With Arsenal fans vehemently claiming at every given opportunity that hereon the Barclays Premier League is not a two-horse race between Chelsea and Manchester United, it becomes interesting to assess the chances Arsenal has of winning the title.
An outside chance some would say, because, let's face it, a three-point deficit doesn't take much to overcome, especially in a season that has seesawed this way.
But Robin Van Persie is out; the approximate date of return is said to be sometime around April and it seems that after that horrific injury, Aaron Ramsey will not be on the pitch for quite a while.
Theo Walcott is at best in and out of the first team, while Samir Nasri is in and out of form. Andrei Arshavin too seems to have (temporarily, perhaps, from the point of view of Arsenal fans) lost his spark.
Nicklas Bendtner's long-awaited return seems not to be going as planned, either. So in these bleak circumstances, does Arsenal have the muscle to spring a surprise on Manchester United and spoil the Chelsea party?
I sure hope so.
Because let's face it, as far as I'm concerned, Liverpool (my club) is very much out of the title race and I really would like to see the duopoly of Chelsea and Manchester United in the Premier League broken.
And as far as this title race is concerned, it would seem that the only team with half a chance of making this possible is Arsenal.
So three points, eh? Let's see what it's going to take for Arsenal to win the Premier League.
As far as fixtures go, Arsenal clearly has the upper hand. They have played all their big four teams already and their toughest fixture remaining is away at North London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur. Manchester City at home too may be tricky business, but one would expect Arsenal to overcome them with relative ease.
Chelsea and Manchester United still have to play each other, at Old Trafford. Both have to play Liverpool away and home, respectively, and either of them have a match against the Spurs. So as far as fixtures go, Arsenal has a clear upper hand.
Follow the Leader (Cesc Fabregas)
Arsenal is truly blessed to have a player like Fabregas who can not only score crucial goals, but has the vision and the footballing brain that helps him dictate the game. As long as Arsenal put Fabregas in the center and let him orchestrate the game, Bendtner and Co. only need to use their heads to nudge the ball into the goal. Leave the on-pitch tactics to Fabregas.
Simple as it gets, neither Arshavin, nor Bendtner, nor Walcott, nor Eduardo can play in front of goal by themselves. None of them are tall, assertive, or imposing enough to play the lone man up front. So play two strikers. Ideally, Arsene Wenger would play Arshavin and Bendtner because their contrasting styles of play and physical features can help them complement each other over the course of the game.
Holding Midfielder Problem
The reason perhaps why Wenger does not play two strikers is simple. He doesn't trust Alexandre Song or Denilson to do the holding midfielder job by themselves well. And let's face it, both can be quite dodgy on their day. So alternate between them.
Let Song play one and Denilson play one. This keeps both the players fresh and gives both young players enough time to get some feedback on the way they play. Besides, with Gallas and Vermaelen at the back, there is no real reason to worry.
While the Frenchman is deadly in set pieces with that hammer-head of his, perhaps Gallas gets caught out of position alarmingly often. Now, while Gallas is perhaps the best header of the ball in Arsenal right now, there is an urgent need to sort the defense out if the opposition attacks on the break.
So when Gallas goes forward with the objective the head in a set piece, maybe Arsenal can leave someone less adept in such situations a bit defensively.
If I were an Arsenal fan, I sure would be a little concerned about the form of one Gael Clichy. And while the apparent offers from AC Milan can turn anyone's head, it is important that for the time being, Clichy keeps his head firmly on the pitch and focused on the job at hand.
Defensively, he's a bit unsteady, his crossing prowess has dipped, perhaps in one part due to the fact that he lacks a good target-man up front. Either way, the crosses from the wings need to be sorted out, pronto.
Unfortunately, given that the transfer window has slammed shut, there really isn't much Wenger can do about the goalkeeping situation. The only thing he can do is play his best goalkeeper on the day and keep his fingers crossed that Vermaelen and Gallas don't let too many balls reach anywhere around the goalkeeper.
If Wenger sorts these problems out, we really have a more interesting title race on our hands. As a neutral (in this situation), I personally would love to see Arsenal lift the Premiership this season, because let's face it, they've been more fun to watch!
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