There have been many questions raised regarding Arsenal's capability to win titles and many have written off the Gunners after the injury to Robin Van Persie. The media criticism has been such that you would have been forgiven if you believed that United have the title wrapped up safely at Old Trafford. Though the Red Devils are the favourites in the title race, the Gunners have a great opportunity to snatch the title by being consistent during this time of the year.
The Gunners suffered a morale sapping defeat against Birmingham in the Carling Cup final but the defeat of Manchester United by Chelsea provided a huge boost to Arsenal's title hopes. The performance against Leyton Orient was largely pleasing for Arsenal supporters after the loss and has provided them renewed hope in the three competitions. But many Gooners are still skeptical of Arsenal's title hopes due to injuries sustained by various players.
Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song, Theo Walcott and Thomas Vermaelen are very important players who are currently injured but apart from Vermaelen, the rest will be back in this month. But the reason why supporters fear that their team will be short is the injury to key striker Robin Van Persie, who was in scintillating form prior to the injury.
Van Persie has had a history of injuries in his Arsenal career and many people point to his injuries as the reason for Arsenal's failures in the last five years. The Dutch striker is capable of conjuring many magical moments which has contributed to the Gunners having a successful run since the turn of this year. However, his injury has ruled him out for three weeks but as has been the case in the past, it could turn out to be more than that before the Dutchman starts for the Gunners.
This has led to many Arsenal supporters doubting their title credentials and how they could cope without the talented striker. One of the main reasons why the Gunners should be confident is the presence of two fit and experienced strikers in Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner. Though the former has not been in good form, he has shown to be a very capable player and is one of the main reasons why Arsenal remain in the title race.
Nicklas Bendtner was excellent at this time of the year, last season when he netted many important goals including the one at the Nou Camp. He is never short of confidence and is expected to play a key role in Arsenal's title challenge this year. Many believe that Van Persie's injury was the reason for their inability to win last year.
However, the fact remains though Arsenal's scoring rate dropped considerably, it was not in attack that they floundered last year. The Gunners did not defend well and injuries to Johan Djourou and William Gallas left the Gunners with little defensive options as a result of which they conceded a number of goals. Wenger admitted after the last season that they had lost the title due to slack defending and overhauled the defence this season.
The injury to Thomas Vermaelen at the start of the season has been a huge blow for the Gunners and the new signings, Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci needed time to adjust to the rigours of the Premiership. Though they both seem capable players, their partnership has been poor for the Gunners which has contributed to their inconsistency this season.
It is no coincidence that Arsenal's superb form this year has been with the defensive partnership of Djourou and Koscielny. It was a surprise selection from Wenger when he fielded this partnership for the game against Chelsea and dropped Squillaci after a decent performance against Manchester United. But Djourou has been immense this season and has repaid the manager's faith with some commanding performances at the back.
Though Koscielny has been criticized by a number of people this season, he has excelled beside the Swiss International and has been integral for the Gunners. It was his mistake which cost the Gunners the Carling Cup but one should not slaughter the lad based on one error. He is the reason why Arsenal are in with a chance of beating Barcelona and was outstanding at the Emirates in that game.
Koscielny and Djourou have been helped by the impressive performances of Wojciech Szczesny and the fullbacks Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna have also been solid at the back. Arsenal have been miserly in conceding goals when Koscielny and Djourou have played together and they have developed an excellent understanding which has provided stability.
Thomas Vermaelen is expected to return for the last few games of the season which could yet prove vital for the Gunners but these two's performances have made it possible for the Gunners to be solid without the presence of the talented Belgium International. There were many people who had written off Arsenal after the injury to Vermaelen and Van Persie at the start of the season but Djourou, Koscielny, Chamakh and Nasri have proved that they can be inspirational for the club.
Van Persie's loss will be a big blow for the Gunners considering his superb form this year but the solid performances of Djourou and Koscielny coupled with the ammunition provided by Fabregas, Nasri and others should be enough to demolish quality opponents. Arsenal have an excellent opportunity to win the season despite the injury to Van Persie because Koscielny and Djourou have built a solid partnership that they have lacked in the past, which has been the cause for their downfall.
This article is also published on The Invincible Gunners, a blog on Arsenal and other football news