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Paul Merson believes Arsenal are already looking like Mikel Arteta's team

Mikel Arteta

Paul Merson believes Arsenal looked like Mikel Arteta's team in the first half of Sunday's 2-1 defeat by Chelsea.

The Gunners were the better team in the opening period at the Emirates Stadium, before two late Chelsea goals turned the game on its head.

Arteta, who left his role as Manchester City assistant manager to take the reins in north London, is still awaiting his first win as Arsenal boss.

But Merson was impressed with the home team's energy and intensity in the first 45 minutes of the Chelsea clash.

“For the first half against Chelsea, it didn't look like Arsene Wenger was in charge. And that's the biggest compliment I can give," the former Arsenal midfielder told Sky Sports.

"They worked their socks off, but were never going to keep that up for 90 minutes, because they haven't done that in 10 years. That high pressure, closing down, Chelsea couldn't get out or put two or three passes together.

“You looked at Arsenal in that first half and thought: 'Well this is Arteta's team'. He'd got them closing down. But obviously, they were going to fade. Chelsea took advantage of that, and fair play to them.

“As time goes on, however, and Arteta looks to place his stamp on the team, there are some bright sparks to take. The fitter they get, and the more they understand that closing-down game, I think they'll be all right, and I was quite impressed.

“Arteta has been around one of the best, and he has that way of talking. He's not going to come in and start effing and blinding.”

Arsenal return to action on New Year's Day, when Manchester United visit the Emirates.

Arteta will then take charge of his first FA Cup game as a manager when the Gunners face Leeds in a third-round clash next Monday.

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