Paul Merson has insisted that Arsenal are a ‘million miles off’ from challenging for the Premier League title as he assessed the current squad.
As things currently stand in the Premier League table, the Gunners are in ninth place with 10 games to be played as we await the resumption of the campaign due to the coronavirus crisis.
In their 28 league games, Arsenal have conceded 36 goals. That’s enough to give them the third worst defensive record of the top nine sides, while they’ve only managed to score 40 goals.
Merson has pinpointed their porous defence as being a major problem and why they are still nowhere near challenging at the highest level for trophies.
“Will Arsenal be challenging for titles soon? Even if Pep Guardiola was in charge, no. Not at the moment,” he told Sky Sports. “I like Mikel Arteta, I really do, and I think he’ll do better than the last manager Unai Emery, but at the same time, to challenge for the title I think they are a million miles off.
“They can’t defend, and if you can’t defend, you can’t challenge for titles. Is there room for much optimism? I’m going to say no, to be honest. I don’t know any team that has won anything when they can’t defend. If you can’t defend, you’re not going to win anything! It’s simple.
“You can’t keep scoring three goals every game to nick a point or to only just win a game, so until he tightens that up, they are going to be a million miles off.
“This is going to be a slow, slow journey back for Arsenal.”
It’s a fair criticism to an extent as ultimately the numbers detailed above show that Arsenal’s defence isn’t good enough compared to the sides that they’re trying to catch.
However, it’s perhaps a little harsh too as with William Saliba returning from his loan spell this summer, he could help shore things up at the back to give Arsenal a more solid foundation, while Mikel Arteta has yet to stamp his mark on the squad after being appointed in December.
Things have certainly improved under his stewardship in terms of results and performances after being confirmed as Unai Emery’s permanent successor, and so if he’s allowed to bring in reinforcements and continues to implement his ideas on the side, perhaps Arsenal will begin to close the gap.
Further, they’re unbeaten in the league in 2020, while they’ve conceded just four goals in their last seven games across all competitions.
That said, they are currently a staggering 42 points adrift of league leaders Liverpool, and so when considering the standard set at the top of the table, they already are miles off challenging for now.
"You can't score three goals a game to try and nick a point"
Paul Merson believes Arsenal are still 'a million miles' away from challenging for any sort of silverware under Mikel Arteta pic.twitter.com/c65tyzqY6P
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) April 20, 2020