Alan Shearer believes that whilst it is too soon to call Arsenal title contenders, they have now become a team that everyone else should fear.
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The Gunners returned to the top of the Premier League table on Sunday after beating Brentford 3-0, courtesy of goals from William Saliba, Gabriel Jesus and Fabio Vieira.
They have now won six of their opening seven games of the season, and sit a point above champions Manchester City and arch-rivals Tottenham.
Meanwhile, the remaining ‘big six’ teams have endured tough starts, with Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool fifth, seventh and eighth in the table, albeit having played a game less.
Whilst still early days, the results and performances of Mikel Arteta’s side have given Arsenal fans hope of a first league title since the ‘Invincibles’ triumph of 2003/04.
Shearer doesn’t necessarily share that enthusiasm, but hailed the work of Arteta in his BBC Sport column, noting the transformation from the woeful start they made to last season.
He said: ‘The Gunners’ win at Brentford epitomised their progress under Mikel Arteta, because we all remember what happened in this fixture on the opening weekend of last season – when the Bees didn’t just beat them, they bullied them.
‘Everything was different about Arsenal this time – in attack and defence, plus the way they controlled the game, and with their attitude and intensity. They ran out comfortable winners.
‘This Gunners side is not only bigger and stronger, it is also more committed. They were better in every department and dominated right from the start.
‘[Brentford’s] two strikers, Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo, hardly got a kick because Gabriel and William Saliba dominated them so much, and it was the same all over the pitch.’
As the international break begins, Arteta and co. will hope to maintain their great momentum when the season resumes next month in what will be a very tricky test for all involved, as Arsenal will play nine games in October.
The postponement of their Europa League clash with PSV, in addition to the condensing of fixtures due to the World Cup, will no doubt strain Arsenal’s squad depth.
‘It’s not time to talk about them as title contenders yet, but people now know that this is a different Arsenal to the team we saw just 13 months ago,’ Shearer added.
‘It’s been a strange start to this campaign by some of the big clubs, with Liverpool being nowhere near the levels we know they can be. Chelsea have been the same, and they have had more upheaval after their change of manager.
‘Manchester United made a really poor start too but they have recovered well, while Tottenham are still unbeaten and are right up there along with Manchester City, who are still the team to beat.
‘I still think Arsenal’s main target is a return to the top four for the first time since 2016, and they have not done too much wrong so far.
‘Their next two league games at the start of October, at home to Spurs and Liverpool, will tell us more about whether they can sustain this strong start but, right now, their fans will be enjoying what they are seeing.’
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