Premier League • England

Gary Neville names two ‘erratic’ Arsenal players who will prevent title push as links to £80m star strengthen

Gary Neville Sky Sports pundit poses for a selfie

Gary Neville Sky Sports pundit poses for a selfie

Arsenal risk falling short in the Premier League title race for a second season in a row, according to Gary Neville, who has identified two players who could ultimately prove a problem in Mikel Arteta’s quest for glory.

The Gunners have made rapid strides under the Spaniard’s tenureship, leading Arsenal to a second-placed finish last time around. And while there was much delight at the ease at which they achieved their primary objective – a return to the Champions League – there willk, undoubtedly, have been a tinge of sadness at their failure to end a 19-year wait for the Premier League glory.

However, after parting with the best part of £200m over the summer, including the breathtaking club-record £105m signing of Declan Rice, Arsenal went into the new campaign with renewed optimism and purpose.

Indeed, they have started the 2023/24 season in solid fashion, winning six and drawing two of their eight games so far to sit just behind Tottenham on goal difference at the top of the Premier League table.

And last time out, the Gunners were finally able to exterminate a long-standing monkey on their back: a victory over reigning champions and Arteta’s former side, Manchester City.

That has sparked claims that Arsenal can once again enjoy a push for Premier League glory and finally, this could be their year.

However, Neville admits he has reservations about two players in Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah and reckons Arsenal could find themselves falling narrowly short again if the pair remain Arteta’s first-choice striking options.

That’s a situation seemingly recognised by Arsenal too, amid links to a Brentford’s Ivan Toney.

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Gary Neville claims erratic Arsenal duo could prevent title glory

Indeed, we exclusively revealed on Tuesday that Arteta is pushing the Arsenal board hard into moving to sign the England international in January, believing he could be the difference-maker in their quest to dethrone Manchester City.

Neville also reckons Arsenal might need an upgrade if they are to win the league, claiming neither Jesus or Nketiah have it in their DNA to score enough goals to push the Gunners to glory.

“There’s no doubt Nketiah and Jesus work their absolute socks off,” Neville told The Overlap’s Stick to Football podcast.

“But in quality terms, I just found [against Tottenham and Man City], is that going to be enough to win Arsenal the league? That’s my only doubt is actually a centre-forward, because if they’d had a centre-forward – like if they had an [Erling] Haaland, if they had a [Harry] Kane – I’d be saying it’s Arsenal if they can keep [William] Saliba, Gabriel [Magalhaes] and [Declan] Rice fit.

“Honestly, I worry about Nketiah and Jesus. They’re erratic. They’re not wired to score goals naturally. Instinctively they don’t make the runs that you see goalscorers make.

“They hold back, they’re always looking for the pull-back, they’re never getting across players. I just look at Jesus, he is quite erratic in front of goal. The work ethic of both of them is brilliant. I just question, at that level, can they win the league without another striker?”

Toney the perfect solution for Arsenal

Nketiah has scored twice in 11 appearances for Arsenal this season, while Jesus has three goals in nine games; neither of which could be considered prolific.

To that end, Neville makes a fair point in suggesting it is in that area that could ultimately cost them.

Toney, by contrast, has shown a real predatory instinct in front of goal, boasting a record of 32 goals in 66 Premier League appearances since Brentford’s promotion to the Premier League.

Better yet, with his deal at the Bees expiring in summer 2025, Thomas Frank has strongly suggested the striker will be on the market in January if he does not agree a new deal.

Indeed, with Arsenal just one of at least three admirers – both Chelsea and Tottenham are also reportedly on his trail – it could take as much as £80m to prise the one-time capped England man away from the Brentford Community Stadium.

However, if he leads them to the title, it will be money extremely well spent. Toney is both superb at leading the line, has ice in his veins when it comes to converting from the penalty spot and also boasts great technique from free-kicks outside the box.

And while he may be a little rusty due to a suspension imposed for breaching the FA’s betting regulations, he will surely return like a tiger released from captivity, knowing he will need to score goals to elevate himself into the frame for a place in England’s squad at the 2024 European Championships.

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