Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has embraced Sir Alex Ferguson’s Premier League title advice

Matt Hobkinson
Sir Alex Ferguson and Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta has transformed Arsenal’s defensive record in the Premier League this season – something that Sir Alex Ferguson knew the importance of during his time at Manchester United.

The Gunners are top of the Premier League with just seven games left to play. Arsenal have scored more goals than any other side (75) and conceded fewer (24) in the 31 games they have played so far.

That averages out to 2.44 goals scored and 0.77 conceded per game this season for Arteta’s side.

The likes of Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard have produced some mouthwatering moments for Arsenal, but it is their record at the back that has been all that more impressive. The league leaders have conceded just four goals in the Premier League this calendar year.

Man City, often heralded as the most frightening team offensively, have failed to score in just three Premier League fixtures this season. Once against Aston Villa in a 1-0 defeat, with Pep Guardiola’s side smashing four past the Villans in the reverse fixture at the Etihad Stadium.

The other two occasions were both against Arsenal – home and away. Perhaps even more impressive is that the Gunners only allowed City to have two shots on target across 180 minutes of football.

Before Arsenal’s 2-0 win against Luton, Arteta said that his players have to “love defending”. That was made perfectly clear during their very next game, a 3-0 win away at Brighton.

Already three goals up, Gabriel blocked a goal-bound shot from Joao Pedro. The Brazilian centre-back then proceeded to celebrate as if he had scored himself as he shared chest bumps and high-fives with his Arsenal teammates.

This Arsenal team don’t just want to win football matches, they want to dominate them.

In recent seasons, Arsenal have been known for being somewhat of a glass cannon. They have had firepower to match almost any side, but their defenses would often shatter under the slightest bit of pressure.

You cannot fluke your way to a Premier League title, let alone 13. So when Sir Alex Ferguson said that your attack can win you games, but your defense wins you titles – he knew what he was on about.

Although Arteta is yet to get his side over the line, he understands that a team, no matter how great its frontline is, needs a solid foundation at the back.

There’s a reason Erling Haaland had words with Gabriel after the 0-0 draw at the Etihad – you don’t tend to get angry at an opponent that you’ve got the better of after the full-time whistle.

Even looking past the likes of William Saliba, Gabriel and Ben White, the intensity with which Arsenal work off the ball is vastly different to previous seasons.

Declan Rice’s arrival has given Arteta’s midfield a level of security it hasn’t had for years, while Martin Odegaard’s refusal to stop running for 90 minutes has allowed Arsenal to press the opposition backline with a relentless intensity.

Defeats where a team fail to take their chances hurt, but nowhere near as much as the ones that are given to opponents through defensive mistakes.

Arsenal have had countless years of defensive calamities, but comparing the current back four to the likes of Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz and Mathieu Debuchy, to name just a few, tells you all you need to know about Arteta’s transformation of the club.

For however much Arsenal’s attack is rightly praised, Ferguson’s words of wisdom could well prove to be true come the end of the season – and not for the first time.

The question now is whether Arteta and his squad can hold it together for the final seven games. Going off their performances so far this season, you would be a brave person to bet against them.

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