Mikel Arteta said the Premier League was a “different planet” now in terms of quality as he tried to explain the decline in fortunes for Arsenal and Tottenham ahead of Sunday’s north London derby.
Meetings between the two rivals have historically had implications for the title race or European qualification but Spurs are currently seventh and Arsenal 13th.
Spurs are playing Europe’s third-tier Europa Conference League just two years after reaching the Champions League final while Arsenal last season failed to qualify for Europe for the first time in 25 years.
With the traditional “top six” of Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool challenged by clubs such as Leicester and West Ham, Arteta said England’s top flight is “a different planet now”.
“The Premier League has never been as strong as this,” the Spaniard said on Friday.
“It’s the strongest league in the world in history because of the quality of the teams, the quality and involvement of the organisation, the quality of the coaches and players — it’s never been that strong.”
Arteta, who made 284 Premier League appearances for Everton and Arsenal between 2005 and 2016, believes the higher standards would have been a challenge even for a player of his calibre.
“I wouldn’t be able to play at this level,” he said.
Arsenal are on a three-match winning streak in all competitions after losing their opening three Premier League games — the club’s worst start to a league campaign in 67 years.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s visitors are looking for their first league win at the Emirates Stadium since 2010 and have lost their past two Premier League matches after a strong start.
Arteta has a full squad to call upon after midfielder Granit Xhaka served a three-match suspension for a red card he received in last month’s 5-0 defeat at Manchester City.