Mikel Arteta and Edu come out smelling of roses as Arsenal stars deliver perfect response


There was another major statement from Arsenal in the Premier League title race on Sunday as they demolished West Ham to vindicate both their manager and sporting director. Mikel Arteta and Edu have come under searing criticism from fans and pundits for not signing a prolific goalscorer in both the summer and January transfer window, amid a widespread perception the Gunners are not clinical enough to win the title.

That notion was deemed critical when Arsenal were beaten by West Ham and Fulham before Christmas and then knocked out of the FA Cup by Liverpool in earlyJanuary. But they responded with three straight league wins, including a 5-0 trouncing of Crystal Palace - and scored 10 times overall in the process.

And that was followed by revenge on the Hammers on Sunday, dominating at the London Stadium to prevail 6-0. Bukayo Saka has been the standout player in recent weeks but Arteta's men have shown they don't need to rely on one person to deliver all the goals with six different players chipping in with goals just from their last two league games alone - a 3-1 win over Liverpool and the 6-0 demolition of West Ham.

Suddenly, the club’s decision not to take the risk of splashing out on a new forward last month looks justified with Arteta’s side two points off the top and firmly back in the title race.

It’s also meant an emphatic response to the likes of Rio Ferdinand, who previously argued Arsenal lacked the firepower to challenge champions Manchester City: “The second striker at City is the same level as the top striker at Arsenal,” he said, on TNT Sports.

“You look at the front positions and there’s not enough goals. You’ve got to score goals. Yes, defensively, they’ve shored it up, Declan Rice has been a great addition, the two centre-backs are becoming a great partnership. You have to find a balance for the team, and up front they haven’t found the lethal weapon.”

Sky Sports pundit Alan Smith also alluded the ‘missing link’ that he felt was plaguing his former club. “That’s through the middle, a centre forward,” he said. “If they could get a top-class centre forward, that would I think take them to the next level because most of the other pieces are in place.”

His outspoken colleague Gary Neville has regularly voiced a similar view, and even doubled down after Arsenal hit their London rivals for six. “I think that could just cost them in the end, and that’s me having said at the start of the season I thought Arsenal would win the league,” he said on Sunday.

“But there’s still so many signs today, so many examples, of Arsenal not having that killer instinct in the final part of the pitch. I think at some point in the last part of this season it’s going to hurt them.”

Despite Edu’s apparent defiance, the club continue to be linked with Ivan Toney with the Brentford star back in action after his ban for breaching FA betting regulations. And they are expected to make a move this summer when there will only be 12 months left on Toney’s contract with the Bees.

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