MANCHESTER – Mikel Arteta is making believers out of Arsenal doubters, while his predecessor Unai Emery has unfinished business in the Premier League.
It was a good day for Gunners managers past and present as Arsenal moved back to the top of the table with a 1-0 win against Chelsea on Sunday and Aston Villa stunned Manchester United 3-1 in Emery’s first game in charge.
The win at Villa Park saw Emery taste triumph — at the first opportunity — with his new club, something the Spaniard hadn’t achieved in his previous seven games with Arsenal. That run ultimately saw Emery replaced by Arteta.
Emery has returned to England three years later to see his former team transformed.
Arsenal's win against Chelsea overcame the latest test of its title credentials. Victory in the final round of games before the World Cup will ensure Arsenal is top of the table for Christmas, with the domestic calendar resuming Dec. 26.
The celebrations at Manchester City after a late 2-1 win against Fulham on Saturday underlined the level of threat that Arteta's Arsenal presents to the reigning champions.
And when Gabriel pounced after 63 minutes at Stamford Bridge it strengthened the growing belief that Arsenal can maintain a genuine challenge.
“Individually, collectively, that’s as good as I’ve seen an Arsenal team in years,” former defender Martin Keown told BT Sport. “Desire, tenacity, hunger, it’s all there. They’re ready to win.”
Arsenal fans have experienced many false dawns in the past, but a run of 11 wins from 13 games at the start of the season has set a pace that even City cannot match.
Not that Arteta is ready to publicly declare his team is in contention for the title.
“Just look at the last six years, what Manchester City have done,” he said. “With the best manager in the world, the best team in the world.
“They have shown it consistently in every single competition. We have to be very, very respectful of that.”
Emery will hope to earn the respect that didn’t always come his way when he was in charge at Arsenal.
A manager with nine major trophies to his name lasted just 18 months at the Emirates Stadium and was largely dismissed as a failure.
The rehabilitation of his reputation in England could not have got off to a better start, with Villa 2-0 up against United within 11 minutes.
“I think we made the first step today,” Emery said afterward. “I am a privileged man to be here and to win against them.
“It’s only one step and we have to achieve regularity and we have to achieve being consistent in the next matches — at home and away. We have a lot of work to do.”
SALAH DOWNS SPURS
Mohamed Salah made it nine goals in his last eight games in all competitions to secure Liverpool's first away win in the league this season.
The Egyptian struck twice in the first half to set up Liverpool's 2-1 win against Tottenham, with Harry Kane scoring for the hosts.
“I’m focused on making a difference and managed to do so today," Salah told Sky Sports.
NEWCASTLE RUN CONTINUES
It’s now six wins from seven games for third-place Newcastle after beating Southampton 4-1 on Sunday, but manager Eddie Howe still wasn’t satisfied.
“The overall performance was below where it has been,” Howe told BBC Sport. “Recently we’ve played at a really high level consistently and today dropped below it.
“I don’t think we were particularly good with the ball. I’m not being over dramatic or critical, the players have done brilliantly and it’s not easy to win in the Premier League at home or away. We’ve won comfortably but I think the lads know they weren’t quite there today.”
Miguel Almiron, Chris Wood, Joe Willock and Bruno Guimaraes scored for Newcastle.
TEN HAG: ‘NOT ACCEPTABLE’
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag criticized his players after the defeat at Villa.
It is the third time United has lost away in the Premier League this season.
“Our players are experienced,” he told Sky Sports. “You have to read the game and get right the organization. Not concede two (early) goals — that’s totally unnecessary.
“It starts with the players following the rules. It looked like they (Aston Villa) were fresher. That’s not acceptable. Players have to take responsibility and be ready.”
MOYES BEMOANS GIFTS
West Ham manager David Moyes said his team gifted Crystal Palace a 2-1 win.
“We scored against the run of play then we gave away a terrible goal,” he said. “We hadn’t played well, but it was still even at halftime.
“For all the things Palace did well, their good play didn’t lead to goals. Our bad play got them the first goal and the second was bad play as well.”
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson