Arteta's Arsenal 'animals' can win the Premier League, says former Gunner Sagna

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Bacary Sagna says Mikel Arteta can bring the Premier League title back to Arsenal.

The Gunners have not been crowned champions of the English top flight since Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles went through the entire 2003-04 season without losing a game.

There have been some near misses since, with the Gunners’ narrowly missing out during Sagna's first year in England when they relinquished a six-point lead with just 11 games of the 2007-08 season remaining.

In recent years they have slipped well off the pace in the Premier League, however, finishing sixth and fifth in the past two seasons and prior the coronavirus enforced suspension of the current campaign, they were ninth - 42 points off leaders Liverpool.

But Sagna is convinced that the most prized piece of silverware could soon find its way back to north London.

“I think so,” he told Goal, when asked whether Arsenal can win the title in the next few years. “Leicester did it and no-one expected them to, but they had a great team spirit and were fighting every single game.

“Arsenal can do it too, because if you face Arsenal it is always difficult because of the way they move and play."

And the reason Sagna has belief that his former club can soon start challenging towards the top of the table again is because of the appointment of Arteta, who replaced Unai Emery in December.

Sagna - who was at Arsenal for seven years between 2007 and 2014 - played with the Spaniard during his final two seasons at the Emirates and knows exactly what he will bring behind the scenes.

“I think it was a great choice because he has personality,” the 37-year-old said.

“If he’s not happy about a player he will go straight to them and tell them they are out of the team and that they will have to work to come back.”

Mikel Arteta Dani Ceballos Arsenal 2019-20

Before football across the country was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, Arsenal were the only team not to have suffered a Premier League defeat in 2020.

Since taking charge, Arteta has only lost one league game and three successive victories before the break in action had seen the Gunners move to within five points of fifth-placed Manchester United.

Sagna, who is now living in Montreal, has been watching with interest from afar and says the impact Arteta has made is clear to see.

“If you look at the team, even the team spirit has changed,” he said. “Whether it’s running or tracking, they are like animals.

“Everyone was criticising [Shkodran] Mustafi and David Luiz, but Mikel has changed their way of defending.

“Maybe he gave them some more confidence, some more love, I don’t know what he’s done but he’s changed something.

“It’s because he has a strong spirit and a strong attitude. He is someone who is charismatic. When he stands on the pitch he sends a message to his players. He shows real leadership.”

Despite being delighted by the upturn in form under Arteta, Sagna - who made 284 appearances during his spell with Arsenal - still has major reservations about how his former club is being run.

During an appearance on Sky Sports in December, Sagna said it felt like Arsenal was ‘a circus of a club’ while discussing the leadership and the decision making by those in power.

And those feelings haven’t changed, although the right-back was keen to point out that his view has nothing to do with the current squad or what has been happening on the pitch.

Bacary Sagna Arsenal

“When I called the club a circus, it was not about the players, the performance or their quality,” he said. “It was about the club.

“How you can be in London, which is probably the most attractive city in the UK, have a great stadium such as the Emirates and not be doing more?

“Basically, the club is able to bring in any player today because every player loves Arsenal. If you are any player in foreign leagues, their beloved team along with United, is Arsenal. The club could be much more higher.

“Obviously now with big spenders like City coming into the game they have tried to have an ethic, which I respect a lot, but you have to make some choices.

“Don’t expect the players to perform like teams who have maybe two squads.”

Sagna added: “As a player you want the club to show some desire. Not necessarily in spending money, but someone needs to run the club properly and you don’t really know who is leading Arsenal. Who is taking the big decisions?

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“Back in the day you knew Arsenal were taking decisions through Arsene Wenger. He was the leader. Since he left, you don’t know who is leading.

“For a club like Arsenal, I thought there would be more leadership. That’s why I said that about it being a circus. It’s because I love Arsenal. When you love something it’s like having a relationship with someone.

“Whenever I’m critical, I’m not critical in a bad way. I just can’t understand what’s happening.”