Arsenal's title tilt- the calendar year conundrum
Can table-toppers Arsenal finally break their 11-year barren spell and win the Premier League this season
Arsenal have for some time now been viewed as a team that only do well in a calendar year, but that may well change this season the way things are headed. When discussing Arsenal, context is always an important ingredient in the mix. One can never out rightly say anything about them without adding a qualifier.
Arsenal don’t spend? That’s because of the stadium debt. The team is not cohesive? There are so many injuries all the time.
And when it comes to the form of the team, a look at the calendar is always advised. If it’s the first half of the year, it is most likely that the Gunners are recovering spectacularly from a disastrous start to the season, and do the seemingly impossible task of qualifying for Europe’s elite competition.
If it is the second half, it is a given that the dreaded February collapse is just around the corner to destroy all title credentials the club displayed up to that point.
So when the club is at the top of the table at the turn of the year, taking it with a pinch of salt is always the safe way to go.
It’s true that five of the last six times the team that was leading the table at the end of the year went on to win the title at the end of the season. So why not Arsenal? The one time it didn’t happen it was the gunners that were at the head of the pack, that’s why.
It’s not for a lack of ambition or talent that sees the men in red-and-white botch such golden chances to win the title time and again. There is the very legitimate reason of injuries scuppering the first team.
Therein lies the rub. While the first eleven are an excellent team, the rest of the squad have always failed to step up and take their place when required. The players coming in were either lazy, uninspired, or just plain not good.
Arsenal have overcome their customary once a season injury crisis
The close of 2015 saw Arsenal once again at the top of the table. Although they tried their best not to get there with the disaster that was the game against Southampton, the draw between Leicester City and Manchester City means they are the leaders by virtue of a better goal difference.
But for a change, things are looking a lot better for the Gunners this time around. They have already suffered their customary injury crisis, an event that usually happens just after the January transfer window closes. And yet, they have come out of it without dropping a whole lot of points and doing themselves irreparable damage.
The club is at its bare bones, with Mathieu Flamini, Aaron Ramsey, and now Calum Chambers, running the midfield, and despite a good showing against Manchester City, there is always the sense that they do not give what Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin provide in terms of balance and performance.
But, barring Southampton, it seems between them they have somehow managed to make it work.
Joel Campbell has taken his opportunities in the absence of wide players, with a couple of goals and assists, and more importantly, a good work rate.
Much like Coquelin and Bellerin before him, Campbell has made the step up when the team needed the most, and Arsenal have successfully managed to cope without Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain thanks to the hard work put in by the Costa Rican.
Fortunately, Arsenal’s defense has not been hit with the injury bug
But the biggest positive for the team has been the relative lack of injuries among the back four. Barring a short spell out for Hector Bellerin, the core has been the same in defence. Whenever the need arises, Gabriel has shown to be an able substitute.
The only downside has been the relatively under par performances of Mathieu Debuchy, Kieran Gibbs and David Ospina. Whenever brought on, they have not been as enterprising as the colleagues they were replacing. Gibbs at least, had a couple of runouts in the left wing, one of them resulting in an equalising goal against Tottenham.
While one can never say never with Arsenal, all the evidence points to the conclusion that Arsenal seem to have sorted their squad inadequacies. And while manager Arsene Wenger is still not a big fan of rotating his players, the fans can at least, heave a sigh of relief that they don’t automatically have to bang their heads against a wall when another player gets injured.
Rest easy, the Arsenal players’ have got this.