It’s a good job that Arsenal have already qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League, because at the moment if you were a Gunners fan you wouldn’t be too confident of your team winning a vital game on matchday six.
The last few years have seen their fair share of ‘Arsenal in Crisis’ articles, but this time they are fully justified. Never before have the club been tenth in the Premier League table with just 21 points at this stage of the season under Arsene Wenger and Saturday’s fully merited 2-0 loss at home to Swansea looks as though it is going to act as a tipping point for the fans who are desperately unhappy with how the club is being run on and off the pitch.
Wenger was moved enough to round on Arsenal’s critics ahead of the club’s dead rubber in Greece against Olympiakos, but in truth, what he was saying amounted to claiming that as people line up to tell him that things are going horribly wrong at the Emirates, the world has gone mad and he is the only sane one.
But if Wenger refuses to see, or more worryingly, cannot see the decline then the ever-increasing number of fans who are starting to waver from the ‘In Arsene We Trust’ mantra are going to be proved correct.
You can’t keep selling your best players, replace them with inferior models and expect to stay at the same level as you were and Arsenal’s gradual fall from the Invincibles to mid-table has been painful for the supporters to watch. As regular chants of ‘we want our Arsenal back’ show, you can’t fool the hardcore, match-going fan.
The five-point gap to the Champions League places is easily bridgeable, but Arsenal haven’t been playing well for weeks now and were it not for their decent European campaign, where qualification is already assured, then their season would be in dire straits.
An easy group has helped no end and Arsenal’s last match is an irrelevance they don’t need and I don’t fancy them at all, even though they have drifted to 11/5. The draw is 12/5, with Olympiakos at 23/20, and even though that price has come in considerably, it is still worth getting on.
There is lots of talk about this match being important, but that’s rubbish, because it’s not. Okay, Arsenal can finish top, therefore in theory getting an easier game in the last 16, but I don’t really buy the idea that is such a big deal for the Gunners tonight.
Firstly, topping the group is out of their hands. If Schalke beat rock-bottom Montpellier – and given the way the French champions’ season has gone, you would think they will – Arsenal will be consigned to second place regardless of their result in Greece.
And secondly, there is no cast-iron guarantee that finishing top will result in an easier match. Real Madrid, for example, lie in wait for one of the sides who come first in their section.
So I think that argument is overplayed and this weekend’s match against West Bromwich Albion is of far more significance to Arsenal’s season. And to be frank, they aren’t playing well enough to back – three wins in 90 minutes in their last ten matches is a poor run – and Olympiakos has proved a tough place for the Gunners to visit over the years.
Arsenal have lost each of their previous two trips to the Karaiskakis Stadium, both of which came in the last group game of that respective campaign and what’s more, Leonardo Jardim’s side are in good form.
Ten points clear at top of the Greek Super League, Olympiakos have won eight home games on the trot and have been formidable on their own patch.
So with little to play for, I’d rather be on the hosts at 23/20 than an Arsenal side who look in disarray.