI, picking up man of the match in the win over Palace.

On Rice, Bent said: “Very good, isn’t he? He could certainly be a reason why Arsenal get closer [to the title]. I still think Man City are favourites.

Rice was the best player on the pitch against PalaceGetty

“He’s quicker than you think, he’s got legs, moves the ball very well.

“That midfield three is one of the best in the Premier League.”

He added: “I feel like the improvements that have been made to the squad, having been there last year and getting there last year means they will be better this year.

“They’ll understand how to handle the occasion better than last year. I expect them to be better.”

Rice is already adding to the Arsenal midfieldGetty

William Saliba

Key to Arsenal’s title challenge this season will be keeping Saliba fit for the entire campaign.

Things started to unravel when Gabriel was partnered with Rob Holding for crucial matches.

Jurrien Timber was signed and looked brilliant in his first game before suffering a season-ending ACL injury.

Saliba has picked up where he left off last seasonGetty

Arteta has taken to tinkering his defence by shifting Ben White inside and Thomas Partey at right-back.

The first name down in that back four at the moment, though, is Saliba. He looks a remarkable talent for someone in just their second Premier League campaign.

On Saliba, Seaman said: “When he came back last summer it was like a new signing. We’d not seen him play in the first team for any length of time.

“He went out on loan and it shows you going out on loan for these young players really works.

GettySaliba made key tackles against Crystal Palace including a vital lunge on Jordan Ayew, denying him a shot on goal[/caption]

“He came in and was brilliant. He was hugely missed at the end of last season.

“Now he has started off again this season playing brilliant football and looking like he’s been in the Premier League for five or six years.”

Havertz to come good

Kai Havertz cost the Gunners £65m from Chelsea and some eyebrows were raised about the transfer.

Havertz has yet to make an impact at ArsenalGetty

He has not shown much from those first two games to allay those fears, but the Germany international has been backed to make an impact at the Emirates.

Rangers legend Ally McCoist told talkSPORT Breakfast: “I like him. I’ve stuck my neck on the line and I think he will do well. There’s no way he’s an out and out centre forward, but he can play.

“You’ll be able to come back to me as the season goes on, but I think he will do well in that Arsenal team.”

Don’t be surprised if this Arsenal team mounts another title challenge this season, but have the experience and new signings to go one better.

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