Arsenal have been the victims of their own success this season. After a blistering start to the league campaign, expectations have grown on them, both from the fans and media. There was a period of time when they were seen as the favourites for the league. This was despite the Gunners’ tricky end to the season, including trips to Anfield, the Etihad Stadium and St James’ Park. Their lead at the top of the table always felt like a mirage and that City would get within a couple of points of them at the very least.
The recent results have been spoken about as Arsenal ‘choking’ their title challenge. It would be unfair to analyse it in that way. Liverpool can beat anyone at Anfield and a draw there wasn’t an unexpected result. West Ham are rejuvenated and in good form. To go 2-0 up in both games and not win was a disappointment, but they were facing good teams away from home.
The Southampton result was a big disappointment. Arsenal should be beating the team that are 20th in the table. However, the strength of the Premier League is that any team can beat any other and the Friday night game was the best example of that. The way that Mikel Arteta’s men fought back to get a point with just minutes left on the clock suggests that there isn’t a mentality problem in the squad. Rather, this is just a blip of form that nearly all teams have at some point in a season. Unfortunately for Arsenal, it came at the worst possible time.
Earlier this week, they travelled to the Etihad Stadium and were well beaten by Manchester City. This is a team that have won multiple league titles and are on course for the treble in the current campaign. Arsenal have been excellent this season, but the team they are battling in the title race are on another level.
By nearly every metric, this is obvious. City are the richest club in the division, have the best squad of players and have the best manager. For Arsenal to even be competing with them is a highly impressive achievement. Last season, Arteta’s side didn’t even manage to get into the top four. It has been a remarkable improvement, as they will now return to the Champions League for the first time since Arsene Wenger departed.
Liverpool showed how hard it was to compete with Manchester City. The fact they managed to win the Premier League isn’t spoken about as much as it should be. It was a big achievement and showed that City aren’t unbeatable. To do that, the Reds had to win 26 of their first 27 matches to ensure City couldn’t chase them down.
This season could now fizzle out for Arsenal. The title looks beyond them, given the rampant form of the current champions and they won’t be caught by any of the teams below. It is sad that they are unlikely to finish top of the pile, but that shouldn’t mark this season down for the Gunners.
They have a great core of talent and an improving manager. A return to the Champions League should only help them progress further. They shouldn’t compare themselves to Manchester City. It isn’t a fair one to make.