What is happening?

Not so soon, please? Arsenal fans have become used—not sure if that is a fair word—to seeing their team flattering to deceive. They go on a purple patch where you feel something great is going to happen and everyone in a high only for the tide to turn so horribly wrong, precipitating a barrage of curses. I hope we have not reached that stage yet.

We are used—here I am comfortable—to seeing the Gunners fly from the beginning of the season to some time around the end of February or early March when the wheels suddenly come off. This season has been different because the team just picked off from its miserable end to the last campaign and was perilously close to the drop zone at some point.

But it all came good again after September when the team went on a long winning streak that saw it get out of the unfamiliar surroundings of struggling teams and look like the serious contenders for big things that they ought to be. Until recently, of course, when two consecutive league losses have triggered the panic mode among the fans.

And it is easy to understand the source of the panic because on paper you would expect Arsene Wenger’s men to overcome London neighbours Fulham or Welsh side Swansea, especially after having their noses in front. When a team surrenders a lead as tamely as they did in these matches, frustration is the inevitable feeling.

What is more significant is that the Arsenal have actually dropped 11 points from a winning position this season. What that means is that if they had managed to hold on to all their leads, they would have been on position 3 now ahead of their bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who they now trail by 10 points. It is a distressing statistic, surely.

And while on Arsenal and statistics, it is interesting to note that Sunday’s loss to Swansea was not only the Gunners’ seventh league defeat of the season, but also Wenger’s 100th in the league as manager. It will also interest, nay worry, Gunners to note that the team has conceded 25 away goals, which is more than any side, yes including the bottom three, has let in.

But you see, as it has been proved already this season, it does not take much to change the mood and lift the spirits again. One or two good results and the team could be on a roll again. What better opportunity then do the Arsenal need than the chance to avenge that unforgettable 8-2 loss to Manchester United tomorrow?

Surely, they cannot lose three league matches in a row and make it eight losses already before January is over? To do that, they need to play much better than they did on Sunday when every statistic made the result a fair reflection of proceedings. A win will bridge the gap, if slightly, between them and the top three while a loss would even jeopardise their pursuit for a top-four finish.

Actually, tomorrow will be one of the most significant days in this season’s title race because there will be as much interest in what happens at the Emirates as there will be in events at the Etihad Stadium where table toppers Manchester City play host to third-placed Spurs. We shall see how the three top teams will sort themselves out by close of play.

But wait a minute, it is African Cup of Nations time, isn’t it? After seeing our own people at the last tournament, the excitement this time is not as fever-pitch as it was then, but we are going to enjoy the action all the same. More on this tournament next week.

Share This Post