Football: Arsenal have ‘desire’ to be champions, says Arteta

Gabriel Martinelli celebrates scoring a fourth goal for Arsenal. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BRIGHTON - Mikel Arteta said Arsenal’s 4-2 win at Brighton on Saturday proved the English Premier League leaders have the “desire” required to lift the title for the first time since 2004.

Arteta’s side will go into the new year with a formidable seven-point lead over second-placed Manchester City after they powered to a fifth successive league victory.

“It’s a big win against a really good side. We had big moments, especially attacking the spaces with the way they play. We were ruthless, clinical,” Arteta said.

“We had some great moments, and also moments when we have to dig in and suffer. You expect that against Brighton.”

Goals from Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Eddie Nketiah set the Gunners on course to cement their unexpected status as serious title contenders.

Kaoru Mitoma reduced Brighton’s deficit before Gabriel Martinelli raced half the length of the pitch to finish off Odegaard’s sublime pass.

Brighton substitute Evan Ferguson claimed his first league goal in the closing stages, but Arsenal survived a nervous finish to make it nine league wins from 10 games.

After squandering a golden opportunity to qualify for the Champions League with a late collapse last term, Arsenal found themselves written off as also-rans ahead of this season.

But Arteta has worked impressively to revitalise his team, sparking dreams among their fans of winning a first league title since Arsene Wenger’s “Invincibles”.

Arsenal’s haul of 43 points from 16 games is among the five best starts to an English top-flight season, with the other four teams all going on to claim the title.

“You can’t expect to not concede anything with the way they play. It’s a big test for us, but we win two in a row after the break and now on to the next one,” Arteta said.

“I think we have enough desire. We know the other results, but we know our success will be from what we do.

“This is what we want to continue, to improve as a team and play better, to dominate all the areas like today.

“We had to suffer but we show we could manage the game.”

Arsenal captain Odegaard told Sky Sports: “We don’t care about the other teams, three points were everything today and we did it.

“Maybe we need to control the game a bit better, we let them in a couple of times, but they are a good team.”

Fellow goal scorer Saka said his side were delighted to be seven points clear going into the new year.

“Of course, at the start of the season if you asked us if we wanted this, we would bite your hand off. We are really happy,” he told Sky Sports.

“It is a great opportunity we have, a great place we have put ourselves in.”

Former Gunners and England midfielder Paul Merson was more bullish, insisting “I don’t see anybody stopping Arsenal”.

He told Sky Sports: “Arsenal are playing very well, it’s not been a fluke... They are right in it, no question. This is not a fluke, they are where they are because they are a very good football team.

“They’ve given themselves a little gap where they can afford to lose a few games. Man City are not going to win every game.

“Arsenal are right in this...  I don’t see anyone stopping Arsenal at the moment.”

Fellow former Arsenal and Three Lions player Alan Smith added: “Their squad is better this season in terms of strength in depth and they’re more mature.

“They’re still the youngest side in the Premier League with their average starting XI, but there’s that experience.

“You would hope they’ve learnt from last season. They’re a year older and hopefully a year wiser.”

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