Football Expert & Columnist
Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher: Arsenal grit is sign of progress
The MNF experts like Arsenal's new ability to dig in on the road - but aren't sure they'll win the title.
Last Updated: 14/01/14 8:10am
Arsene Wenger's side returned to the top of the Premier League on Monday night with a 2-1 win at Aston Villa secured through first-half goals from Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud.
Arsenal were in control for long periods, but Christian Benteke's 76th-minute header sparked a grandstand finish from the hosts and the Gunners' back four did well to stand firm in the closing stages.
They have won their last three away games in the Premier League, following successes at West Ham and Newcastle, and Monday Night Football expert Carragher said that has been built upon the performances of the club's less high-profile players.
"When you think of teams digging in you think of that last 15 minutes and tough away games," he said.
"They were 1-0 down at West Ham, let's not forget, and Newcastle was another difficult game and that's where you need your back four.
"You can talk about the days when you score four or five and it's great for your attacking players; Ozil, Wilshere, Cazorla and all the different players in different positions, popping up.
"But at times you need that back four. You need Flamini and Arteta in front; players who are not 9/10, but are 7/10 every week and win you those tough away games.
"Tonight for the first hour they were not really under too much pressure. They had Aston Villa at arm's length and were under control, but those last 15 or 20 minutes happen in away games and you've got to deal with it.
"That's what they did tonight."
Fellow Sky Sports expert Neville agreed that Arsenal's defensive solidity, particularly on the road, is a real sign of progression for Wenger after eight-and-a-half seasons without a trophy.
However, he is still tipping Manchester City and Chelsea as more likely champions.
Neville said: "They are doing well, really well - and that is not patronising - for them to be doing what they're doing from where they were last season.
"I know they signed Ozil and he's having a good impact, but it's not what you would call a massive, massive impact whereby he's doing a Luis Suarez and is scoring 15 or 20 goals.
"They are doing well as a team and are digging in and that's the important thing. The away wins at Villa, West Ham and Newcastle are big moments and I think this Arsenal team are progressing.
"It's ominous that Chelsea and City are looking powerful and strong and I do think Arsenal will get hauled back by those two teams. I just think the power in those two teams will do it eventually.
"But up to this point of the season they've done everything that has been asked of them. From our point of view we really hope they are involved in it come March and April.
"But there's a long way to go until that point."