Neville left with egg on face as Arsenal "depressed ambition" comments resurface

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Gary Neville criticised Arsenal
Gary Neville criticised Arsenal's capabilities in April (Image: The Overlap)

Arsenal’s fantastic form in the Premier League this season has left Gary Neville looking silly after he lamented the side’s “depressed ambition” last year.

The Gunners have not won the Premier League since the famous Invincibles side clinched the title under Arsene Wenger in 2003/04, while they have not played in the Champions League since 2016/17. But they have made a storming start to the campaign and are seven points clear at the top of the table following their 4-2 win over Brighton on New Year’s Eve.

Mikel Arteta’s side have won 14 of their 16 games and have surprised Neville, who - like almost all onlookers - did not see such a run coming. Back in April, when Arsenal were fighting with rivals Tottenham for a top-four finish, the former Manchester United defender gave a stinging assessment of the club’s mentality.

"I really like Mikel Arteta," he said on Sky Sports show The Overlap. "I think he's a brilliant coach. I think the team is fantastic in terms of the young players they've got.

"But it's interesting when you're in a cycle of a club and you depress the ambition and have a significant period of failure because you then get really happy about finishing fourth. I found myself saying that about Manchester United, but it's because of a depressed ambition.

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"I think Mikel Arteta is a good operator. My concern is if Arsenal finish fourth this season – which, to be fair, I think is 50/50, I still think there's a long way to go in that race – but if they finish fourth, that's in some ways as good as it gets.

Neville left with egg on face as Arsenal "depressed ambition" comments resurfaceMikel Arteta has Arsenal seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table (GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

"You've got Pep [Guardiola], [Jurgen] Klopp, Man United, Chelsea. Where can Arsenal go? They're not going to compete. Mikel Arteta is a brilliant coach. I love that we're seeing a team that he's getting the maximum out of – I can see exactly how he wants to play, we all can.

"But he gets to fourth [and] if he was really hard about it, he'd probably say, 'right, that's the best I can do there, I'm going now and getting my next job'."

HAVE YOUR SAY! Should Gary Neville be embarrassed by his comments, or have Arsenal surprised you too? Comment below.

Neville left with egg on face as Arsenal "depressed ambition" comments resurfaceArsenal have performed well above Gary Neville's prediction (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Arsenal missed out on fourth place last season, finishing two points adrift of Spurs in fifth after suffering back-to-back defeats against their north London rivals and Newcastle in May. But Arteta stayed put in the Arsenal dugout and has turned around their fortunes this season.

After signing Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko from Manchester City in the summer, the Gunners have been hugely consistent in 2022/23. Their only defeat came against Manchester United on September 4 and they have the second-best attack, after City, and second-best defence, after Newcastle, in the league.

Arteta played down Arsenal’s title hopes after the win over Brighton, but revealed the change in mentality inside the camp. "It’s still a long run to go," Arteta told reporters. "My excitement comes from going into the dressing room when the players are talking about what they should have done better today.”

Felix Keith

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