Arsenal went into the November international break on decent form after securing consecutive victories against Sevilla and Burnley.
The Gunners solidified their position in the top four with a comprehensive 3-1 victory over Burnley at the Emirates Stadium courtesy of goals from Leandro Trossard, William Saliba and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
For the second consecutive fixture, Bukayo Saka and Trossard combined for a goal, helping Mikel Arteta’s side snatch the lead on the stroke of half time.
Josh Brownhill levelled matters nine minutes after the restart, but goals from Saliba and Zinchenko helped the Gunners ease past the relegation-threatened Clarets.
The result leaves the Gunners in third place, with a meagre one-point difference separating from table toppers and defending champions Manchester City.
The Cityzens were held to a pulsating 4-4 draw by Mauricio Pochettino’s rejuvenated Chelsea side at Stamford Bridge on the eve of the international break.
Former Man City stars Raheem Sterling and Cole Palmer stole the spotlight in the jaw-dropping encounter, with the latter smashing home a last-gasp penalty to snatch a draw off his former employers.
Liverpool, who swatted aside Brentford 3-0 at Anfield, would have been grateful to Chelsea, considering the draw saw them bridge the gap to the champions by one point.
The Reds were relentless on Merseyside, with goals from talisman Mohamed Salah on either side of half-time, rounded off by a long-range belter by Diogo Jota, steered Jurgen Klopp’s side to second place.
Having returned to winning ways in style, Klopp’s side will take their morale-boosting victory to the Etihad Stadium, where they will take on Man City in their first fixture post-international break.
The box office encounter is certain to deliver an eye-watering encounter, and supporters keen to witness the action live can purchase Liverpool tickets at Seatsnet.com at competitive prices.
Arsenal’s North London neighbours Tottenham Hotspur round up the Premier League top four on matchday 12, sitting one point behind Arteta’s side following their shocking 2-1 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Spurs appeared to have shaken off any hangovers from their deflating 4-1 defeat to Chelsea when they took the lead at Molineux Stadium just three minutes into the clash.
However, the second-half introduction of Pablo Sarabia proved to be a game-changer as the Spaniard bagged a goal and an assist in the dying embers to turn the tides in Wolves’ favour.
Key contenders for the Premier League title
Man City are odds-on favourites to retain their Premier League crown, and the fact that they have soared to the summit doesn’t bode well for challengers, considering they aren’t easily knocked off the perch.
The Cityzens have been bested just twice in the league this season – a 2-1 defeat at Wolves and their 1-0 loss at Arsenal, which ended their seven-year-long dominance over the North Londoners.
Since falling to a late Gabriel Martinelli strike at the Emirates, Pep Guardiola’s side have blitzed through their subsequent fixtures, with the draw at the Bridge representing the only blemish in their near-perfect record.
While they are almost unanimously expected to consolidate their place at the pinnacle of English football, Man City will have several challengers for the crown, and a glance at the table offers insights into the identity of their competitors.
Considering their title challenge from last season, however futile, along with their impressive start to the 2023/24 campaign, Arsenal are expected to be at the thick of things during the home stretch of the season.
Despite their £200 million outlay in the summer transfer market, the Gunners have been criticised for their lack of a potent centre-forward to serve as the focal point of the team.
Manchester United legend and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville touts Arteta’s side as favourites for the title but believes their striker problems could be their undoing.
“In the games I have watched Arsenal this season, [the] centre-forward [position] has been a problem,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“Arsenal have to do some business in January – they are ending the game with [Leandro] Trossard in attack.
“I’ve said this after a few Arsenal games this season – Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah at centre-forward are both very good, but I’d like them to be my number two and number three strikers.
“I’d really love them to be my number two and number three strikers, and they might even end up playing wide and off the left in certain games or off the right because both of them can do that role.
“But if Arsenal had a top number nine, and they’ve had some really top number nines in the last 20 or 30 years, then I think they could go on to win the title.
“I’ve predicted them to win the title, but when I look at them now in big games, I feel they’re lacking something up top.
“To be fair, I think Mikel Arteta knows that. He loves them both [Jesus and Nketiah], and he should do, Arsenal fans should do.
“This is not a criticism of the two lads they’ve got because I think they can be really important players for Arsenal, but I feel like they should be part of the 20-man squad.
“They could still contribute in 25-30 matches a season, but I feel you need something more in those top matches that just get you over the line.
“Erling [Braut] Haaland does get Man City over the line quite a bit, and I think that’s what the difference could be in the end. So for me, that’s a big thing.”
Despite Neville’s assertions, Arsenal will back themselves to go toe to toe with the champions and perhaps edge the duel at the second time of asking, but they will also have to deal with Liverpool.
Klopp has attempted to alleviate some of the pressure from his team, insisting it’s too early to say if they’re in the title race but are certainly gunning for a Champions League slot.
However, their blistering start to the 2023/24 season suggests otherwise, but their blockbuster showdown with the champions after the international break will serve as a true test of their ambitions.
Tottenham have previously been lauded as potential contenders, but they lack neither the squad depth, longevity, nor the spine to take on the aforementioned trio in a 38-match race.
Can Arsenal sustain their challenge?
Some would argue that Arsenal have not been at their prolific best this season, but they have delivered the goods in the final third nonetheless.
Only Man City, Aston Villa, Liverpool, and Newcastle United have scored more goals than Arteta’s side, but maybe Neville has a point with his Arsenal-striker theory.
Of Arsenal’s 26 Premier League goals, Jesus and Nketiah have notched a combined six, which is a concerning number considering they’re supposed to play pivotal roles in the Gunners’ title bid.
For context, Man City hitman Haaland has notched 13 Premier League goals thus far, more than double the tally that Jesus and Nketiah have managed collectively.
The Gunners could be one prolific striker away from giving the champions a run for their money, but they will certainly have their work cut out with Jesus and Nketiah leading the line.