Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho has backed Arsenal to challenge for the Premier League title this year.

The Portuguese tactician believes that despite the high-profile sales of Robin van Persie and Alex Song this summer, Arsene Wenger's squad is as strong as it ever has been.

With the capture of key players like Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, the Gunners can be a force to be reckoned with, and have started the new campaign positively, remaining unbeaten in their first five games.

Sunday's 1-1 draw with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium is the latest in a string of impressive performances, where Arsenal became only the third visiting side since December 2010 to avoid defeat at the champions.

"I think Arsenal is coming again," said Mourinho. "I like this Arsenal team. I know they've lost some players but I like the way Arsene [Wenger] is building this team and I think they can be a positive surprise [in the title race]."

The former Chelsea chief clashed with Wenger on a number of occasions during his time in west London, but Mourinho insists he is full of respect for Arsenal, and claims the frosty relationship between the two parties was solely down to their competitive edge.

"I am not critical [of Arsenal in the past]," he explained. "When you are in the same championship and your teams are rivals in the same city and you play local derbies and cup finals, it is normal that you will have a little bit of a rivalry. But the respect was always there.

"I like this team more than the one from previous seasons despite losing a very good player like Van Persie."

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