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Former Arsenal man casts doubt over Mikel Arteta’s title push

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By Martin Graham | 20th Oct 2022

Jermaine Pennant has cast aspersions over Mikel Arteta’s ability to lead Arsenal all the way, despite their strong start to the Premier League season.

The Gunners have had their best start to the Premier League in ages, winning nine of their opening 10 games. In contrast, last season’s top two teams, Manchester City and Liverpool, have had mixed starts to their season.

The defending champions Man City have won only seven of their opening 10 games and sit in second place on goal difference. Liverpool, on the other hand, have a game in hand but sit all the way down in eighth place, after winning only three of their opening nine games.

Much of Arsenal’s pre-season discourse was around taking them back into the top four after they narrowly missed out on it last year. But when Granit Xhaka gave an interview to the Daily Mail early this month stating that the top four remains their priority but that they are also looking at winning the big prize, it showed a growing confidence in the Arsenal team that they are genuine title contenders despite what people may think.

However, the uniqueness of the season is what Jermaine Pennant believes will be the deciding factor for Arsenal. For one month between November and December, football the world over will be put on hold as Qatar stages the 22nd edition of the FIFA World Cup.

Pennant believes that Arsenal’s lack of squad depth will be telling after the tournament and that City’s strength in depth will allow them adapt faster to the rigorous calendar that will follow after the World Cup.

He told Talksport: “I think Arsenal after Christmas will cookie crumble. Like they did the year before to drop out of the Champions League spot.”

However, with the winter World Cup being unknown territory for every team, it could also prove to be an advantage for the Gunners. City have a squad with over 90 percent being first teamers in their various national teams while Arsenal do not.

Arsenal, meanwhile, have showed enough to not rule them out of the Premier League race totally. The weeks leading up to the World Cup will be key in cementing their new status as title challengers.

On paper, the north London outfit have favourable fixtures but it will be interesting to see if they can remain competitive with a hectic schedule of games in such a short time. This is where their squad depth will be put to the test as well as their ability to grind out results as well.

The Gunners will be eager to continue their winning run when they take on PSV in the Europa League on Thursday before travelling to St.Mary’s to take on Southampton in their next Premier League outing on Sunday.

Martin Graham is an MFF sports writer

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