Erik ten Hag knows there is nothing lucky about Arsenal’s unexpected surge to the top of the Premier League, but he believes Manchester United can derail the leaders’ title aspirations on Sunday.
Arsenal has emerged as surprise title favourites and sits five points clear of second-placed Manchester City heading into this weekend’s clash with United at the Emirates Stadium.
Mikel Arteta’s side finished fifth last season, but they are in pole position to land their first Premier League title since 2004 after winning 15 of their 18 league games this term.
While some pundits believe Arsenal will eventually crumble in the same fashion that saw it surrender its top-four place to Tottenham last season, United boss Ten Hag is certain the Gunners’ title credentials are legitimate.
“It is obvious they are in a really good run and I think they deserve the position where they are now,” Ten Hag told reporters on Friday.
“It’s a really good structure, how they play. There’s a really good mentality, a winning attitude in that team. That’s why they are top of the list.
“So, they are in a great run, but it is up to us to beat that run, and we will do everything to do that.”
United is the only team to beat Arsenal in the league this season, with Ten Hag’s men enjoying a 3-1 victory at Old Trafford in September.
Asked if he was surprised to see Arsenal still leading the table, Ten Hag said: “No. The moment we played them, you could already see that the manager with his coaching staff was for a long time already working on that team.
“You see really good structures in the team, and I think they even improved during the first half of the season.”
Although third-placed United is eight points behind Arsenal, which also has a game in hand on both Manchester clubs, Ten Hag’s side heads to north London on a 10-match unbeaten run.
United had won nine in a row in all competitions before Michael Olise’s stoppage-time free-kick forced it to settle for a frustrating 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace.
A United victory on Sunday would rekindle its hopes of catching Arsenal, and Ten Hag is confident it can inflict a second dose of misery on the Gunners this season.
“We know what to do. We have to be really good. We need a really good performance,” he said.
“But if we do, I think we have a good chance also to get out of that performance a good result.”
One issue for Ten Hag to resolve is how to replace Casemiro after the Brazil midfielder’s booking at Palace triggered a suspension that rules him out of the Arsenal game.
Casemiro only featured as a late substitute in the September win against Arsenal, and Ten Hag said: “We beat last time Arsenal without Casemiro.
“We have an idea of how to do it (again), yeah.”
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