Mikel Arteta has moved to play down talk of Arsenal‘s current squad being compared to the Invincibles – but is in no doubt the marquee signing of Mesut Ozil has taken the club to another level.
Germany international Ozil scored his first goal for the Gunners in the 2-0 UEFA Champions League Group F win over Napoli at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night, where he also set up Olivier Giroud in a breathtaking opening 15-minute spell as Arsene Wenger’s side recorded a remarkable 10th straight victory in all competitions.
Arsenal now head to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday looking to consolidate their position at the top of the Premier League and give themselves momentum towards what would be a first trophy in the best part of a decade.
While Arsenal appear set to mount a sustained challenge for honors once again, Spanish midfielder Arteta feels suggestions they are ready to dominate in the way of Wenger’s all-conquering squad of 2003/04 are somewhat premature.
But he is confident the caliber of players now available to the manager – with England midfielder Jack Wilshere starting on the bench against Napoli – can only help drive the squad on to bigger and better things.
"I don’t think we are at that level yet, but competition makes everyone work harder so it is a great thing because it raises the level," said Arteta. "If you don’t play well for one or two games, then you can be dropped.
"We have players to come back like Santi (Cazorla) and Abou Diaby and that’s the way we want it. When it is really tough, everyone is at 100 per cent and that makes a big difference."
Ozil’s superb cushioned side-foot effort has drawn great praise, as did the all-round game of the former Real Madrid playmaker.
During Arsenal’s pre-season tour of Asia, Gunners’ vice-captain Arteta had talked of the need for high-quality additions to help move the squad forwards, and is more than happy with the club’s £43million record signing.
"It was a great message from the club because everyone was really expecting a top, top player, probably a striker rather than a number 10, but in the end we got an amazing player and that gave a lift to everyone, not only us but you can see the people are excited again to come and watch and that makes a big difference," he said.
"A player like Ozil gives you a step forward quality-wise and gives you another player on the pitch who can decide the game for you.
"He proved again that he is able to do it and that’s always great. The more players you have like that, the better chance you have."
Arteta, 31, added: "I always said this is the toughest league to win because you have five or six candidates this year to win it
"It is still very early stages and nobody has really done anything yet but at least we are looking good, very solid, winning the games and we have got a gap to some of the other teams now.
"In the last few years it has been the opposite, so that is very positive."