Paul Merson believes Arsenal would prove their title credentials if they avoid defeat to Chelsea on Sunday while writing off three big-name clubs.
The Gunners have enjoyed a superb first part of the campaign and sit at the top of the standings after 12 games. Mikel Arteta’s side have won ten of their top-flight matches and suffered defeat on just one occasion. They narrowly lost out to rivals Tottenham in the race for the top four last term.
And there has been a clear determination by the Emirates outfit to put that right this time around.
Not only have they been easy on the eye with 30 league goals already but they have conceded just 11.
And Merson is adamant that victory for his former club will see Chelsea join two others in playing for the minor places.
“This is a massive game for both teams, for different reasons,” he told Sportskeeda.
“If Arsenal win, they will go 13 points clear of Chelsea. Let’s be realistic now – Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea aren’t talking about winning the Premier League title.
“The title race is over for them, and they’re looking for a top-four finish.”
And the Sky Sports pundit believes victory for Arteta’s charges will reinforce their dominance over the west Londoners.
“If Arsenal win this game, they’d have to lose five football matches for Chelsea to catch them, and that’s if Chelsea don’t lose themselves,” he added.
Merson feels Arsenal in for the long haul
Arsenal have beaten both Tottenham and Liverpool in the top flight this season. Their only defeat came away at Manchester United.
They have also taken care of all the lower-placed teams save for Southampton.
And Merson believes matching Chelsea will prove they are the real deal and not a side to crumble under pressure.
“This is a big game for Arsenal, and they’ll need to avoid defeat,” he continued. “They need to make sure they’re not flat-track bullies.
“If Arsenal don’t lose this match, you’d expect them to be in the running for the Premier League title for a long time.”
Expected Arsenal dip fails to materialise
Most pre-season predictions centred around another battle between Manchester City and Liverpool for the title.
But while Pep Guardiola’s side have been as good as ever, the Reds are down among the also-rans.
It has been left to Arsenal to challenge the champions and prevent a third straight title for the Etihad giants.
Jamie Carragher believes Jurgen Klopp’s Reds will rally after the World Cup to secure a top-four berth.
But the north Londoners are in pole position to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Many pundits expected the bubble to burst. That might still happen but Arsenal have given themselves every chance of challenging for honours.
There is no question that Graham Potter’s Blues will provide a stiff test. But Merson is convinced they will come away with at least a share of the spoils.
“I think this match will end in a draw,” he said. “And that’ll be a good result for Arsenal.”
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