Former Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman has admitted he did not expect Arsenal to be challenging for the Premier League title because of how last season ended.
Arsenal missed out on a top four finish with defeats at Tottenham and Newcastle United, which allowed bitter rivals to leapfrog them into Champions League football.
Speaking on the Arsecast podcast on Friday, the former England international says he expected to see an improvement in the team from last season, and finishing in the top four would have represented that.
“No!” (laughs). “I was looking at top four, thinking if we can get top four, that will be an improvement on our previous season,” Seaman said.
“I think last season only classed us with disappointment, especially losing to ‘who shall not be named’, beating us to the Champions League spot, but it was still an improvement on the previous season.
“This one is the same; I don’t want to talk about it too much, but if you know what needs to happen, it’s a massive improvement because we haven’t been in contention for a long time, and this season we are really in contention and have a fantastic chance of winning it.”
Arsenal deservedly sits atop the Premier League table with eight points separating Arteta’s red from defending champions Manchester City. With only nine matches left until the end of the season, David Seaman believes the experience of missing out on top four last season has motivated the players to do better this campaign.
“That is what surprised me,” Seaman says on Arsenal’s rise to the top. “The way we’ve bounced back from that, because it was a huge disappointment. The way we played away at Newcastle and the way we played at Tottenham, there were not just bad results, there were bad performances, and the way we’ve turned that around to this season where even if we go down the hole, we don’t panic anymore, we stick to our game plan and it’s been so evident this season.
“I was at the game on Saturday against Leeds, we didn’t start well, but we just stuck to our plan, and it worked, and the players are getting more confidence from that. That’s why I’ve been so impressed this season because we’ve gotten rid of that hangover.”
Arsenal have the second youngest squad in the Premier League this season with an average age of 24.4, with bottom club Southampton having the youngest squad in the 24.2 age bracket.
The Gunners struggled last season with setbacks but have responded emphatically to every challenge they face this season, with the latest being the 3-1 defeat to Man City in February, which has set the team on a seven-game winning streak.
Seaman, 59, made 564 appearances for Arsenal and won eight major trophies, including league titles in 1991, 1998 and 2002. He is among the elite groups that are impressed with the maturity of this young team.
“With young teams, you get the inconsistencies, but we’ve not had that this year. I look at people like Bukayo (Saka) and you’re almost talking about him as an experienced player now, despite all he’s gone through, he is still really young, but the additions of Jesus and Zinchenko, and Jorginho were three real masterstrokes by Mikel.
“He’s (Arteta) brought in players who have been there and done it before. When they walk into the dressing room and training ground, players will look at them and try to copy what they do, pick things from each of them and put that into the way they look after themselves,” he said.
Arsenal will continue their quest for a first Premier League title this weekend when they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool on Sunday.