Arsenal mustered up a performance that will live long in the memory against Manchester United last weekend, winning 3-0 in style with a dominating performance, both offensively and defensively. But does this win make a statement that they truly are title contenders?
It is widely known and regularly reported that Arsenal have not won the Premier League for 10 years, since that famous invincible season. What’s more though, is that they haven’t really competed for it in so long either, despite never finishing outside of the top four. However, on the back of 2 successive FA Cup victories, are Arsenal finally ready to mount a proper challenge for the biggest prize in domestic football?
Arsenal are a sleeping giant
Arsenal are a “sleeping giant” according to Graeme Souness, who believes that Arsenal should be on the same level as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Real Madrid, as one of the biggest forces in European football. I am sure that many fans would agree, and simultaneously love to see Arsenal reaching such heights, but before they compete for the Champions League, they must surely be able to compete for the Premier League.
In the words of legend, Thierry Henry, Arsenal “must win it this year”, as the Frenchman doesn’t think they will have a better opportunity than they do now. Chelsea’s atrocious start to the season sees them lying around the bottom of the table with just two wins from eight. While Liverpool and Tottenham have the same struggles as usual, Manchester City look like the only team who will pose a real threat to our dreams, having seen off the only other real contenders, Manchester United, with relative ease at the weekend. However I am wiser than to completely write United off at this early stage.
They must win the Premier League this season
The form of the Premier League teams in Europe goes a long to show how poorly our home nation teams are playing this year, compared with the biggest in Europe. We play in the most competitive league, but it appears not the best. And with that, it shows how none of the teams in England have really taken the initiative in the league. Even Man City have struggled at times without captain Vincent Kompany, or other members of their spine, resulting in us sticking fairly close to them for now. No doubt they will be favourites for the league, though.
Yet it is this struggling from which all teams are currently suffering that makes this our best opportunity to win. As Thierry said, “They must win the Premier League this season”, because you know that next year, these other teams will expend a huge amount of resources in order to comeback. Something Arsenal won’t do in the same way.
We can all agree that Arsenal have the basis for a great team, but time and time again they have fallen just short. They have been a nearly-team, a near miss. For years now, pundits and fans alike have cited certain positions in need of improvement. Today though we are finally starting to see things lining up. Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin appear to have come to our saviour in those pivotal central roles, however a lack of cover for them could prove a big problem should injury strike.
With so many games to be played, rotation will be key to our success. We remain in every competition, for now, but face a huge uphill battle to stay in the Champions League as we reside bottom of the group after embarrassing defeats to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiacos, with two games against Bayern Munich to come next.
Yet could our failures in the Champions League, work out positively? We saw Liverpool come close to winning the League two season ago, when they did not have to play in Europe at all. Similarly Arsenal finish the season strong regularly, once they have been knocked out of the Champions League, in the Round of 16.
Perhaps exiting the Champions League at the group stage for once, would allow the team to push on for the Premier League, without having to worry about resting players, rotation, or fatigue, as much as normal.
While this would be a positive out of a shambolic Champions League campaign, I do not condone us going out with ease, and I believe we should push for the maximum points we can to try and qualify for the next round, because this is the Champions League we are talking about after all.
To win in a big game is always a statement, we are in it, we are two points off the leaders. I hope the result today will give us belief, and ambition to fight for it.
To take an impartial outlook on the situation, I believe Arsenal can win the League, but Manchester City have to be considered favourites for it. They have the experience and mentality for it, whereas thus far this season Arsenal have lacked the consistency needed. They would need Man City to show similar inconsistencies.
Arsenal’s chances of winning it would be greatly improved were they to be knocked out of the Champions League, but that is not something I want nor hope to see; especially with this coefficient problem, and all the English teams looking fragile at best. Plus those Champions League nights at the Emirates against some of the world’s greatest are some of the best nights of the year.
The final variable will come down to Arsenal’s biggest enemy. Injuries. Keeping the likes of Sanchez, Ozil, Coquelin, Walcott, Cech, fit. We will need our star players to play and deliver week in week out.