SOUTHAMPTON boss Mauricio Pochettino has been impressed by Arsenal this season and believes the Premier League leaders can sustain their title challenge.
Arsene Wenger's side look like they could soon end their well-documented trophy drought after an impressive start that leaves them top of the domestic table as well as their Champions League group.
Despite their fine start, however, questions remain over the strength in depth of Arsenal's squad in addition to their ability to compete against other top teams.
Their 1-0 defeat by Manchester United last time out highlighted those perceived weaknesses, which will be tested again tomorrow in an unlikely first-versus-third clash at the Emirates Stadium.
Southampton could usurp the Gunners as league leaders should results go their way tomorrow, although former Argentina international Pochettino is well aware of the threat the north Londoners pose.
"I would say that the team that we're going to play against on Saturday is the one that's playing the best football in the league," he said.
"I think they can win the league, but I also think that there's other teams that are going to be in the running to win the league. I think it's going to be a hard-fought competition throughout until the end of the season. It's going to be very competitive and I think it's going to be a very exciting end to the season."
Arsenal's hopes of a first league title since the 'invincible' 2003/04 season are undoubtedly boosted by the creative attacking options at their disposal.
Pochettino knows two of those well from his time in the Primera Division with Espanyol, and warned his players to keep close tabs on Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla.
"I rate Mesut Ozil as one of the top 10 players in the world," he said of the former Real Madrid playmaker.
"It is clear they are two great football players. It is clear that you cannot afford to grant them any space or time to think because they are players with individual actions can decide a game on their own. They are amazing talents as we saw in La Liga and now as we see in the Premier League, so we have to be really careful with the two of them."
Southampton will be without Jack Cork and Guly do Prado for the trip to north London, while the fitness of Gaston Ramirez will be assessed when he returns from international duty with Uruguay.
While he has been away from the south coast of England, more comments have emanated from his representative about the £12million signing's apparent dissatisfaction at St Mary's and the potential of a move to Inter Milan.
Asked for news on Ramirez's future, Pochettino said: "Nothing. He's just a Southampton player and, as any other player, he's fulfilling his contract at Southampton. I know nothing about that (interest from Inter)."
Pochettino was equally curt when quizzed about record signing Dani Osvaldo's future and a report in Turkey that Besiktas have made an enquiry about Jose Fonte, a key part of the Saints defence to have conceded just five league goals this season.
"Every time I speak about the secret of this team and their success, I speak about it in a defensive manner in the sense that we have been playing really well defensively," he said of the Portuguese. "That is not just down to one player, but the collective, the whole squad. I think not just him but the whole squad deserves the same merit, the same praise.
"Now I have found out about another rumour about another one of my players, so that pleases me. Press conferences are a great way to find out about these rumours."