Arsenal have undoubtedly had their best season in a long time and are currently involved in what looks to be the closest title race in the Premier League’s history.
Following last night’s goalless draw at home to Manchester United, Arsene Wenger’s side are sitting pretty in second place.
Despite the result leaving them only one point behind leaders Chelsea, many bookmakers now have shorter odds on 4th-placed Liverpool emerging as overall winners.
Here are 10 reasons why the bookies might just be right. Some of the criticisms may be harsh, but we have high expectations of Champions.
By Steven Gyford –@Stevie_Gyf
1. Olivier Giroud
If this season has told us anything, it’s that Olivier Giroud is by no means the most clinical striker in the Premier League. With a modest 10 league goals (for a man in his position) the French international has shown himself as more of a creator than a natural goal scorer. Which brings me onto my next point…
2. Lack of Depth
They always say, it’s a marathon and not a sprint, thus the reason why you’ll hear Alan Hansen mention strength in depth on a weekly basis. Frankly, Arsenal don’t have it in the attacking areas. Should Giroud get injured, all of a sudden your title hopes are all resting on the not-so-divine ponytail: Nicklas Bendtner. Theo Walcott’s injury is a massive blow, as has been the case with Mathieu Flamini’s constant lack of availability as the club’s only defensive-minded midfielder. They need only to look at Manchester City’s squad as an example, just ignore the bit where it says Martin Demichelis.
3. The Big Games
Wherever you are in the league, it’s always good to beat the teams around you. This season most of the top teams have had at least some joy against the Gunners, who can only take solace from doing the double over bitter rivals Tottenham. Their record and, in some cases, performances against others sides at the top of the pack leave plenty to be desired. They have only taken a single point off struggling Manchester United; suffered embarrassing defeats at Anfield and the Etihad Stadium and haven’t won a game in the League against a top-half team since December.
4. The Run-In
We’re at the stage of the season now when supporters up and down the country feel justified in looking at the rest of the fixture list and saying how it’s all going to end. Things just don’t get easier for Arsene Wenger’s men, as they are set to face Bayern Munich (twice), Liverpool and Manchester City at home, and Chelsea and Spurs away. With such a difficult run of fixtures, I can see the excuses already. At least they can say it’s all in their own hands.
Giroud, Ozil and Cazorla looked jaded in last night’s disappointing stalemate against Manchester United. Currently, there seems to be an over-reliance on the front six to play as many games as possible. Only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s introduction has injected energy into a midfield who may have laboured even longer at home to Palace without him. Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho have both shown the value and importance of changing personnel between games. Eden Hazard, Willian and Jesus Navas have all notably benefited from sitting the odd game out and I’m sure Mesut Ozil wouldn’t say no to a breather.
6. Mesut Ozil
A controversial one, but hear me out. The £40million record signing just hasn’t lived up to his expectations so far. The German is a real talent, undoubtedly, but Arsenal’s real strength lies in their ability to stroke the ball around at great pace, cutting out numerous defenders with a few quick passes. Unfortunately, this is something that Mr. Ozil hasn’t particularly cottoned-on to. He seems far more concerned about holding onto the ball himself and teasing frantic defenders in front of him. All of the questions regarding his unwillingness to defend can’t be helping either.
7. Jack Wilshere
Don’t let the league position fool you, this has been a season to forget for Jack Wilshere. The man once touted as ‘the’ future of English football has looked a shadow of his former self. Midfielders across the country have managed to get at Wilshere this year and in the situations where he would once produce an exquisite turn, or a quick one-two to escape their clutches, he is often being caught out and bullied off the ball. It also appears that his five goals earlier in the season came at the price of losing the inability to effectively and consistently pass the ball. Four assists for a player of such quality, really isn’t good enough.
8. Aaron Ramsey
Here is the real miss at the Emirates Stadium. When Aaron Ramsey was effortlessly slamming in goals and producing man-of-the-match performances at the start of the season, the club could do no wrong. When Ramsey played, Arsenal played. Now, having not played in 2014, only Olivier Giroud has eclipsed the Welshman’s goal tally. Nobody, has stepped into the 23-year-old’s boots and they might just pay the price for that.
9. Recent Lack Of Goals
Goals have been much harder to come by of late. The last six Premier League games at the Emirates have been 0-0 at half-time, which isn’t good enough for a team with title aspirations. You could point the finger at Olivier Giroud again, or the absence of Aaron Ramsey, but in truth I think the finger has to be pointed at the rest of the midfield. Does anybody want to shoot?
10. Manchester City and Chelsea
The tenth reason is effectively that there are nine other reasons as to why Arsenal probably won’t win the title. You would probably struggle to come up with the same number for either one of their main rivals. City boast the Premier Leagues most potent attack (even with Aguero’s growing injury list) and Chelsea, the meanest defence. You could almost compare the two to an irresistible force and an immoveable object. Or you could just say that Arsenal, who divide the two, are between a rock and a hard place. Long story short: Arsenal could win the league, but they won’t.