Mikel Arteta was bursting with pride after his young Arsenal side maintained their momentum at the top of the table with a 3-2 win over Manchester United.
The Gunners secured victory right at the death thanks to a poacher’s finish by Eddie Nketiah, the striker’s second of the game, after coming from behind in the first half and then being pegged back after the break.
As clashes between United and Arsenal go, this one is up there with the greats; a real see-saw match that included fine strikes by Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka cancelled out by headers by Eddie Nketiah and Lissandro Martinez.
Ultimately, the Gunners’ unrelenting energy paid dividends. A deserved win restores a five-point gap over Manchester City at the top of the table and draws a line under a fine first half of the season in which his side have amassed a 50-point tally.
Afterwards, Arteta was asked about the jubilant atmosphere and whether he’s ever experienced anything like it before.
“I don’t know, but I don’t think it gets better much than that,” he said.
“It was a beautiful moment, a really special one because we were pushing and pushing and pushing and it wasn’t coming.
“It came at the end – VAR made it more difficult – but it was electric and really emotional and really passionate and I loved it.”
He said much the same when asked to assess his squad’s performance after 19 games.
“Extraordinary. It doesn’t get much better than that. We deserved the points that we have. I think we have played well enough to win most of the matches. But the reality is that we have things we can get better at. Attacking and defending in transitions. That’s the aim.”
Having had a six-week hiatus for the World Cup, it feels like this season is further along than it actually is. Clearly, the challenge for Arteta and his team will be maintaining the focus of the collective while also making them believe they can achieve a title that nobody predicted.
“I hope they do [believe they can do it],” said Arteta. “Not that they [believe they] are champions, but they are good enough to play against these teams and they have done it. We talked about that in the last two or three days.
“We know our reality, we know still how much we have to improve, we know what’s taken us to the position we are today and we have to reinforce that every day.”
And asked if his side are now favourites to secure a first Premier League title since 2004, he continued: “I don’t have an opinion. It can be a perception. I know my team so well. I know where we are, I know why we are here and I know where we want to be and we are far from that.
“I know the levels of the other teams and one especially that has won in the last five or six years and we are not there yet.”