Arsenal still have a “big job” on their hands to finish inside the top four this season despite winning eight of their opening nine Premier League matches, says Gary Neville.
The Gunners are setting the pace at the top of the table, with some predicting them to challenge Manchester City all the way.
Their start to this season has been incredible, especially in comparison to last term when they were bottom of the league with zero goals scored and zero points after three games.
Mikel Arteta’s side got it together and ended up narrowly missing out on top four to the club’s arch-rivals, Tottenham.
Qualifying for the Champions League is the minimum expectation for Arteta and his players in 2022/23.
They look like a shoo-in to do just that given their start to the season, with Spurs getting positive results despite their average performances, Liverpool struggling and Manchester United and Chelsea in transition.
Despite this, United legend Neville insists Arsenal still have a lot to do to finish inside the top four this season.
“I don’t think Liverpool will finish in the top four, and Arsenal could still finish outside the top four as well – but I’ll put [them] in for now just to keep all the Arsenal fans happy!” he told The Overlap.
“I look at Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool – it’s still a big job for Arsenal [to finish in the top four].”
Neville admitted that he was fearing for Arteta’s future last season.
“I’ve always had a respect for Arsenal as a football club,” he added.
“They’re one of the great traditional clubs in this country. However, the last few years has been a struggle.
“I remember at the end of last season, me and Jamie Carragher thought that it could be terminal for Mikel Arteta.”
Neville does like what the Spanish manager is doing this term, however, saying that the atmosphere at the Emirates for Sunday’s win at Liverpool was “different”.
“I was at the Emirates stadium for the first time [this season] on Sunday against Liverpool,’ Neville added.
“I watched Arsenal away at Old Trafford and at Brentford, and they played well at Old Trafford – even though they lost – and they were brilliant at Brentford, but the atmosphere felt a little bit different on Sunday – it was unbelievable.
“I want Arsenal to do well. I want Mikel Arteta to do well because he’s a young manager. The managers he’s up against – Antonio Conte, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel, before he got sacked, they’re animals to be up against.
“You’re talking about machines and even though there’s been a lot of investment, to break into that group of managers is just difficult to do.
“That’s why it didn’t surprise me at the end of last season that Conte did what he did, in pipping Arsenal to fourth place, purely because of his experience.
“I remember being harsh on Arsenal fans – the protest against Arsène Wenger around that time was toxic, it was awful.
“On Sunday, it just felt a million miles away from that. Arsenal’s ground has never really been that hot bed of an atmosphere, but even Liverpool must have felt that on Sunday because the noise was absolutely off the scale.
“You can’t not like [Mikel] Arteta from a respect point of view, as a person and the way he handles himself.”
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