Arsenal's golden chance for title glory… the time is now for Arteta

Coming through a tough post-Christmas run, building a winning streak and adding depth in the January window will be key to Arsenal’s unlikely Premier League charge… NOW is their golden chance for title glory

  • Arsenal beat Wolves 2-0 on Saturday to log their 12th league win in 14 games
  • Mikel Arteta’s side are now five points clear at the top of the Premier League
  • The Spaniard may have been building for the future, but their time is now
  • If they strengthen in January, they could pip Manchester City to the title 

There is no point pretending any more. Not with Arsenal holding a five-point lead and their first Christmas No 1 for 15 years. Mikel Arteta’s team are right in this title race.

The stock response to this claim is to mention something that Manchester City have that makes challenging them impossible —Erling Haaland, Pep Guardiola or their relentless playing style that grinds opponents down.

But what about what Arsenal can do to prevent a City procession? With six weeks to come of being five points clear, Arsenal must strike now.

Arsenal will be top of the Premier League at Christmas, five points clear of Manchester City

The Gunners extended their lead at the top with a comfortable 2-0 win over Wolves

Who knows what might come next season, when City are not going to be any worse, particularly with Haaland having had a year of getting to know Kevin De Bruyne. When Liverpool will surely not gift Arsenal another 15-point headstart, when Graham Potter and Erik ten Hag have had the time that Arteta was granted during his early struggles.

So much of Arteta’s first three years in charge has been about building for the future, and these six weeks are about the now. About the title that they have a golden opportunity to win.

To do so they must get a headstart on January recruitment. The first-choice XI can go toe-to-toe with any team but beyond them, the drop-off is sharp. Thomas Partey, Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli need better back-ups, to allow for rest and offer different options.

Arteta has spent time building for the future but Arsenal are in a fight for the title now

Arteta must look to get a headstart on January recruitment and find players for better depth

Mykhailo Mudryk, of Shakhtar Donetsk, is heavily linked for the wide forward role, while Danilo, 21, of Palmeiras is a target to bolster defensive midfield depth.

Arsenal also need to be more ruthless in front of goal. It is hard to criticise Jesus. He has brought a title-winning mentality, link-up play, work rate in defence and important goals to the team.

But when he returns from Qatar it will be almost three months since he last scored for Arsenal, entering the World Cup on an 11-game goalless run.

He had the ball in the net against Wolves but saw the offside flag go up, before hitting the bar from an excellent position and scuffing another first-half shot wide.

Gabriel Jesus hasn’t scored as many goals as expected but has improved the side tenfold

This is not a large problem while he creates havoc, as he did in the 55th minute when his superb through ball to Fabio Vieira led to Martin Odegaard’s opener. But chances are still coming and going on a regular basis, which could come back to haunt Arsenal.

Individual errors have been an issue, with an otherwise imperious back line occasionally at fault.

William Saliba has been a revelation in defence but would have given away a penalty for an eighth-minute foul on Goncalo Guedes if the rules had been applied correctly, before almost gifting Guedes a goal soon after with an ill-judged backpass. His partner at the back Gabriel also had rushes of blood at the start of this season, but has improved.

Arteta must rid Arsenal of these concentration lapses, which is far easier said than done.

The Gunners still look a little shaky at the back with individual errors proving to be an issue

Arsenal, who have won 12 of their first 14 Premier League games, face West Ham next

Conditioning, as for any team, is a concern. Arteta has spoken of top-level players needing to be ready to play 70 games this season. His side played 45 last term and making that jump is unrealistic. Key players will need to be rested, heightening a need for reinforcements.

Finally, it is simply about winning. Arsenal’s 12 wins from their opening 14 matches have come in bunches of five, four and three, but champions do not stop there.

The last six Premier League winners have had winning streaks of 12, 15, 18, 14, 18 and 13 matches. Arsenal have not won 10 league games in a row since a 14-match streak in 2002. That has to change, even in runs where the fixture list reads as tough as it does after the World Cup. Following West Ham on Boxing Day, they play Brighton, Newcastle, Tottenham and Manchester United.

Get through that still on top and they will not just be in the race, but favourites to go all the way.

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