In losing 3-2 at Manchester United, Arsenal fell five points behind Premier League leaders Leicester City and, as fan fears for their title-winning prospects degenerated into full-blown panic, both team and manager copped widespread criticism from game-goers, pundits and keyboard warriors alike.
Chief among the abuse hurlers was seasoned Gunners-hater Graeme Souness, whose post-match tirade labelled the north Londoners ‘weak’, ‘insipid’ and ‘unacceptable’, as he essentially disregarded their championship-claiming credentials.
While few would question the fact Arsenal played poorly against Man Utd, to brandish such criticism after a one-goal loss at Old Trafford, regardless of the substandard season the natives are enduring, is a bit ridiculous.
Souness’ lamentations echoed annually aired sentiments about the team lacking mettle and leadership, going so far as to actually use the line:
“Big players make other players play when things are going badly. Who did that today for Arsenal? Where’s a Tony Adams? Where’s a Thierry Henry?”
Neither player was present when the Gunners beat Bayern Munich 2-0 earlier this season. They missed the win 2-1 win over Manchester City and 3-0 demolition of United at the Emirates too.
Clearly, Arsenal have the capability to win these inter-elite battles, but, like every other team, not all of them.
United may have been struggling with a depleted squad, but the fact remains that no side has recorded more points in games against the Premier League’s best ten teams, with just Norwich and Southampton the only outfits able to win at the Theatre of Dreams all season.
Furthermore, such significant Arsenal losses in the past, always a catalyst for the calibre of universal admonishment currently being directed their way, have proved the precursor to a lengthy run of wins and looking at their forthcoming fixtures, they could soon make up the ground between them and the summit.
They won eight top-tier games on the spin after going down 2-1 at Tottenham last February. Similarly they overcame their final five foes of the 2013/14 season to rescue a fourth-place finish after a 3-0 loss at Everton had put it in serious jeopardy.
Yet more evidence takes the shape of a form spike where nine of the last 11 games of 2012/13 were won following defeat to Spurs in March.
Again, neither Adams, nor Henry were needed to string together these successful spates and with Swansea, Spurs, West Brom, Everton and Watford to come next, five victories are attainable.
Furthermore, those they’re looking to chase down – Leicester and Tottenham – are novices in the art of maintaining positions of prominence.
The Lilywhites have a knack of squandering divisional advantages to ensure they finish below their local rivals, while how close Norwich came to denying Leicester three points last time proves there’s a simple, effective way to stop Claudio Ranieri’s men.
After Man City were unanimously (and unwisely) ruled out of the reckoning, the Gunners must still be considered a great bet for the title, especially with recently-swollen odds of 11/4 saying they’ll win it.