Nacho Monreal doesn’t attribute Arsenal’s title challenge to Mesut Ozil’s heap of assists or the defence’s increased confidence instilled by Petr Cech’s arrival.
No. Instead, the Spaniard thinks their lack of transfer activity played the biggest part in the Gunners’ rise to serious title contenders.
Arsene Wenger’s side are two points adrift of leaders Leicester following their dramatic 2-1 win over the Foxes on Sunday, with many predicting Arsenal will topple Claudio Ranieri’s team and win their first Premier League title in 12 years.
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The Gunners signed just two players in the summer transfer window, Cech from rivals Chelsea and midfielder Jeff Reine-Adelaide from Lens, and added Mohamed Elneny in January.
And Monreal believes Wenger’s lack of activity has improved the north London club’s stability.
The 29-year-old told Arsenal’s website: “In the last few years we have played with the same players. Every summer, we have signed one, two or a maximum of three players. The team is practically the same group so that is very important.
“It is very important the atmosphere in the dressing room. It is mandatory to have a really good relationship with your teammates, we are like a unit. You play like a unit and you spend a lot of time with them.
“I can see now there is only one group. We are together and in every moment the atmosphere is amazing - this is very important to get trophies. If you want to win something it is necessary to have good group.
“Arsenal is not 11 players, we are 24 amazing players and when one is injured, the other player could play really well. We have really good players and really good people. In my opinion, it is better than ever.”
The Gunners certainly look to have added a steely mentality that has been absent in past campaigns. Arsenal teams of old will have struggled to break down Leicester’s determined defence that came within seconds of holding on for a point at the Emirates Stadium.
Admittedly, critics can point to Danny Simpson’s red card in the 51st minute as the game’s pivotal point.
Yet Arsenal still needed to overcome a 1-0 deficit following Jamie Vardy’s first-half goal. The Gunners weren’t in a position to go for broke, either, given Leicester’s counter-attacking threat.
Down to the wire
The game ensures the title race will go right down to the wire. Leicester have a two-point lead over Arsenal and Tottenham, who dented Manchester City’s hopes of winning a third league title in five years by winning 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium.
Leicester have just 12 games remaining, while Arsenal and Tottenham could both play more than 20 times before the season finishes due to European and FA Cup commitments.
The Foxes remain the favourites but Arsenal, with their tight-knit locker room as described by Monreal, are right on their tail.
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