Arsenal FC are currently having one of their finest seasons of the last decade, both in terms of clear progression from recent disappointing campaigns and genuine trophy-winning opportunities they have managed to play their way into. There is no doubt that frequenters of the Emirates Stadium will be overjoyed at the form they have witnessed by a group of players determined to put past failures firmly behind them, and maybe even start making regular successes rather more habitual. However, with a disappointing 2-2 draw against relegation-threatened Swansea on Tuesday, Arsenal’s title hopes are beginning to hang a little less securely in the balance than most Gunners would prefer as they head into their final seven Premier League matches.
The game against Swansea was a hammer blow, the kind of scenario all title contenders dread to experience at a time when every single point counts. The manner in which Arsenal’s precious win was denied by their Welsh counterparts will hurt them most of all, an own goal by midfielder Mathieu Flamini in the dying embers of the game may end up making the match feel like a defeat, especially coming off the back of their 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea just three days before. In reality, Arsene Wenger’s men are only six points off the top of the table with 21 points still up for grabs, a position certainly capable of providing league winners come the end of the final match in May. Perhaps then, anxiety in the Arsenal camp is exaggerating the way in which their title hopes hang in the balance because they have had such a wretched trophy haul in the past ten years.
If the amount of fans a soccer team has were directly correlated with their recent success (which it certainly is not) Arsenal would be cheered on by a one middle-aged man in a red and white scarf covered in lager stains. Their trophy cabinet since 2006 is empty, an ill-fated Champions League Final against Barcelona the closest they’ve come to physical victory in the years between then and now. There is only so much that valiant efforts and second places can bring to a club before everyone associated starts to feel that familiar creeping sense of disillusionment and inadequacy. As it is, the 60,000 middle-aged men in lager stained red and white scarfs do truly believe that this could be their year, and the notion that such a possibility is becoming less and less likely might just be too much for the trophy-starved fans to bear.
As seems to be tradition in English soccer, a lapse in league form brings with it a good spirited cup run, and in this instance the Gunners are no different. Semi-finalists Arsenal are clear favourites to lift the FA Cup, challenged only by one average Premier League team and a couple of lower division outsiders. The worry will be that when push comes to shove, they will choke on the big stage and be doomed to another decade without silverware.
In one of the most open Premier League seasons since its inception, any one of the top four teams is in with a shout of taking the crown. Nevertheless, Arsenal are in danger of falling at the final hurdle, as their nervous-looking title hopes continue to hang in the balance.
Commentary by Zachary John