XeniaSports – London
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta believes Boxing Day opponents Chelsea boast the “strongest squad” in the Premier League as he looks to guide his team to a first domestic win in nearly two months.
A 1-0 victory at Manchester United on November 1 was the last time Arsenal tasted success outside of the Europa League and they have taken just two points from their last seven league outings.
Such a poor run of form means Arteta’s side head into the festive fixtures in a lowly 15th position – only four points clear of the relegation zone.
It was a different picture back in August when Arsenal came from behind to beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final, giving Arteta his first piece of managerial silverware less than eight months after taking the reins.
But, while the Spaniard refused to compare the spending power of the two teams ahead of the meeting at the Emirates Stadium, it is Chelsea who have added much more to their squad since that Wembley final.
The Blues spent in the region of £220million to land Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Kai Havertz and Edouard Mendy.
Contrastingly, Arsenal’s weaker financial footing meant they all-but doubled their summer spending when they paid £45million for Thomas Partey on transfer deadline day.
Chelsea now sit fifth in the Premier League, 11 points clear of Arsenal, and progressed through their Champions League group without losing a game – and Arteta is clearly impressed.
“Obviously, Chelsea always have a great squad of great players,” he said.
“The team that we faced a few months ago was a top one. In this moment, you’re probably talking about the strongest squad in the Premier League.
“They’re doing a really good job, Frank (Lampard) is doing a really good job.
“He’s got a team full of belief and confidence, and even though they had some defeats it’s a team that is going to be fighting for the top spot in the league for sure.”
As Arteta continues to answer questions about his future, he maintains that he will take all of the flak for Arsenal’s current woes as he looks to defend his players.
Asked if he will keep on taking responsibility to shield his squad, he replied: “I have to.
“I will keep doing it when I see that they are really trying, and they are trying to do the best thing. Mistakes, errors, whatever happens, I will support them until the last day.
“This is the way I believe I have to do it. Of course they have to play on the pitch and put in the performances.
“We are here to help them as much as possible, and we have to accept that at the moment it’s nowhere near enough.
“The best medicine when you are in this situation is to win a football match. Every defeat is another hurting moment, another moment of disappointment, another moment you have to lift yourself up and that’s what we’ve got to do.
“I think the medicine for all of us would be to come here against Chelsea, beat them and then move from there. It’s exactly what we all need.”