Arsenal legend Tony Adams fears his old club’s title hopes hinges on sustaining the fitness of six key players.
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The Gunners currently enjoy an eight-point lead over champions Manchester City, albeit having played a game more, ahead of Saturday’s resumption following the international break.
Mikel Arteta’s emerging side have surpassed all expectations already but with the finish line now in sight the pressure is on to get the job done and end a near 20-year wait to be crowned champions.
Regardless of how the season ends, Arsenal are at least almost guaranteed to be back in the Champions League for the first time since 2017 but Adams believes Arteta will need to invest heavily in his squad if he is to stand any chance of competing on multiple fronts.
Defeat against Sporting Lisbon a fortnight ago exposed what is currently a paper-thin squad which Adams believes is heavily reliant on a core group of players.
He told The Sun: ‘Playing in the Champions League next season will be a whole new ball game for this Arsenal team.
‘And it’s going to be really difficult for the current squad to compete at that level while also challenging for the title.
‘We all saw what happened when Mikel rested a couple of his big boys in the Europa League the other week.
‘The back-up players looked bang average and were played off the park by Sporting Lisbon.
‘At the moment they need Bukayo, Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey, Gabriel Jesus and Oleks Zinchenko playing every week because they have a team that almost picks itself.’
Saka, in particular, has earned the plaudits in recent months following a series of dazzling displays but Adams has not been overly surprised by his progress and knew he was destined for stardom from a young age.
He added: ‘Bukayo is, hands down, the Footballer of the Year because he was England’s best player at the World Cup and he’s been the best player for the team eight points clear at the top of the Premier League.
‘The first time I saw him was about five years ago in a youth team game at Forest Green and I could immediately tell he was something special.
‘I reached out to him straight away because I wanted to know who was looking after him, did he have a good family and a decent agent.
‘He told me: “I’m all right, Mr Adams, my family are good, this is OK, I speak to this person.”
‘I knew then he would go a long way. We’ve kept in contact ever since and I reached out to him after he missed that penalty in the shootout in the Euro 2020 final.
‘He appreciated the contact and the next time I saw him at the Emirates he gave me a big hug.
‘He’s such a lovely boy, so respectful and polite. The kid has talent but he also has brains. And he still calls me ‘Mr Adams’.’
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