Arsenal show title credentials as Mourinho backs Wenger
The Gunners midfield has been so impressive this term people have even invoked the Invincibles
THERE is an unusual mood of optimism at the Emirates thanks to Arsenal's unbeaten start to the season following another summer of turmoil that saw the departures of Robin van Persie and Alex Song.
On Sunday the Gunners became only the second side since February 2011 to leave the Etihad with a point after a creditable 1-1 draw with Manchester City. New arrival Santi Cazorla has already established himself as one of the most influential players in the Premier League and his vision and passing has helped Arsenal reclaim their reputation as one of the best footballing sides in the country.
Mikel Arteta, adapting to a new role as a defensive shield behind Cazorla, said after the game on Sunday: "There has been a confidence boost for everyone because we have already been to three of the toughest places you can go – Liverpool, Manchester City and Stoke – and I think we deserved to win all of them.”
"What we are trying to do is get as close as we can and keep building that belief that we are as good as the Manchester clubs," he told The Daily Telegraph.
And the paper concurs with his opinion that the team are on the up. "Arsenal appear to have emerged as a closer-knit squad following the arrivals of Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski and... there is a new sense of confidence at the club," it said.
In London the optimism is even greater. "Arsene Wenger's assertion that Arsenal's midfield options are among the best he has ever had drew consternation from those fondly remembering the Invincibles squad, but a deserved draw against Manchester City backed up his argument no end," reported the Evening Standard on Monday.
It is too soon to draw comparisons but "this performance was not only a vindication of [Wenger's] decision to sell Alex Song but also a demonstration of the strength in depth Arsenal now possess".
Patrick Barclay, also in the Standard, points out that the last time Arsenal visited champions in Manchester they were humiliated 8-2. This time the likes of Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsay and Carl Jenkinson, who were part of that team, held on for a fine draw.
"Who would have believed, a year ago, that an Arsenal defence without Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna would earn such plaudits? And who... would have swallowed the theory that a midfield could be assembled that would not miss Jack Wilshere, or at least present the poor lad with a fight to get back in?"
The only thing preventing Arsenal from mounting a title challenge is their form up front, he said.
Another who has declared himself impressed by the latest Arsenal vintage is former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who told Sky Sports that he believed Arsenal could mount a title challenge. "I think Arsenal is coming again, I like this Arsenal team," he said. "I like the way Arsene Wenger is building this team and I think they can be a very positive surprise."
Next up for the Gunners are Mourinho's old club at the weekend and the clash could do much to determine the Gunners' hopes for the season.