Arsenal are not yet Premier League title contenders, but Mikel Arteta has not stopped at transforming the culture of the club, says Alan Shearer.
The Gunners went into last season following a big spend and with big expectations on their shoulders. And despite recovering from three straight defeats to start the campaign, they just fell short in the top-four Premier League race.
Nevertheless, they have set about righting those wrongs this term in style. In fact, Arsenal headed into the international break top of the table after a 3-0 win away at Brentford.
And the Gtech Community Stadium is where it all started so badly for Arsenal last season.
As a result, Brentford boss Thomas Frank claimed after Sunday’s game that the Gunners will be title contenders this season.
According to Shearer, though, Arsenal are not yet ready to consistently challenge Manchester City for top spot.
Still, the former Newcastle star lauded Arteta for turning the fortunes of the club around.
“Only four of the Arsenal team who started that defeat against Brentford began Sunday’s game too – Ben White, Kieran Tierney, Granit Xhaka and Gabriel Martinelli,” Shearer wrote in a BBC Sport column.
“In just over a year, Arteta has not just built a different team, he has transformed the mood of the whole club.
“He deserves great credit for that, because he got a lot of criticism after the way they started last season, with three straight defeats.
“This time, they have won six out of their first seven league games and go into the international break at the top of the table. They deserve it too.”
Alan Shearer lauds Arsenal progress
Shearer added that after Brentford “bullied” Arsenal last season, the Gunners “ran out comfortable winners” this time round.
He said: “Everything was different about Arsenal this time – in attack and defence, plus the way they controlled the game, and with their attitude and intensity.”
Although, Shearer concluded that Arsenal’s next two matches will prove how far they can go this season.
“Their next two league games at the start of October, at home to Spurs and Liverpool, will tell us more about whether they can sustain this strong start but, right now, their fans will be enjoying what they are seeing,” the pundit wrote.
Gunners need to continue momentum
Arsenal have enjoyed a strong start to the season and they just need to continue that momentum.
It will not be as easy as that, given their upcoming matches against Tottenham and Liverpool.
Last season, Arsenal beat Spurs and then lost to them in a match that defined the top-four race at the end of the season.
As for Liverpool, the Reds won 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium after a 4-0 rout of the Gunners at Anfield.
It is in these matches where it is crunch time for Arsenal. Yes, they have made progress, but that will have to be cemented against their top-six rivals.
In a worry for Arsenal, their first match against a top-six team this season ended in defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Arteta will hope the home crowd can pull them through in their upcoming fixtures.