London: Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal have demonstrated they should be taken seriously in this season’s Premier League title race.
Their weekend victory at Cardiff City maintained Arsenal’s four-point lead at the top of the Premier League table and they will attempt to consolidate their position when Hull City visit the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
Yet, despite Arsene Wenger’s side dominating the opening third of the season, the title claims of their main rivals including Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City have continued to attract support.
Arsenal have frequently been bystanders in the battle for the championship since they last lifted the Premier League trophy in 2004. And that has prompted many observers to be wary of the staying power of Wenger’s men.
But midfielder Arteta believes they made a powerful case when they returned from a testing trip to Cardiff — a place where United and City have dropped points this season — with a victory.
“Every away game in the Premier League is very tough,” the Spaniard added. “Considering they beat Man City and they drew against Man United, just shows you what a tough place this is. For us it’s a big statement to come here and get the points, to score three goals away from home is very important. We got another clean sheet as well, so we’re full of confidence.
“I think we looked really solid again, we kept another clean sheet, which is very important for us because up front we know we have the ability to score. It’s a great three points — we are delighted.”
Aaron Ramsey again stood out, this time against his former club, and Arteta believes the display confirms just how far the Wales midfielder has come this year.
He added: “I think it was a total performance. Aaron helped the team a lot defensively, obviously he’s got the energy to get in the box and both finishes are top drawer. The fact that you’re playing with your crowd at home with your family probably here makes it a bit more difficult. I think he held his nerve and he was fantastic.”
Hull manager Steve Bruce believes his team are half way to securing safety in the Premier League.
City arrive at the Emirates with five wins to their name and Bruce believes another five will be enough to avoid a return to the Championship, from where they were promoted last season.
“If we can get another five wins — 10 or 11 wins is usually enough in my opinion,” he said. “We’ve won five and find ourselves in the top half of the table.
“The other teams at the bottom on seven points and eight points, they’ve got a lot to do in terms of winning 10 games when they’ve only won a couple,” Bruce added.
Hull have acquitted themselves well against the Premier League’s established clubs, most notably in beating Liverpool at the KC Stadium on Sunday, and Bruce said he felt his players were growing in confidence.
“It’s always hard when you bring a team out of the Championship to give them that belief,” he said. “There’s a few of the players who haven’t really played in the Premier League, and this should give them that little bit of self belief that they can play here as long as they’re playing as they are.
“That’s the difficulty of the Premier League, we’ve got to be at our best.”
Hull will be without suspended defender Curtis Davies, meaning James Chester could make his first appearance since September.