Jan Molby

Believe the hype: Arsenal look like contenders, unlike United

Jan Molby

View gallery


Arsenal's amazing run of form has got people asking the big question: can they really win the Premier League this season?

The answer is simple. They can.

It's always difficult to predict the number of points needed to win the title, but with Manchester City having problems away from home, Chelsea failing to hit the ground running and United in a bit of a mess, Arsenal will be there right til the end.

The big question mark for them is their numbers. Do they have enough quality players in the squad to last the distance?

Their problems in the past have almost always come against the big teams: they simply haven't won enough matches against potential title rivals.

But it's their ability to win games this season that has been hugely impressive. They've just got so much forward-thinking talent that they're grabbing wins where they might not have done so in previous seasons. They've now won eight Premier League games in a row away from home, and that's a fantastic record in anyone's book.

The match against Swansea on Saturday was a perfect example. The game was going nowhere, but then their big players stepped up and bang, bang, bang, the game was over. Any team who have the ability to do that consistently will always be title contenders.

View gallery


Mesut Ozil is a huge part of that, and his role in the second goal against Swansea illustrated it perfectly. He picked up the ball and there was an obvious pass down the line.

He ignored it, and cut inside, and that changed the game. If he'd gone for the pass, Swansea had the situation covered. Instead, he did something completely different, opening up the play by going the other way, and immediately it looked as if Arsenal would score

Ozil is extremely gifted, and though we've got some great number 10s in the league he's probably the best of the lot right now. He was a unique talent even before he joined Real Madrid, and he's certainly no worse now. And almost the most amazing thing is that he's still only 24.

Arsene Wenger must be hugely excited to have him in his side, and I hope the success of the signing has made him realise just what can be gained by spending big money. Bringing exciting young talent in is all well and good, but sometimes there's no substitute for the finished article - and that's exactly what Ozil is.

View gallery


Not that the Gunners don't have problems to solve still, since a couple of injuries would change everything. They could really do with another centre-half, despite Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny combining well this season. Thomas Vermaelen has had several injury problems over the last few years and I'm not sure he'll ever get back to the level he used to be at.

And of course, they are desperate - absolutely desperate - for a centre forward. I see Bendtner is back in the matchday squad but they've been down that road before and know he's not the answer.

How they managed not to sign Gonzalo Higuain over the summer I'll never know… That could be an expensive one. They needed him, and simply didn't do enough. It's a mistake that might end up costing them the title.

That's the problem when you're suffering from a lack of depth in the squad. Maybe Wenger will be hoping that their success in the league so far will help them sign a big player in January. But realistically, is there a striker out there who'll be both good enough and willing to move half-way through the season?

So if you gave me a free £10 bet today on who was going to win the Premier League, it wouldn't go on Arsenal. I can't get away from Manchester City as likely champions. That win over United in the derby was far and away the best performance we've seen from any side so far this season. If that's the level they can reach, they'll be unstoppable if they can find the consistency they're lacking right now.

- - - -

As for Manchester United, this weekend they've gone from bad to worse. I'm starting to look at their players and wonder who, if any of them, would even get into the team at one of the other title contenders. Who would City take, for example?

Fergie left David Moyes a very mediocre squad. Last season they managed to paper over the giant cracks between Rio Ferdinand at the back and Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney up front, but they're not going to pull that off this time.

View gallery


It makes you wonder about the reports in the papers on Monday, with Ferguson apparently having warned Moyes not to axe the back-room staff.

When Moyes decided to appoint his own coaches it seemed an excellent move; after all, the big thing for him was to establish himself as his own man at Old Trafford. But it seems like he took the cull too far: losing key guys like Rene Meulensteen and Mike Phelan is something that he's probably going to regret.

In their place Moyes has brought in ex-players like Phil Neville, and Ryan Giggs has been given a coaching role too. That's fine in itself, but not at the expense of experience. I've talked before about how Moyes is inexperienced at this level - but so are his coaches. In these tough times what he needs is a backroom full of experienced football men. And that's exactly what he is missing.

View Comments