Arsenal’s Grand Slam Sunday defeat at Chelsea hammered a painful nail in the coffin of their crumbling Premier League title ambitions, with only a flicker of light now visible in their bid to top the table this May. Gunners fans had been dreaming and whining for a first League crown since 2004, but lack-luster displays that sandwiched a succulent filling of a victory over Milan, have brought the North Londoners back down to earth with an unwelcome and unanticipated crunch.Coach Arsene Wenger promised that February’s FA Cup humiliation at Old Trafford was a one-off, a blip, an exception to Arsenal rule. While progression to the last eight of the UEFA Champions League provided the Frenchman with a welcome smokescreen, four successive stalemates steadily punctured the belief. A rotten five weeks was then topped off with the most bitter of cherries as Wenger’s troops bottled a lead against Chelsea, with their points return from their last five games now matching the likes of Newcastle United, Fulham and Sunderland.
The unthinkable has happened. How Arsenal went from leaders – with a five-point advantage over Manchester United – to trailing Sir Alex Ferguson’s men by six seemingly unattainable points, not even the wisest of French professors can explain. Although one can blame offside decisions, a Glastonbury-like surface and injuries, the truth of the matter is that the Gunners’ demise signifies a lack of depth and experience among the squad. Rewind to February 23, and captain William Gallas’ quite unbelievable demonstration of petulance at St Andrews. Sir Alex must have rubbed his hands together as he witnessed the first sign of Arsenal’s wavering form – from within their own ranks. Meanwhile, United have been a model of professionalism, a juggernaut that has the route to glory memorised all too well, capable of churning out results at will. To be fair to Wenger, his side has grown in recent years, and maybe this campaign comes that little too early for his maturing youngsters – who had, in fact, been expected, by some, to limit their ambitions to wrestling for fourth with rivals Tottenham. But to have the title at your mercy, within reaching distance, and then blow it, hurts. It is pure agony. It is to come last in the lottery of life.
And yes, there is still time, seven games in fact, with much to unfold in what has been a fascinating Premier League season at both the peak and trough of the table. But even the most optimistic Arsenal fan must surely realise that a miraculous comeback is beyond their grasp. I for one – as an Arsenal fan – would love to see it happen. But I am a realist. A realist who knows that Wenger must strengthen with a world-class individual or two in the summer if Ashburton Grove is to witness its first title. So, for now, Wenger’s men must see out their run-in, guarantee Champions League football for next season, while possibly going one better in Europe than their final defeat in 2006. As the old saying goes, ‘the table never lies’ so whoever is top once 38 fixtures are complete, will fully merit having their name etched into the silver of the Premier League trophy.
Football is a peculiar and quite bewildering little thing that tugs at your heart strings. Arsenal’s journey this season has been gripping, with these few wordy paragraphs merely portraying the thoughts of one fan and journalist who loves how each soccer enthusiast goes through their very own unique tribulation.
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