Saturday 24 August 2019

Arsenal step up but title looks a big leap

Arsenal's Shkodran Mustafi (left) and Laurent Koscielny celebrate victory with their team-mates at full time in the North London derby. Photo: PA
Arsenal's Shkodran Mustafi (left) and Laurent Koscielny celebrate victory with their team-mates at full time in the North London derby. Photo: PA

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

Beneath Arsenal's unexpected resurgence, there was another lingering question on Saturday for which neither team were able to provide a convincing answer. Can anyone mount a challenge to Manchester City?

Arsenal's ambitions seemed to end with their 3-1 defeat at the Etihad two weeks ago and even after watching his team deliver their best performance of the season, Arsene Wenger described City as "on another planet with their results - and that is why I was so angry two weeks ago".

Tottenham, who are also already now staring up at a double-digit deficit to Pep Guardiola's team, are evidently becoming more concerned with solidifying their Champions League status of the past two seasons.

"Before we think about City, it's important to stay in the top four," admitted keeper Hugo Lloris. "This is the main target for our team."

Lloris and manager Mauricio Pochettino could point with some justification to what the France goalkeeper called "little details" on Saturday, particularly how goals by Shkodran Mustafi and Alexis Sanchez might just have been offside.

However, Wenger said the decisive factor had been how his attacking players, notably Sanchez, Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette, so relentlessly pressed Tottenham out of possession.

"We need the strikers to contribute, to defend," he said. "I believe that is where the change was. They defended very well from the front."

The obvious follow-up was why that had seemed so lacking at other moments of the past year.

Wenger, though, remains convinced that the City defeat was skewed by refereeing errors and he could sense from the moment he walked into the home dressing-room on Saturday that the application was there.

"The longer you are somewhere, the more guilty you feel if it doesn't go well," he said. "I know what it means to people but, overall, I am more focused on the future of this team."

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