A lot has been said about Arsenal’s recent results that have seen us lose two and draw one in our last three games in all competitions. Some, like a certain Mr. Calamity pundit, Michael Owen, have gone on to claim that we don’t have the players to last the distance, that Arsenal will not finish in the top four, that Arsenal don’t have the world class players that their rivals have, blah, blah, blah!
Although it is true that our recent results have been less than impressive, I don’t think this is enough to discount Arsenal, and, just like Owen, dismiss them as potential title winners, who, according to the former Real Madrid and Newcastle striker, are less favoured than Liverpool.
Evidently, until now, Arsenal have been the best team in England, sitting at the summit of the Premier League table until last weekend. With all due respect to Liverpool, despite their blistering form at present, are no match to Arsenal in terms of quality and depth and this will surely be made manifest in the title run in. So for Michael Owen to rank Arsenal behind Liverpool for the title is either wishful thinking or a clear exhibition of how poor and wretched he is as a pundit. Dropping points to Everton must not be read much into considering the fact that the Toffees had won against Chelsea and Man United and drew against Liverpool before they shared the spoils at the Emirates.
Then again, unless one is a football theorist, they should be able to understand that football players are not robots but pure humans who are susceptible to fatigue and exhaustion, and Arsenal players are no exception. Having played a highly demanding game (physically) against Everton a few weeks ago, Arsenal’s cause was not helped by the immediate trip to Napoli to face Rafa Benitez’s men the following Wednesday in another nerve-wrecking game that the Italians had to win by three clear goals to have any chance of progressing to the next round of the Champions League, as Dortmund were expected to win away at Marseille. Arsenal had to work extremely hard to thwart a determined Napoli eventually edging through by the skin of their teeth. They returned to London at 4:00am on Thursday to try and recover from the tiredness and jetlag before facing City at the Etihad on midday on the Saturday! This is why they looked jaded as the game against City wore on. It would therefore be safe to say that Arsenal’s much publicized ‘demise’ was under special circumstances any team would find difficult to handle.
The pessimists should be warned that by the look of things, Arsenal is going to be even more dangerous than they have been in the last 16 games of the season so far, and here is why:
The return of Theo Walcott: Arsenal have looked dangerous even without the pace of Walcott. The Englishman brings the much-needed pace and directness that the team has lacked since he got injured back in September. Since his return a couple of weeks ago, Theo’s contribution has been telling, turning provider to Mesut Ozil in the 1-1 draw against Everton and then scoring a brace in the 6-3 loss to City the previous Saturday. He is such a huge influence in the way Arsenal play and his return will petrify opponents, starting with Chelsea, against whom he has scored a good number of goals.
Secondly, the return to fitness of Lukas Podolski is another major boost for Arsenal. Having scored a brace against Fulham, Podolski went off injured in the next game against Fenerbahce in the Champions League play-offs. Since then the team has missed his goals and assists. His return therefore, should add more potency to an already potent Arsenal attack and give real relief to Olivier Giroud who has looked out of sorts recently having scored only once in ten games. Add to that, the anticipated return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should all put Arsenal in good stead for a delightful end to the club’s trophy drought, much to the disappointment of the doom-spellers like Owen, Alan Hansen, Alan Shearer and co.