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Bukayo Saka sends title message to Arsenal's rivals Liverpool and Man City

  /  autty

Bukayo Saka believes Arsenal have made a "statement" in the title race.

The six-goal demolition of West Ham has shown Arsenal mean business and are determined to go toe-to-toe with Manchester City and Liverpool. It was vital they backed up their morale-boosting win over Liverpool the previous week with a victory at West Ham. And it was not just the three points - but the style in which they won.

Arsenal have not been playing with the same flair and free-flowing style as last season and yet, at West Ham, they blitzed their London rivals with a sensational display. Saka, 22, said: “We knew this was a big game and it was really important for us to win and make a statement. I think we did really well scoring six and keeping a clean sheet.”

‌Arsenal’s win puts them right in the mix in a three-horse title race with just two points separating Mikel Arteta’s men from City and Liverpool. If Arsenal had managed one more goal, they would have overhauled City and gone into second on goal difference which just underlines how close it is at the top.

City remain the bookies’ favourites while Liverpool are top and Arsenal have been seen as the outsiders in recent weeks. Back-to-back defeats against West Ham at home and at Fulham between Christmas and New Year saw them get written off in some quarters.

But since then, they have won four games in a row, smashing five past Crystal Palace, winning at Nottingham Forest and then beating Liverpool and West Ham. They had tripped up in their last three games with West Ham - blowing a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at London Stadium last season, losing at home in December and getting knocked out of the Carabao Cup this season.

But Arsenal know from the experiences of last season, it is more about how you finish the season than how you start it. Arsenal fell away last year in the title race when William Saliba got injured and Arteta’s men lost their defensive foundations.

Arsenal have the meanest defence in the Premier League this time as they have conceded just 22 goals which is fewer than any other team.

Saliba and Gabriel have been outstanding at centre half. All the talk about David Raya has quietened down which is perhaps the best compliment you can pay the Arsenal keeper. Ben White has been incredibly consistent.

Left back has been an issue ever since Jurrien Timber got injured in the first game of the season. They have also seen Gabriel Jesus miss too many games and that has meant that it has been hard for Arsenal to field a settled first choice XI which was their biggest strength last season.

They have scored 16 set piece goals which is the highest in the Premier League but the flip side of that is that it also exposes a lack of creativity and chances from open play.

But the six goals they put past West Ham shows they are hitting form at the right time and appear to be in something of a groove. City have gained a reputation for being incredibly consistent during the run-in, winning game after game to blow the opposition away, That is what Arsenal must do now.

Crucially, Saka is rediscovering form at the right time. That is highlighted by his willingness to step up and take the penalty at West Ham. Last season, Saka missed at West Ham when, if he had scored, it would have made it 3-1. Instead, Arsenal ended up being pegged back 2-2 and that was towards the start of a poor run which saw their title challenge unravel.

However, Saka insists that he was never worried about taking the responsibility again. “If you’re going to be a penalty taker I don’t know any penalty taker that scores every single penalty,” Saka said after his man-of-the-match display took him to ten goals and seven assists.

“I’m not happy to miss but I understand it’s part of the game so when I won the penalty I was ready to take it again and score. I’ve had many lessons in my career and the best choice is to learn and take the learning process which makes you stronger.

“Of course I have my own targets. I know these days the media like to compare players. I just stay in my own lane and stay focused on what I want to achieve and what I wanted to achieve at the start of the season. I’m still going and I’ve got quite a few more to go.”