I think it’s fair to say that the fans’ confidence in Arsenal and Arsene Wenger is at the lowest point it has been this season.
Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester United left our boys five points of the top of the table with league leaders and our opponents for this weekend Chelsea expected to extend that to eight points after their trip to Hull City.
Surprisingly, they fluffed their lines.
A lacklustre performance by the champions-elect saw Hull grab a deserved 1-1 draw at the KC Stadium, subsequently restricting the gap between us and Chelsea to six points. An Arsenal win on Sunday at Stamford Bridge – hardly an impossibility when you look at the host’s performance in the last two games, the result in last season’s corresponding fixture and the obvious impact the John Terry situation is having on the team – would cut that margin to three.
And it gets better.
A detailed look at the fixture list of the three title contenders reveals what has already been suggested – Arsenal’s is easier than both Chelsea and Manchester United. But the intriguing thing is just how much easier it is.
Our well-documented problem this season has been an inability to win in big games. But after Chelsea this weekend and Liverpool at The Emirates on Wednesday just two of the remaining 12 fixtures could be anywhere near considered a big game. They are an away trip to Spurs, a team we haven’t lost in the league to in over a decade and a home game against Manchester City.
In contrast Chelsea face two teams that have already beaten them this season in Aston Villa and Manchester City at home and away trips to Everton, Spurs, Liverpool and crucially, Manchester United. Meanwhile United still have to play Aston Villa, Everton and Manchester City away as well as three big games at Old Trafford against Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs.
On paper it is a huge contrast. It’s unfathomable to think that points won’t be dropped.
While we clearly we have our problems – Manuel Almunia, Denilson and to a lesser extent Gael Clichy are not performing well at the moment, Wenger’s tactics have been a bit off lately and our defence needs a bit of a kick up the backside – there’s also lot to be positive about.
Nicklas Bendtner’s long-awaited return to the starting line-up against Chelsea on Sunday will finally see us field a recognised striker and a player that I feel will have a big impact on our season. Abou Diaby will also be back, Eduardo as well and with Thomas Vermaelen avoiding a leg-break at Villa we certainly have the players available to put a good run of results together, just as we did after the 3-0 loss to Chelsea.
Meanwhile word is that Robin van Persie’s return will not be anywhere near as far away as initially confirmed with the Dutchman expected to begin full training again in month’s time. His presence may be vital in the closing stages of the season.
So for all the doom and gloom there is also a massive amount of hope.
I mentioned in an interview with Scott from The Republik of Mancunia that if we come away from the Chelsea and Liverpool games within five or six points of the top of the table then we remain a good chance to win the league and I absolutely stick by that. Our fixture list is favourable, our strikers are on the comeback and the current problems within the team can certainly be addressed by the players Wenger has at his disposal.
SportingBet Australia are paying $10 for Arsenal to win the league this season, compared with Chelsea at $1.73 and Manchester United at $2.50.
All things considered, I like those odds.
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