Are Arsenal genuine contenders for the Premier League title?

first_imgSportblog Unai Emery has made me believe in myself again, says Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi Reuse this content The reasons for Arsenal’s improvement lie in greater organisation, harder running and midfielders who actually bother to put a tackle in. Complaints aimed at Arsène Wenger during the latter years of his tenure have been addressed; in Unai Emery, Arsenal appointed the technocrat that Wenger had long ceased to be. The Basque has created a foundation for Mesut Özil to weave his magic, and Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score goals. When fans sing of having their Arsenal “back” it is the beautiful football of Wenger’s peak era they are harking back to, and not yet the strident winning machine the team was at the start of this century. Arsenal’s weaknesses still lie in a defence that was sorely tested by Leicester in Monday’s first half. Emery lacks the quality of defenders that Liverpool and Manchester City boast. Champions League qualification would seem the limit of ambition for now. John Brewin The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email. Let’s ignore the caveats for a moment (the defence, Manchester City) and accentuate the positives. When Arsenal attack, as they did in the second-half against Leicester, they reveal themselves to have the firepower of champions. In Lacazette and Aubameyang, they have two expert finishers (and to be cheeky for a moment, with Gabriel Jesus stalling in his development, do City?). In Henrikh Mikhitaryan, Aaron Ramsey and Özil they have creativity to match their rivals, too. Of course there’s a difference between having the talent and making best use of it, as Arsenal know all too well from recent years. But that’s the most striking aspect of the improvement so far under Emery – individual performance levels are rising. Keep it going and momentum might take on a life of its own. Arsenal’s next five fixtures are Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Wolves, Bournemouth and Tottenham. Paul MacInnesLiverpool visit will provide a litmus testArsenal are certainly on an impressive run of form: 10 wins on the bounce, with 18 scored and three conceded in the last seven. There might be green shoots under Emery but this has been a relatively easy run of fixtures – just two of those wins came against teams in the top half of the Premier League. Against Watford and Leicester in particular Arsenal were defensively frail – they have conceded more shots on their goal this season (125) than Manchester City (55), Liverpool (78) or Chelsea (82). A sense of perspective remains key: Arsenal’s record against the so-called Big Six remains dreadful, with just one win in the past 12 matches. If Arsenal are to make the leap from last season’s sixth place to genuine title contenders, they must beat (or at least avoid defeat to) their title rivals. Liverpool’s visit on 3 November should be a good litmus test of how far this team has come under Emery, and how far they still have to go. Michael Butler Facebook Share on Pinterest Momentum could take on a life of its own Mesut Özil orchestrates Arsenal comeback to deny Leicester City Share on Messenger Share on LinkedIn Read more Much improved but still too flawed to go all the wayThe football is thrilling, the spirit is invigorated, the crowd is united, but it still feels unlikely that, come the end of the season, any of Arsenal’s five captains will be lifting the Premier League trophy. These are heady days in the Unai Emery-era, with the second-half display against Leicester as good as it’s got so far under the 46-year-old, but there is a distinctly Liverpool 2013-14 feel about this Arsenal side in that it can score for fun, contains an enigmatic, attacking genius but remains notably flawed. Arsenal’s defence is not only paper-thin in terms of resources but also incredibly fragile, as seen during the first half against Leicester. Also, Emery’s men continue to start games poorly and against better teams that will surely cost them. All of which should not dampen the upbeat mood surrounding Arsenal – they appear reborn and, in Lucas Torreira, may have found the gnarly, canny midfielder lacking for so long under Wenger. A top-four finish looks increasingly possible. But the title? Not yet. Sachin Nakranicenter_img Share on Facebook Share via Email Twitter Unai Emery encourages Matteo Guendouzi in typically animated form at the Emirates Stadium on Monday. Photograph: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images features Topics Share on WhatsApp Share on Twitter Read more Pinterest Defensive weaknesses remain a huge issue Arsenallast_img