Arsenal must show they can handle the pressure of being Premier League title “favourites”, according to Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte.
Mikel Arteta’s side head into Sunday’s North London derby top of the table having won 14 of their 17 games.
But the Gunners dropped points in a goalless draw with Newcastle United last week, and with closest challengers Manchester City playing Manchester United on Saturday, Arsenal’s lead could be cut to just two points by the time they step out onto the pitch at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.
Conte is no stranger to title races, having lifted five top-flight crowns during his managerial career, including the 2016-17 Premier League while in charge of Chelsea.
He warned Arsenal that, despite their fantastic start, the real challenge starts now as they look to fend off City and claim their first league title since the 2003-04 ‘Invincibles’ season.
“When you are at the top of the league the perception of your opponents change totally,” Conte told reporters. “You are in that moment the best team in the league. For this reason, everybody wants to try to beat you.
“For sure, Arsenal has to face this situation of being favourites to win the league at this moment because they are top of the table. They have to show they are good to face this type of situation.
PL Manager of the Month PL Player of the Month pic.twitter.com/eJTO7MxfmC
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 13, 2023
“In the last 10 years it was always the same, between City, Chelsea and Liverpool. Maybe Leicester [City]. Now Arsenal have a great opportunity.
“I think they are doing very well. Now they have to show they can stay there until the end of the season because I’m sure Manchester City doesn’t agree and will feel the real possibility to win [the title] again.
“I think it is a battle between Arsenal and Manchester City.”
Despite the huge animosity between the capital-city rivals, Spurs boss Conte still has respect for how Arsenal have turned things around after a tumultuous period in the late stages of and following Arsene Wenger’s tenure.
Conte pointed out Arteta’s focus on youth, as well as their recruitment in the transfer market, as reasons for the Gunners’ success, saying: “They are working for many years in a project.
“They are doing very well. They sent away a lot of players, and bring in many players and they spend money to do it.
“It’s normal when you work with the same young players and after four years they develop and become stronger.
“You have two paths you can follow.
“If you want to accelerate the process it is important to bring experienced players, winners, who know how to win, but you have another way, which is you need to have time and patience to develop young players.”
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