PSV boss Ruud van Nistelrooy believes Arsenal are genuine Premier League title contenders after facing off against the Gunners in the Europa League – though feels there is one hurdle they will need to overcome.
Mikel Arteta’s side sit four points clear at the top of the table – having picked up nine wins from their first 10 matches – and continued their 100% record in Europe this season with a 1-0 win over PSV on Thursday night.
Granit Xhaka’s second-half strike wrapped up all three points for the north Londoners against Van Nistelrooy’s men and put them five points clear in Group A with two matches to play.
That all but secures their place as group winners – which would mean they would avoid a play-off match against a Champions League drop-out in February – and means they can focus on their title challenge.
While Manchester City are still the overwhelming bookie’s favourite to retain their title, after seeing Arsenal up close Van Nistelrooy believes they can go the distance – though their lack of experience will be the big challenge Arteta must navigate.
Asked what he made of Arsenal and if they have a decent chance of doing well this year, Van Nistelrooy replied at his post-match press conference: ‘I was able to share my appreciation for Mikel.
‘The way he’s building his team, the way he’s letting his team play, the signings he’s made to make his team play the way he wants to play and he’s connecting it with results.
‘And if you are 10 games gone in the Premier League, winning nine of them, you’re definitely a contender.
‘Obviously it’s the youngest team in the Premier League more or less, so that is the challenge.
‘But they have the squad for it and the quality for it and the manager for it.’
Asked what PSV need to do differently next week to get something out of their return tie with Arsenal in Eindhoven, Van Nistelrooy replied: ‘I thought the first and the second half was different in that sense already.
‘I thought in the first half we weren’t in the game at all, we were just defending and surviving, getting through to half-time with a clean sheet. We did.
‘We had some moments where we played a little bit and created a half chance or two, but that wasn’t enough to get a result here. The second half I was a lot happier already than the first, the way we were organised and working together to beat Arsenal’s pressure, to play from the back into midfield and to our forwards.
‘We did a lot better there and were much more into the game. We created a lot better chances and possibilities in the second half than compared to the first, so I think that development was seen today and hopefully next week we can progress from the second half.’
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