Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta believes Brighton’s impressive showing in Europe proves just how strong the Premier League has become.
The Seagulls travel to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday just three days on from a late win over Marseille that saw Roberto De Zerbi’s team qualify in top spot from their Europa League group.
Arsenal – who themselves won their Champions League group – were roundly beaten by Brighton in the corresponding fixture last season, with the 3-0 loss all-but ending their Premier League title hopes.
Arteta feels Brighton have “evolved” since last year and, along with West Ham and Aston Villa also topping their respective European groups, knows the standard in the Premier League makes any fixture a challenge.
Asked if the league is now tougher than ever, the Spaniard replied: “I think so.
“Not only with those teams but you have to really sweat and suffer to win any game in this league. You have examples every week, the margins of how teams are winning games is minimal.
“They are a really good side. Last year when we had the game under control, we conceded a goal and then the game completely broke up and we struggled, especially in the last 15 minutes of the game, so we have to play better and be very efficient, which is key against them.
“A lot of things happened that day as well. We were missing some key, key players and we lost Gabriel Martinelli straight away before half-time. A lot of things happened.
“The margin was none. Losing any points and the title was almost over and we had to cope with that. Now, the situation is very different because it’s still a marathon to go.”
Arteta will be back in the dugout for the game after watching from the stand as Arsenal lost at Aston Villa last time out having received three yellow cards this season.
An animated character on the touchline, Arteta may have met his match in De Zerbi – but he is a bit of a fan of his Brighton counterpart.
“We live the game as we feel it,” he added.
“When I was a player, it was very similar. Everybody has their own way of being, talking and communicating. I think it’s great. As long as we’re genuine, I think that’s great.
“I know him and have spoken to him a few times about different topics. I’ve followed his career since he was at Sassuolo, before he moved to Ukraine.
“It’s very impressive what he’s done, the way his teams play and what he’s accomplished in the Premier League as well.”