Arsenal were 3-2 winners against Man Utd on Super Sunday, sending them five points clear at the top of Premier League table; Gary Neville also questions whether emotions could get the better of Arsenal as they battle with Man City for the title
In a crunch week in the title race, Arsenal were 3-2 winners against Manchester United on Super Sunday, sending them five points clear of Manchester City in second place with a game in hand.
It was an impressive performance from Arteta’s young side, and although Man City have title-winning pedigree, Keane believes it will take something special to deny Arsenal their first league title since the 2003/04 season.
“That was a big challenge today. In tight games when they are up against it, you look at the personality of the team and the characters. We know they’re good players, we see that week in and week out, but could we see the other side of it? We saw that today.
“The momentum is with them, there’s good experience, youth and pace. They had good options off the bench – they’re in a great place. If you had said at the start of the season they’d be where they are, you wouldn’t have believed it. It will take a lot to stop them.
“They were under pressure with Man City winning [against Tottenham on Wednesday and Wolves on Sunday afternoon], they would have been well aware of that, so it was a pressurised game and they dealt with that well. They deserved the victory.
“There was a question mark over them that they blew it or bottled it last season. That was thrown at them because they were in a great position to be top four but they’ve dealt with that well and answered their critics. They’ve learnt from those mistakes, they’re a stronger group and we’re seeing that week in, week out.
“We’ve seen clubs up and down the country panicking, making bad decisions at board level. Arsenal look like they’ve got the balance right with the people upstairs, a bit of calmness and loyalty to the manager.
“The fans have stuck with them and we’ve seen young players giving interviews, coming across really well and likeable kids who are making noises and achieving great things.
“There’s a long way to go yet but they’re a likeable group with a lot going for them.”
Former Arsenal midfielder Fabregas gave a unique insight into how Arteta has changed the club from the training ground to new players and culture.
He also credited the club’s hierarchy for sticking by the manager, even after a few arguably underwhelming seasons.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Fabregas said: “He’s done a fantastic job. We saw in the [Amazon] documentary the way he pushes players, the way he understands players.
“When Arsenal hired Mikel, he hadn’t coached anyone before, he was only an assistant at Man City – when I say ‘only’ it’s obviously fantastic to work with Pep (Guardiola). But it’s not the same as to when you are the main guy.
“I was lucky enough to be at the training ground recently and it felt like I had never been there before because everything had changed so much. The manager of the training ground told me that 95 per cent of the changes were Mikel’s.
“He’s changed the perception of the club, a lot of positive messages around the training ground, much bigger facilities, better equipment, the pitches are better. Everything, you name it.
“In the entrance they have a symbol of the Premier League, an empty Premier League. Arteta wants to send the message that: ‘guys, we need to put the work in’.
“It’s a message and inspiration to the players for them to really want to put the Premier League in there. He’s changed the mentality of the club since Arsene Wenger left. It’s fantastic what he’s done.
“Remember, they finished eighth for two consecutive seasons. To do what they’re doing in a short space of time and doing it in the manner they’re doing is quite inspiring.
“Arsenal gave time to Mikel and this proves and shows to other clubs to not panic when things go wrong. Sometimes, finishing eighth and almost making it to the Champions League but just falling short, just having that process and it is a process.
“The club understood that it took time to achieve it. I still believe they are way ahead of where they thought they’d be at this moment.
“Players like Saka and Nketiah, they came from the academy, they cost nothing to the club. And they’ve maintained that belief and the results are paying off.”
“It felt like Arsenal were like they were maybe 20 years ago. When I was a player against them, I used to wish they’d shoot from distance or cross it – but they would play that extra pass to get it into wide positions.
“They would keep driving you into your box. I’d find myself getting deeper, narrower and under pressure. It just felt like the goal was coming. It was just wave after wave of attack, and it felt like that 20 years ago when you were playing against such a good Arsenal team.
“I don’t think managers 20 years ago were as demonstrative as the ones we see today, like Conte, Klopp, Pep and Arteta. Those Arsenal players are going to come under significant pressure in the next 19 games which will require composure – particularly in the last 10 matches.
“When you’re going for a league title, it is going to be really pressurised for those players. They’ll require not just that passion but they’ll also require composure and some calm authority at times.
“They will need settling down. They’ve got players such as Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus who know what it’s like, they’ve been there before. It’s really exciting to think what this Arsenal team can achieve.
“They need to now go on and prove to us that they can win the title, which is going to be really tough. They’ve still got to play Manchester City twice and they’ve got them on their shoulders.
“They’re a massive powerhouse, Manchester City and Pep Guardiola. You can imagine them sitting there tonight not being too fazed by this.”