Dare Arsenal dream of winning the Premier League title?
Just six matches into the league season Arsenal’s title hopes were completely written off and perhaps that is where the bulk of the discontent amongst the supporters stems from considering Arsenal were fresh off a trophy win. As the season progressed and injuries mounted it looked as though – for the umpteenth year – this could be the time Arsenal finally fall out of the top four. Injuries – according to some – were not legitimate excuses for Arsenal’s league woes and the opinion that even a fully fit squad would struggle to compete with the mighty Chelsea and their unstoppable duo of Costa and Fabregas crept in.
Olivier Giroud, despite being injured, could never live up to the ability or impact of Diego Costa and Mesut Özil was an unnecessary purchase who couldn’t cope with the league and stopped us buying Cesc Fabregas back. The return to fitness and form for both players has seen a remarkable swing in fortune for Arsenal in the league going from outside challengers for a top four place to outside challengers for the title.
It may seem crazy to suggest that Arsenal are still in the title race but after a convincing win against West Ham and Manchester City’s loss to Burnley there is a solitary point separating us from the reigning champions. In short, if City are still in the title race – albeit as outsiders – then so are Arsenal. Chelsea’s lead over Arsenal is only 7 points although they do have a game in hand.
To get close to the title Arsenal are relying on the results of other matches going their way which is an idea that brings some close to explosion with incandescent fury. How dare Arsenal rely on the results of other teams to achieve their aims! Surely Arsenal should concern themselves with winning things without help? Yes and no.
I always found some of the reactions to wishing for a good result in another fixture quite strange. Of course, the best way to win titles is to make sure you don’t have to rely on other results but hoping for a favourable outcome is not, as some would have you believe, an acceptance of ‘mediocrity’ – which is fast becoming the laziest banality about Arsenal in the public domain, quickly creeping up on phrases containing the word ‘dithering’.
Chelsea have a game in hand, but they will still want the chasers to drop points so they can wrap the title up earlier. City want Chelsea to lose so they have a better chance of retaining the title. All teams want results to go their way regardless of where they are in the league. Arsenal’s job is to capitalise on them.
Arsenal haven’t quite secured their top four place yet but I think it is safe to say they are the best equipped to finish third which leaves United, Spurs, Liverpool and Southampton fighting for one spot and this is where Arsenal’s slim chance at catching Chelsea lay.
Southampton needed a result against Chelsea to keep in touch with the rest of the Champions League spot chasers as they were four points off. Southampton held Chelsea to a draw in December and they did so again at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea then face Hull, Stoke and QPR. Stoke might be able to cause Chelsea some problems, but those fixtures will likely turn into 9 points for Chelsea. If my predictions are correct then Chelsea will be on 73 points with 31 games played before they face United and then us in April.
This is where it gets interesting as in the four games preceding Chelsea, Manchester United have to play Liverpool, City and Spurs; so getting a result at Chelsea could either be their last chance to stay in touch with the top four or an opportunity to secure it. United have been dire this season but they’ve also been lucky in picking up points where they have little deserved it. That too could be a draw.
Chelsea then face Arsenal on 74 points with 32 games played. Arsenal will have played 32 games also as the Sunderland game is yet to be rearranged. If Arsenal take maximum points they will be on 66 points so a win against Chelsea puts us within 4 points. Chelsea then have a relatively easy run of fixtures except for the visit of Liverpool who may also need a win to get back in the top four.
The benefit to Arsenal here is there are quite a few teams who have to play our rivals who are desperate for a top four finish and all bar Manchester City and Spurs have to play Chelsea. It’s an incredibly tall order and requires a perfect finish from Arsenal.
I could settle for 2nd/3rd place within 3-5 points of the winners because we were so far behind at one point. Özil and Giroud have been majestic since they returned and I believe we would have been further up the table had we kept just a few of our players fitter for longer. We might not be able to win the title this season but it isn’t mathematically over and until it is I want us to play like we can win it. Indeed I want us to play like title hopefuls every week! The chance is slim but dreams don’t come true if you stay asleep.
As Arsène Wenger has said in the past, and recently in reference to Arsenal’s attempt to overturn their first leg loss against Monaco; If you do not believe you can do it then you have no chance at all.
EDIT: Corrections were made to the article after the Chelsea-Southampton game