Paul Merson changes his mind on Arsenal’s title chances

Paul Merson has had a change of heart...

Paul Merson believes that Francis Coquelin’s injury has dealt a severe blow to Arsenal’s chances of winning the title and is now backing Manchester City to lift the trophy in May.

The Gunners were rocked by the news that Coquelin is set to be sidelined for at least 12 weeks after suffering a medial knee ligament injury during the 2-1 loss to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

Coquelin has been a regular fixture in Arsenal’s first team in recent months since making the holding midfield position his own at Emirates Stadium.

And Merson, who recently tipped Arsenal to win their first Premier League title since 2004, now feels that Manchester City must be considered the favourites to triumph in May.

Merson told Sky Sports: “I don’t want to use the term ‘lack of respect’ but Manchester City get complacent. City have it in them and they could have lost by a lot more to Liverpool. Why was Nicolas Otamendi not playing? I just couldn’t believe he didn’t play. However, I still make them favourites because with David Silva and Sergio Aguero back they’re the best team going forward.

“I only count Arsenal out now because if you’d asked me which player they can’t cope without, it’s Francis Coquelin. It says it all that his replacement Mikel Arteta gave away the free-kick, scored an own goal then went off injured. His car probably broke down on the way home as well, it was that kind of performance.

“I said they had to bring a world-class defensive midfielder in the summer and I really think that defines their title campaign.

“Mathieu Flamini also used to be a top player but they’re on the other side of an age to ask them to do that role in the Arsenal team… they haven’t got the legs to do it. They just need to hang in there until they get their players back. I made it head-or-tails but City must be favourites now.

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“I’ve also got to give United credit where it’s due. They have belly about them. If they’re not playing well they can grind out a result and there’s a lot to be said for that, especially compared with Arsenal’s failure to do the same at West Brom.”

Arsenal are currently fourth in the Premier League table and two points behind leaders Leicester City.

The Gunners take on Norwich City at Carrow Road in the top flight on Sunday afternoon.

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