Arsenal are within touching distance of their first Premier League title since 2004 but face a massive hurdle in the form of a chasing Manchester City side in order to get over the line.
Many thought the title was said and done as a result of Arsenal’s excellent work, but post-World Cup wobbles and Pep Guardiola’s City showing their credentials means they are suddenly well and truly back in pursuit of what would be a third consecutive title win.
As such, Arsenal’s mentality is being tested to the maximum and – in some cases – being called into question by a number of major pundits around the game.
They are no longer the favourites to win the Premier League title this season, but we’ve gathered quotes from nine of those pundits to paint the picture of the feeling around Arsenal heading into the final stretch of the 2022-23 season.
Keane said to Sky Sports in January after they beat Manchester United 3-2: “That was a big challenge today. In tight games when they are up against it, you look at the personality of the team and the characters. We know they’re good players, we see that week in and week out, but could we see the other side of it? We saw that today.
“The momentum is with them, there’s good experience, youth and pace. They had good options off the bench – they’re in a great place. If you had said at the start of the season they’d be where they are, you wouldn’t have believed it.
“It will take a lot to stop them.”
However, after their recent stumble against West Ham where they slipped to a 2-2 draw, he said: “They’ve been top of the table all season. It would be a terrible season (if they didn’t win the league). They’re out of every cup competition. 2-0 up this week, 2-0 up today. It’s a huge disappointment.”
Keane’s reaction to their draw with West Ham came as a result of Neville’s opinion: “This title race always started at Anfield. Look at the fixtures. But they would have snapped your hand off to be in this position at the start of the season. Arsenal finishing second would still be an unbelievable season.”
🗣️ "Arsenal finishing second would still be an unbelievable season"
🗣️ "Not it wouldn't! You're in CUCKOO LAND!"
This disagreement between Roy Keane & Gary Neville 🍿 pic.twitter.com/iWbWrXh3FE
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) April 16, 2023
After fighting back to draw with Bournemouth at home despite looking resigned to defeat, O’Hara said to Sky Sports: “Maybe they go 2-0 down and they’re thinking, ‘If we knick a draw, it’s a good point’. No, this Arsenal team believe they can still win the game and you can see it when they’re playing at home with the fans getting behind them and the players.
“To score that goal in the 97th minute was ridiculous.
“I want to sit here and hopefully see Arsenal crumble as a Tottenham fan, but you’ve got to hold your hands up and go, ‘Tell you what, fair play to them, they’re playing some good stuff’.”
“They’ll still crumble. The business end of the season is still to come. Let’s see what it’s like when there is five, six games left. They have had an incredible season, fair play and they are playing some good stuff.
“They are going to be right there at the end of the season fighting it out with Manchester City.”
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
“Everyone will get stronger next year. They might not be in this position. It would be a disaster (to not win the league),” Hasselbaink claimed following the draw with West Ham, agreeing with Keane.
The Arsenal legend said to talkSPORT in April: “I still feel this will be remarkable if Arsenal pull this off and I really hope they can.
“If Arsenal can beat West Ham they’re still marching on this quest to become Premier League champions against one of the best teams we’ve ever seen in the Premier League era. I do feel there’s a lot of fans waiting to pounce once Arsenal fall off their perch.
“Against Arsenal I think Moyes has to up his game tactically, I’ve been really supportive of him but I just think they sit too deep and if Arsenal click they could turn West Ham over. But West Ham fans and the local bragging rights, I don’t think I saw anymore hatred from a set of fans more than the West Ham fans than when I turned up to play.
“When I look at City and the way that team is evolving with [John] Stones now going into midfield, it’s brilliant, he wasn’t going from a right back position the other night he was going from a centre half position. I think the manager there is quite magnificent, they’re at full tilt, they’re at boiling point now which they couldn’t quite get earlier in the season.”
😬 "Moyes needs to up his game!"
👀 "If Arsenal click and they're able to get it right, then they could turn West Ham over big time!"
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) April 14, 2023
Back in March, Gunners legend and Keown’s defensive partner Adams told The Sun: “Playing in the Champions League next season will be a whole new ball game for this Arsenal team.
“And it’s going to be really difficult for the current squad to compete at that level while also challenging for the title. We all saw what happened when Mikel rested a couple of his big boys in the Europa League the other week. The back-up players looked bang average and were played off the park by Sporting Lisbon.
“At the moment they need Bukayo [Saka], Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey, Gabriel Jesus and Oleks Zinchenko playing every week because they have a team that almost picks itself.”
Head coach Arteta questioned his side after their draw with West Ham: “When the game is there for the killing, you have to do it. When you don’t have that ruthless mindset in the Premier League, at some stage the momentum will turn around.”
💬 “We have to look in the mirror… when a team is there for the killing, you have to kill – especially in this league.”
Mikel Arteta’s assessment of our draw at West Ham 👇
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) April 16, 2023
But responding to his manager’s comments, midfielder Xhaka disagreed: “This is not about our mentality and I am certain everyone will see a reaction against Southampton on Friday. Everything is still in our own hands if we win our remaining games, so nothing has changed on that front. We go into our next matches with the same objective, we’re not looking at what Manchester City are doing.”
On an episode of Monday Night Football in March, Carragher said: “When Man City score in the last minute we say ‘great mentality’, but because it’s Arsenal we’re saying ‘oh, they’re choking, they’ve got to score in the last minute because they’re not playing well enough,’
“But that narrative will change if they win the title. We’ll be saying something different next season.”
However, he also criticised them after the West Ham result, with the Gunners still to play City in the league at the end of the month: “They’ve still got the lead in the title race but to drop four points at this late stage, it feels to me like it will really cost them.
“This idea that Arsenal have bottled the nerve, I think it’s completely the opposite. When you talk about a team getting nervous in the run in, you can’t play as well as they did in the first half hour at Anfield, or the first half an hour of this game if they’re going into it tense. The football was out of this world.
“The problem Arsenal have had is they’ve got complacent, they’ve got cocky. I mean that game was so easy, I was commentating on it and couldn’t believe there was a way West Ham could get back into it.”