Can Arsenal turn title tilt and troubled term around?
Holly Thackeray | March 29, 2016
Ozil still eyeing Arsenal title triumph
Once again, Gunners across the globe have reason to groan – with Arsenal yet again allowing an excellent position in the Premier League title race to slip at the business end of the season.
A mere few months ago the top English division was dubbed Arsenal’s to lose, but now from a distance it looks as though they have done exactly that. Consequently, the same old lines have been trotted out, claiming the capital club lack spine, investment and a winning mentality, with Arsene Wenger on the ropes – at least in relation to fan approval.
With the north Londoners given the elbow from the Champions League and FA Cup, trophy hunger again seems set to satiated with another round of “next year”.
Yet, Premier League silverware is still dangling in view, just, though the Gunners still trail leaders Leicester City by a whopping 11 points.
“I do not think it impossible,” said chief playmaker Mesut Ozil when asked for his thoughts on a title comeback.
Do Arsenal really have what it takes to dig deep and silence critics with only eight game left to play and 24 points up for grabs? Now is the time when the Emirates men must increase the pressure on their rivals, but can afford no more stumbles themselves.
Watford win could be turning point
It may well be fitting then, that the north London outfit next face banana skin boys Watford, who conquered their fellow southern club, in what was arguably the lowest point of their season so far, as they were stung as holders of the FA Cup by the Hornets.
A win at home against Watford then, could be an opportunity to turn the tide, with the chance to reverse a couple of results that combined to compound Arsenal’s position as Premier League also-rans since they last lifted the trophy in 2004.
After tussling with the Hornets, next is a trip to West Ham United, where Wenger will be keen to seek retribution for their earlier 2-0 Hammers humbling, before a shot to avenge West Bromwich Albion’s shock victory at the Emirates is sandwiched in between winnable-on-paper wrangles with Crystal Palace and Sunderland.
Norwich City and Aston Villa then make up two of the Gunners’ last three fixtures in the run-in, with a less fancied Manchester City match the other. So, can Arsenal be redeemed from business end bottlers to Holloway heroes and champions in this last gasp stretch? There are odds of 6/1 with Coral for that to occur.
“We must, of course, hope for mistakes”
Speaking further on Arsenal’s run-in, Ozil continued: “Although there are only a few games left, Leicester have a run against some of the big teams to come.
“They deserve to be up there; Leicester fight for every point. We see in every game that players of Leicester want to achieve something. We ourselves have not been focused in every game and that is not possible in the Premier League since there is no opponent you can beat easily.
“I think we still have a chance to catch them up. We must, of course, hope for mistakes. We ourselves must in any case not allow any more slip-ups. The hope of the title is still there – we have the players for the title,”finished the guileful German. But do they?
Ozil has hit the nail on the head with his assessment, as Arsenal must await others’ misfortune now, rather than seizing the silverware by the horns. And, yet again, their end of term report will be blotted by bitter blows from Barcelona and Bayern Munich, plus mystifying mistakes to Swansea City et al.
Can the key players stand up and be counted?
Marquee signings such as the former Real Madrid midfield artist Ozil and inspirational Alexis Sanchez were brought in to stop exactly this situation and to keep Arsenal on the front foot, simultaneously quelling doubts about ambition, player pull and spending power.
Although, Sanchez has starred in fits and starts this season, while Olivier Giroud has been similarly inconsistent, with Ozil as he always is – a dazzling and decisive dangerman on his day that drifts in and out a games at will, a luxury option.
The Gunners have been dealt injury blows, but so have many clubs. In a late boost for their title tilt, however, super stopper Petr Cech (who has certainly made a difference since arriving at the Emirates), devilish deep conductor Santi Cazorla and erstwhile Mathieu Flamini are all set for April returns, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere also tipped for the same.
It could be too little too late by then, though. So, Wenger must put faith in his current crop to turn it around, but may do well to turn to less obvious recruits, with Joel Campbell perhaps unfairly a regularly unused bench warmer considering his appetite for attack, raw speed, energy, graft and enthusiasm.
The prospect of at least sometimes pairing the cracking Costa Rican with dynamic Danny Welbeck is a tantalising prospect, especially in those games where the Gunners can be accused of lacking directness and heart.
Then, there is always the prospect of teen sensation Alex Iwobi as, if Marcus Rashford’s emergence has shown pundits anything, it’s that the boldness of young blood can inspire the rest of the ranks.
Yet Arsenal’s search for top-tier dominance still goes on and, if they can’t succeed now, when can they? As Ozil added: “Great coaches are coming into the league. I am thinking primarily of Pep Guardiola. Wherever he has been, he had success.
“I wonder what he will do with Man City. He will be imprinting his football in England and people will be surprised.” A worrying thought for Arsenal indeed.