Is the wait finally over for Arsene Wenger?
Can Arsene Wenger and his young Arsenal team win the club's first Premier League in over ten years?
At a time when managers all around the world are finding it difficult to stay at the helm for more than a couple of seasons, Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger is about to complete 20 momentous years at the club. In all these years, Wenger has not only made immense contributions to the Gunners but has also revolutionised English football.
Right from the time he moved to London in late 1996, he has made path-breaking changes in the players' diet and also the way the game is played. Wenger has already achieved enough to secure his place among the elite in the club's history.
With three Premier league titles, six FA Cups and six Community shields to his name, he's statistically the most successful Arsenal manager. He is widely regarded as one of the best managers in modern times.
The trophy drought ends
As the Premier league season is poised for a thrilling finish, Wenger's Arsenal are still in contention for the top honours. The last of his three PL crowns came way back in the 03-04 season. This was followed by a frustrating nine-year trophy drought that ended with an FA cup win a couple of seasons ago.
Though that was a satisfying win, the Gunners' long wait for the Premier league still continues. Twice they were in a similar position and managed to throw it all away in the end (during 07-08 and the 13-14 campaigns).The fans are gradually losing patience and Arsene knows he and his team cannot afford to falter this time.
Arsenal are in a great position to win the league this time around, trailing leaders Leicester by a mere two points with another 12 games to go. The win against Leicester at home would have definitely helped their confidence and it would be important to keep the momentum going. Arsenal will always play beautiful football, but this season they've managed to win matches where they haven't been at their best. That's what championship winning teams do. Also, they have a good record against the top-4, which is very important.
Another thing the Gunners have, going for them is the return of Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck. The Spanish playmaker Santi Cazorla and England's Jack Wilshere are also expected to make their long overdue returns in the coming few weeks. This is a real shot in the arm for the Arsenal team which has had to play long parts of the season without his go-to players.
Rotation in the non-league competitions
The return of these players will also serve Wenger well in the Champions League and the FA Cup. It will also give him an opportunity to rotate some of his tired players. It wouldn't be wrong to say that Arsenal have their best chance in years to secure the title and as always, it is they alone who can stop that from happening.
Everything seems to be falling into place for them at the right time. Though they have tough away fixtures at Manchester United and arch-rivals Tottenham, if they play at their best, it wouldn't be much of a problem. With 12 games still to go, a 2 point lead won't give the Foxes any comfort at the top.
The one thing that may go against the Gunners in the long run is that they play a substantially greater number of matches than Leicester City, thanks to their FA Cup and Champions League campaigns. Arsenal are the two-time defending champions in the FA Cup and are expected to go the distance this time too. Though the possibility of achieving a hat-trick of FA Cups is motivating, the fatigue of the Arsenal players could be a factor in deciding where the league is headed.
In comparison, the Foxes are already out of the FA Cup and would be playing just 12 matches till the end of the season. The return of Cazorla and Wilshere would even out the odds to an extent. The famed Arsenal midfield is already a tired bunch. Ramsey has played in almost all matches since his return in early December, Ozil too has featured in most of the Gunners' matches barring his short injury lay-off.
Having Cazorla and Wilshere back would give Wenger the opportunity to rotate his players' and extract the best out of them in important matches. It would be interesting to see what team Wenger fields against Barcelona in the Champions League and also in the FA Cup. Arsene Wenger would know that a fatigue-free Arsenal would be the key if he hopes to win any silverware this time around.
With the way the season has unfolded, no one would be brave enough to predict how the last part turns out. Arsenal and Leicester City would have to be the favourites, however, the attacking prowess Arsenal possess, it may very well end up being the year of Le Professeur.