It was a horrible day for Arsenal as they once again came unstuck at Stoke’s Britannia Stadium. Arsenal have won just once in their last eight trips to Stoke. The 1-0 defeat, combined with wins by Chelsea and Liverpol saw Arsene Wenger’s side fall four points behind Chelsea with 12 games to go.
Even the usually optimistic Arsene Wenger could not hide his disappointment at the Stoke defeat saying:
“It is not slightly worrying, it is a big worry for us to lose a game like that. It’s a massive setback,” Wenger said. “In a game like that, we didn’t produce the performance we wanted. To win a title when you are expected to perform you have to perform. It’s as simple as that.”
From being spoken about as title contenders a couple of weeks ago, Arsenal’s sudden poor form could not have come at a worst time as now they find themselves not only four points behind Chelsea, but they are are also only two points ahead of fourth place Man City, who have two games in hand. Suddenly finishing fourth again is looking like the most likely result for the Gunners this season.
Are Arsenal finally paying the cost for the lack of depth in their squad? Games are coming thick and fast at the moment, and the good teams, the title contenders are all in the midst of a good run of form. The top three in the Premier League’s form guide are Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City with 16, 14 and 13 points respectively. Arsenal are middle of the pack in 12th place with 8 points. Or to put it another way, between the 28th of January and March 1, Liverpool picked up twice as many points as Arsenal. That is what momentum looks like.
With the Champions League all but gone, and the Premier League title looking more and more unlikely, the one saving grace for Arsenal could be the FA Cup. The Gunners are still in the competition and if they can beat Everton at the Emirates next week in the quarter-finals they will be one of the favorites, along with Man City, to lift the cup and end the 9 year trophy less run.
But whether Arsenal do win the FA Cup or not, questions will need to be asked about the club’s January transfer window dealings. Everyone knew the difficult fixture list the Gunners had the second half of the season and to not strengthen the squad is inexcusable. Signing a injured 30-year midfielder on loan was the ultimate sign of hubris from a manager who apparently has nobody at the club willing to tell him what a bad idea that was.
So has Arsenal’s title hopes ended? Yes. If it was a two team race between themselves and Chelsea, then I might think differently. But Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City are ahead, or will be ahead, or Arsenal, and I cannot see the Gunners catching them all.
And if that happens, and Arsenal don’t win the FA Cup, will Arsene Wenger be back as Arsenal manager next year?