Arsenal's Title Challenge Falters (Along With The Hope Of Fans)

Well it was fun whilst it lasted. Not many people at the start of the season predicted Arsenal would be in the title race yet here we are, around two thirds of the way through the campaign and Arsenal are only a point off top spot, a top spot they have occupied for most of the season. Week-by-week, pundits would predict the unravelling of Arsenal's title bid but week-by-week they remained up there despite a defeat away at Manchester United and a 6-3 hammering at the hands of the blue side of Manchester. Arsenal fans started to believe. Aaron Ramsey, a player whose goals were once seen to mark the imminent death of a celebrity, had the rich and the famous begging for mercy as he found the net again and again whilst record signing Mesut –zil silently pulled the strings from midfield. Olivier Giroud worked tirelessly upfront whilst Arsenal's back four were a synchronized arm raise and a JVC sponsored kit away from the good old days of Dixon, Adams and the like. Since we've entered the New Year however, it's all gone a bit wrong. Five wins in a row at the start of January would suggest otherwise but the performances were lacking that something special which had seen Arsenal impress so far. A 2-2 draw against Southampton was considered a blip before Wenger's men beat Crystal Palace after two late goals. The Liverpool and United results which have followed however have left Arsenal fans worried. It is not on the field where the main problems have been found however. Arsenal lost the goals and energy of Ramsey through injury for a considerable while before they lost the pace of Theo Walcott as he was ruled out for the rest of the season. Having two crucial players' in the injury room was going to be a big blow to Arsenal's title chances. Gooner's feared not, for the January transfer window was open! Arsene Wenger would bring in players to cover those injuries and Olivier Giroud. Right? Well, no. Once again Arsenal, a great club in many ways, showed their ineptitude when it comes to the transfer market as they spent all window pursing Schalke's Julian Draxler before having to settle for a 31 year old, and injured, Kim Kallstrom. In the summer Arsenal courted Luis Suarez for so long they let the likes of Gonzalo Higuain slip through their fingers and it was only the availability of Mesut –zil which saved Wenger's blushes. This time he was not so lucky. His dithering seems to have cost his side. If Arsene Wenger was ever a contestant on Deal Or No Deal, he'd be the type of player who turns down £25,000 grand because of a romantic pursuit of the £250,000 only to end up with the 1p in his box. Many Arsenal fans were critical of Wenger for not buying in January but he is a self-proclaimed critic of the mid-season transfer window and it would be hard to disagree with his view that the "top quality" players are rarely available. It's inexcusable that he did not sign a striker in the summer however with Giroud's play now showing the signs of a player whose been weighed down with the pressure and responsibility of being the only striker at the club who is remotely good enough for the task in hand.
Arsenal's success this season has been built on the solidity of their defence yet during the first twenty minutes against Liverpool, that same defence were torn apart with ease. It's surely no coincidence that Arsenal's two biggest defeats this season, against Manchester City and Liverpool have both come against sides with speedy attackers. Against Manchester United, as they did against Chelsea earlier in the season, the side looked void of the creativity needed to penetrate side's whose game plan is focused on defence whilst any chances they did create against United were wasted. Arsenal are only a point off top spot and there is plenty of games left so to rule them out of the title race would seem highly premature however there's a feeling amongst Arsenal fans now that the squad hasn't got enough quality to pip the likes of City, Chelsea and Liverpool to top spot. It could just be over-pessimism, a side-effect of nine years without a trophy, we'll have to wait and see but if Arsenal are knocked out of the FA Cup against Liverpool this weekend, the negativity and doubt will only grow. If Arsenal and Arsene Wenger really want to win a Premier League title then it is time for them to stand up and show their fans and their critics, that they can.

Liam Kent hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.