Arsenal currently sit top of the Premier League table, after their 0-0 draw with Stoke at the Britannia Stadium. Level on points with Leicester City, with a higher goal difference, and 1 point above Manchester City as we slowly rack through the return legs of this seasons Premier League matches.
But what everyone is starting to wonder; Are Arsenal strong enough to continue this form and finish the season as champions? Or will they crumble under the pressure and end the season yet again as mere close-runners? The Football Forecast analyses Arsenal’s chances this season.
Filling The Trophy Cabinet: Can The Emirates Finally See A Premier League Trophy?
Players Returning From Injury
Arsenal went through an injury “crisis” through November into early December, where Arsenal could actually name a full team of 11 players who were out through injury. However since the crushing 5-1 defeat at home to Bayern Munich, through this “crisis” Arsenal only lost twice in the 10 games before the new year, drew twice, and won 6. In the Premier League they picked up 14 points out of a possible 24. Yes, 10 points dropped over the space of just under 2 months isn’t great showing. However through this they also managed to do the “impossible” and bag a vital 3-0 win over Olympiakos to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League, along with group leaders Bayern Munich, to set up a tie with Barcelona, which is mouth watering for any neutral fan. Along with this they still sit top of the Premier League.
Secondly, as they settle into the New Year of fixtures, they still have many key players coming back from injury. Sanchez is set to return for the game against Chelsea, so is Ozil. Others such as Wilshere, Welbeck and Rosicky are due to be back within 2 weeks also. Along with some defensive cover in the form of Mohamed Elneny, the Gunners are surely only going to be stronger as we approach the final 5 months of the season.
Fighting Back: Sanchez is expected to be back for the game against Chelsea this weekend.
As Arsenal continue with their good run of form, the question for their title challengers is can they keep up?
Manchester City have been inconsistent all season, going through patches of unbeatable form, managing to beat teams by more than 3 goals 6 times in just 22 games, and have scored 43 goals this season, averaging ever so slightly under 2 goals per game, more than any other team. They also seem to go through periods of being, what I guess we could call, walkovers. This is evident with their 4-1 loss to both Liverpool and Spurs, and failing to beat teams that they are huge favourites for, like Aston Villa, Everton and West Ham. As we go into the final leg of the season, can Manchester City maintain a decent run of form and challenge Arsenal all they way to the end?
Ups And Downs: Manchester City have had a few shock defeats this season, most notably 4-1 defeats to Spurs and Liverpool.
Leicester City, on the other hand, have shocked everyone with how well they’ve done this season. Last season they finished in 14th place, after flirting with relegation all season. This season they have been within the top 4 almost all season, and the sensational form of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have surprised everyone, as Leicester have shown everyone that they are a real force under Claudio Ranieri. However, like with saw with Southampton and West Ham last season, will Leicester manage to keep their form up for the second half of the season, or will the marathon prove too much for this seasons dark horses? Either way no one can deny that Leicester really have been a joy to watch this season, and have proved that the English Premier League really is the most unpredictable and exciting league in the world.
Dynamic Duo: Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have fired Leicester City from relegation battlers to title hopefuls.
One thing that has been questioned of Arsene Wengers side consistently over the past few seasons is whether they have the right mentality to play well under pressure, and beat sides while playing badly.
The Stoke game was a clear indication of this. Arsenal didn’t play as well as they could do, against a side you could class as their “bogey team”, and they still come out of the game with a clean sheet, and a vital point under their belts. Nothing went their way, as Theo Walcott had a clear penalty denied, and Stoke managed to get some pretty questionable free kicks. Jack Butland also had another blinder in goal, and was fully deserved of his clean sheet.
However, if we look at boxing day, the game away against Southampton. A win for Arsenal would see them go top of the table. However they crumbled to a 4-0 thrashing to a Southampton side who have struggled to find the form that surprised everyone last season. Despite Southampton playing out of their skins and making Arsenal look like a mid table League 2 side, this brought up serious questions about Arsenal’s champions mentality.
One thing that has to be said, though. The signing of Petr Cech has brought fantastic stability to Arsene Wengers side, evident in the Stoke game at the weekend, which he threw a string of brilliant saves to keep the clean sheet and earn the man of the match award. His calmness and mentality is the reason that Arsenal are currently sitting top of the table, and as long as he keeps up this fine form in goal, Arsenal could well be crowned champions come May 2016.
Petr Cech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: The former Chelsea shot-stopper was an absolute bargain for just £10million.
Verdict: As long as they can keep up this run of form, keep key players fit and Elneny proves to be a hidden talent, Arsenal can bring home the trophy that they have spent 12 years working towards. However Manchester City and Leicester will push them right to the end. It’s going to be a long 5 months, Gooners. Sit tight and grab some popcorn, it’s going to be an exciting finale.