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Paul Merson has played down Arsenal’s chances of securing a top-four finish in the Premier League this season but insists he believes Mikel Arteta is taking the club in the right direction.
The Gunners finished just eighth last season – ten points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and 43 behind champions Liverpool – but improved after Arteta replaced Unai Emery in December.
Despite the progress at Arsenal, Merson still cannot see his former club finishing in the top four this season, with Liverpool hoping to defend their title amid competition from the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United.
‘I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Arteta, you can see what he’s trying to achieve and what direction Arsenal are heading in,’ Merson told Sky Sports.
‘There is a plan, players are being sent out on the pitch with clear instruction and they know what they are doing.
‘You don’t beat Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea by luck. Towards the end of last season they had a game plan and executed it well, the challenge for Arsenal now is to stick to that game plan every week, something they have not been great at in recent seasons.
‘Their consistency levels have not been anywhere near where they should be and that’s why they are more of a cup team. On their day they can beat anyone but can also lose to anyone.
‘The gap to the top four, at first glance, looks too big for them to close that quickly. That said, if they can get off to flying start, you never know where it could take them.
‘Injuries are going to play a huge part this season, I cannot emphasise that enough.
‘If Liverpool and Manchester City lose a couple of players for eight weeks to injury all of a sudden, the title favourites may be under pressure.
‘This season is going to be an intriguing one and it will come down to who can keep their players keep and stay consistent.’
While Arsenal only finished eighth last season, they did at least pick up some silverware after winning the FA Cup final.
Last month, they beat Liverpool to win the Community Shield. Arteta’s side begin their 2020-21 campaign on Saturday with a trip across London to face newly-promoted Fulham.