I watched the Arsenal v Everton game and it was a frustrating match.
I would have usually written a match report but I had a strange feeling of being too wound up and relieved at the same time.
The bottom line was Arsenal were sloppy, and did not look like a team that were motivated in trying to catch up with Chelsea at the top of the table and take advantage of all the other postponed games.
The performances of late (West Ham, Portsmouth and Aston Villa) all looked pedestrian without Cesc Fabregas. We managed to win against West Ham and Portsmouth without playing particularly well, which in a way is good, but against Aston Villa we needed the introduction of Cesc to push on and win that game.
Against Everton that extra lift was missing, and we were lucky not to lose the game in the end.
Where does that leave Arsenal in the title race?
Well it depends if you’re a glass half full or half empty man.
Let’s start with the positives.
Without Van Persie for the last two months and Fabregas for the last few weeks, Arsenal have still managed to keep their title challenge alive and are currently only 3 points behind league leaders Chelsea. Our away form is exactly the same as Chelsea’s and only marginally worse than United’s. And our home record is the same as United’s and 3 points worse off than Chelsea’s – so mathematically we are doing just fine.
And despite our striking crisis, we have the highest number of goals in the league this season.
And now the negatives.
The aura of invincibility over teams such as Chelsea and Manchester United in previous seasons is just not their anymore, and we haven’t taken advantage. Both teams, who have dominated the league over the last 5 seasons, are not as strong as they used to be. They have slipped up several times over the winter period and when you think Arsenal are about to take advantage and claw back the deficit they drop points themselves against teams like Burnley and Everton.
The strongest squad we’ve had since our last trophy in 2005 was the team of 2007/2008, and that side would coast the league this season.
That season, that awful and horrific injury to Eduardo ended up finishing our title chances for that campaign. Despite being top of the league, our form never recovered and 4 straight draws in February gave Manchester United the chance to pip us to the Premier League title.
And this season, you fear the same thing might happen again.
Without Van Persie, Fabregas, and now Song, we looked woeful against Everton. People will rightly say Everton played well and probably deserved to win the game but the majority of that was down to our inept performance. We’ve managed to keep going without Van Persie, and to a lesser extend Fabregas, but the absence of the inform Song, looks like a casualty too far. The squad is being stretched to the limit and we’ve lost too many big players.
I honestly dread to think what would happen if Gallas or Vermaelen got injured. They have been ever present this season and if we lost one of those then you can kiss our title hopes goodbye. Silvestre is hopelessly inadequate and should not be at a Top Four side in any capacity. He is well passed it and how a team like Arsenal struggle to find adequate backup is beyond me – Silvestre has the amazing combination of having no pace, having poor positional sense and the inability to carry out basic defending. The guy who called Silvestre a Geriatric was spot on.
And just like a deja vu, February could once again end our title challenge.
Successive games against Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool are a run of games that really will make or break our season.
If Arsene have pull out his magic hat and get through those games and still be in touching distance of the title, then he is a miracle worker.