Rio Ferdinand brands Arsenal ‘the real deal’ as pundits highlight four key stars and assess title chances after gutsy win at Chelsea

Gabriel of Arsenal celebrate scoring the opening goal during the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London

Arsenal’s title prospects have been given a ringing endorsement by Rio Ferdinand and Martin Keown after Gabriel Magalhaes’ second-half finish helped the Gunners return to the top of the Premier League table with a 1-0 win at Chelsea.

Mikel Arteta’s side have led the way for much of this season after winning 10 of their first 12 games. Indeed, only a defeat at Manchester United and a draw at Southampton had seen the Gunners drop just five points all season. However, they went into a tricky contest at Stamford Bridge having seen top spot wrestled away from them after Manchester City’s 2-1 win over Fulham on Saturday.

Matches away to Chelsea are the type of games the Arsenal of old have a tendency to lose. However, Arteta’s men are made are far sterner stuff. And Gabriel’s poachers finish on 63 saw the Brazilian defender stretch out a leg to divert Bukary Saka’s inswinging corner into the roof of the net from close range.

That is actually their third successive Premier League win at Stamford Bridge, and underlines the club’s new-found belief.

And while not pretty at times, the Gunners were the better team and deserved to claim all three points.

That puts them back ahead of City by two points. And it means Arsenal will go into the break for the World Cup as Premier League leaders if they win at Wolves next Saturday evening.

Assessing their prospects of going all the way this season, Ferdinand, speaking to BT Sport, was certainly impressed.

“This team are the real deal,” Ferdinand began. “There’s something there, the togetherness, the spirit, you can smell it. The way they are celebrating, the way they manoevre the opposition around the pitch to suit the way they want to play…

Rio Ferdinand, Martin Keown bedazzled by Arsenal

“There’s an authority with the way they are playing right now under this man Mikel Arteta.

“We looked at each other when a phase of play happened – we just know. And it’s because of the way Arsenal are making their move on the pitch.

“This was a real, real tough performance. These type of games [away at Chelsea] are hard games, but they made it look as easy as you can make it.”

His fellow pundit Martin Keown – a former Gunners defender – was equally as impressed.

And he reckons Arsenal are playing the best football enjoyed by the club in years.

“Individually, collectively, that’s as good a performance I’ve seen from an Arsenal team in years. Desire. Tenacity. Hunger. It’s all there. They are ready to win.”

Issuing a word of caution, however, Keown added: “They are ready to win, but they haven’t won anything yet, but they are, 100%, in this [title] battle.

“This is more impressive than the victory that (10-man) Man City had yesterday, as good as that was. This is a new team developing. Partnerships all around the pitch; the centre-halves there, so solid. William Saliba was named Man of the Match, but we haven’t said much about Gabriel – he gets the all-important goal.

“Wingers, both wingers, [Gabriel] Martinelli and Bukayo Saka, really important to everything they do. This is a team now going places.”

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