Mikel Arteta hailed Arsenal’s first half of their Premier League season as “remarkable” after a recent win over Manchester United put them five points clear at the top.
The Gunners won 3-2 after Eddie Nketiah’s late start, but despite leading at the top of the table, Arteta insists nearest rivals Manchester City remain the standard bearer.
Marcus Rashford gave United the lead only for Nketiah to equalize and Bukayo Saka put Arsenal ahead.
The visitors deflected Lisandro Martinez’s first goal for the club before Nketiah netted on Martin Odegaard’s late-game goal.
The win gave Arsenal 50 points in the first 19 games of the campaign – a record for the club at this stage of the season – even ahead of undefeated Arsene Wenger by five points.
“Extraordinary,” replied Arteta when asked about his thoughts on the first half of the campaign.
“There’s nothing better than that. We deserved the points we got. I think we played well enough to win most games.
“But the reality is we have things we can be better at. Attack and defense in passages. That’s the goal.”
Arteta, who worked as Pep Guardiola’s assistant before taking over at the Emirates Stadium, will now be at his side as they face City in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Friday night.
With two more league games to go, Arteta believes everyone in the division is still trying to catch up with City.
“I know my team very well,” he added. “They are good enough to play against these teams and they did it. We’ve been talking about it for the last two or three days.
“We know our reality, we still know how much we need to improve, we know what got us to where we are today and we need to reinforce that every day.
“I know where we are, I know why we are here and I know where we want to be and we are far from it.
“I know the levels of other teams, especially one that has won in the last five or six years and we are not there yet.”
Nketiah now has six goals in as many matches since the World Cup, when Arsenal’s first-choice striker Gabriel Jesus suffered a knee injury that required surgery.
“What Eddie does is amazing,” said Arteta.
“I can’t say we’ve seen it (coming). We hoped he could do it because of who he is, his mentality and how his qualities fit the team.
“Losing Gabi was a big blow. Losing Gabi is a big blow, but Eddie reacts with the team in a unique way.
United were backed to mount an unlikely title bid of their own after good form, but they drew with Crystal Palace on Wednesday before heading back to the capital in defeat.
They are now 11 points behind Arsenal, who have played more, and manager Erik ten Hag admits he is not ready to start looking at any positives from Sunday’s performance.
“Maybe it will come in the next few hours that we will realize that we are in a good position, we will realize that we are in a good development and a good process,” he said.
“But at this point I’m annoyed and I also said to the players: ‘If you want to win trophies, titles, you have to change our mentality because it’s not possible for you to be at the top by making three such big mistakes when you lose’.
“Especially with the last goal you have to feel the game. At this point, the point was maximum. Then you have to score a point and you can’t concede a goal like us. And at the highest level, you can’t get trophies.
“It was like a deck of cards with the goals we conceded. Two starts from a corner and then of course we make mistakes, we didn’t show discipline in the rules we have there. Then you concede goals.”