Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, this 2015/16 campaign is likely to be one Arsenal look back on ruefully.
With 13 points and two other teams separating Arsenal from leaders Leicester, hopes of a league triumph have effectively been extinguished. Agonisingly for the fans, they may even have to watch Spurs be crowned as champions come the end of the season. However, the Gunners can not afford to write off the remainder of their games. Should they fail to make the top four, this year could become even more disastrous.
That has become a very real possibility. Wins against Everton and Watford seemed to suggest Arsenal had turned a corner. However, four dropped points against West Ham and Crystal Palace have seen them reverse around it and career into trouble once again. Arsenal have fallen to fourth, and Manchester United and West Ham are now hot on their tail. Wins last night saw the two sides climb to within one and four points of the Gunners respectively. Arsenal can not afford many more slip-ups.
Dropping out of the Champions League would be a nightmare for Arsenal fans. Although the supporters have grown frustrated with the team’s inability to seriously challenge the giants of Europe, participation is vital to attract and keep top players. If Arsenal failed to make it, the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil would surely be forced to consider their future in north London. It could spark a catastrophic decline.
Speaking to arsenal.com, Wenger has insisted his team will focus right up until the finish line. He said: “We want to finish as high as we can. It is not a consolation, it is about getting the best out of the team and focusing and giving everything in every single game. We need to show we have the mental level to compete until the end.”
Those words will worry the Gunners fans. Arsenal’s ‘mental level’ has not been good this season. The pressure is on—and that usually means trouble for this weak-willed Arsenal side.
Suddenly, the fixture list looks somewhat daunting. Arsenal face a trip to Manchester City, currently one place ahead in third position. There are fixtures against Sunderland and Norwich, both of whom are scrapping for their lives at the foot of the table. First up is a match against Tony Pulis’ West Brom. The wily Baggies boss would love nothing more than to put another nail in the coffin of Arsenal’s campaign.
It will be interesting to see if Wenger makes any changes to his team, especially with a testing encounter at the Stadium of Light just a few days away. Wenger has stuck with the same outfield players in each of the last four games, but this could be an opportunity to rotate. The likes of Olivier Giroud and Per Mertesacker have been relegated to the subtitles bench recently, but this game may afford them the chance to return to the side. The giant German will be particularly hopeful of a recall, with Gabriel Paulista failing to convince as his replacement alongside Laurent Koscielny. In midfield, Aaron Ramsey is also fit again and will be pushing for inclusion in place of the teenager Alex Iwobi.
Arsenal have won just four of their last 13 Premier League games. It’s an awful run that has robbed them of the chance to end a 12-year wait for a title. Now, it threatens to cost them their place at Europe’s top table.
They must find form quickly if they’re to hold on to their Champions League spot.
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