Gunner supporter Aaron Ong feels the team are not completely out of the title race yet despite an indifferent performance against Swansea at the Emirates
In a way, these sort of results hurt more than the huge losses that we’ve suffered this season. In the away defeats to Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, the damage was done relatively early, allowing us Gooners the luxury of time for that losing feeling to gradually sink in.
But this was two points thrown away right at the end of a match in which our title-chasing credentials were being questioned. Ultimately, we didn’t produce a satisfactory answer and the ridiculous own goal only served to add insult to injury.
The truth is that losing the big games ALONE won’t prevent a team from challenging for the title. But losing the big games means you have to be extremely consistent in every other game and not drop points against the likes of Swansea and Stoke.
Not that this performance was completely unexpected, however. Losses of 6-3 to City and 5-1 to Liverpool were followed by goalless draws to Chelsea and Manchester United, so Arsenal rather predictably brought a cautious attitude to this game against Swansea. Despite the different level of opposition, the focus was not to implode spectacularly early on and keep a tighter hold on possession.
This, we managed to do until Swansea scored against the run of play and rather belatedly we realised that we were faced with a different challenge altogether. This was not a swashbuckling side running away with victory inside 20 minutes; this was a side that were prepared to sit deep and defend a narrow lead. Their safety-first approach was ill equipped to engineer clear cut chances – cue the common accusations of "sterile domination" levied at the team.
Remarkably, the Gunners turned it around in the space of a minute. Both goals were down to superb assists from Kieran Gibbs (man of the match, I thought) and Lukas Poldolski, leaving the latter and Olivier Giroud with easy tap-ins. We didn’t create much else after taking the lead though, perhaps choosing to settle for the 2-1 win, which is always dangerous since the other team hadn’t quite settled for the 2-1 loss.
Yes, the own goal was unlucky in more ways than one, but this was something entirely avoidable. Allowing Leon Britton to stroll through the defence was the biggest crime committed by the Arsenal players – we simply cannot switch off when the margins of victory are so small.
To what can we attribute this lethargic performance? Apart from the understandable air of caution at the Emirates, we clearly have a squad that’s stretched to the limit. Injuries in key positions mean Arsenal have a team that practically picks itself before each game. Talk what you want about what could have been done in the transfer window; for now, all we have is this squad and the players are going to have to soldier on in the next few weeks.
Like the past weekend, we have little time to dwell on the points dropped as City visit the Emirates on Saturday. I don’t think Arsene Wenger will make too many changes – in fact, I won’t be surprised to see the same starting lineup. What Podolski provides in attack is balanced by his general lack of defensive contribution and we will need everyone to track back for this game. The only change I might make if I were Arsene would be Yaya Sanogo for Giroud upfront, just to have a slightly more mobile striker to give Martin Demichelis something to think about.
City aren’t invincible but they are terrific going forward, so the key to this game may well be how the Flamteta (I love this name!) axis performs. If they patrol the area in front of the defence and squeeze out threats like David Silva and Yaya Toure, we might just be able to creep back into this title race.
Yes, you heard me right. Arsenal are six points off top spot and six points away from fifth spot, so if we’re in a battle for fourth, then you can’t rule us out of the title race just yet. The top three still have games against each other so there will definitely be more points dropped as we race to the finish line.
It’s certainly not going to be easy and neutrals will doubt Arsenal have what it takes to reel in the other teams, but we have made a habit of finishing strongly in the past few seasons. I suspect all we need is one morale-boosting result (perhaps this Saturday?) to get the team going.
If the players adopt an every-game-is-a-cup-final mentality, we might just surprise all the naysayers. So I’ll stay optimistic for now – they may say that it’s the hope that kills you, but take away hope and we might as well not watch the game at all.
Come on you Gunners!!!