There have been plenty of damming indictments of Arsenal’s campaign so far, but perhaps the most scathing criticism came from one of their own after their damaging 2-1 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
In the aftermath of a defeat that sees Arsenal seven points adrift of rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the all-important fourth place in the Premier League, it was actually Theo Walcott who lifted his head above the parapet to suggest that the Gunners players “don’t believe they are good enough” at times on the pitch.
That is because some of them aren’t good enough to be playing for Arsenal, while those who are show nothing of the mental fortitude that ran through Arsene Wenger’s great teams of the past.
This current vintage is some way short of those halcyon days and as odds of 13/10 to qualify for the Champions League next year show, it is some fall from grace for the Frenchman, who seems unable to do anything to halt a slide away from the Premier League elite.
Arsenal even go into their game with West Ham United at the Emirates level on points with Liverpool, for crying out loud, as their inconsistency undermines their top-four ambitions.
This game in hand against Sam Allardyce’s side is, if not must win, certainly a case of ‘really better had win’ if a 16th consecutive year in the Champions League is going to remain a viable prospect.
As usual, I would be looking to go against Arsenal in this one seeing as they have just one win in five, but the truth is I can’t have West Ham one bit, especially away from home, and looking at the odds it makes it a difficult one to call.
Arsenal are, as you might expect, strong favourites to win at 21/50, with the draw at 333/100 and the Irons the outsiders at 13/2, but can you honestly say you would be interested in any of those prices?
Because I am certainly not. Of course, the Gunners possess more quality and on their home patch should have enough, but odds like that about Arsenal have been priced up all season, only for Wenger’s men to fluff their lines.
But I have no interest whatsoever in backing West Ham at all. It is a good job for Big Sam that the Hammers staretd the season so well, taking 14 points from their first eight games back in the top flight, because as things stand United are slowly sliding down the table and there appears to be little anybody can do about it.
The 1-1 draw with Queens Park Rangers at Upton Park on Saturday leaves West Ham eight points above Reading in the final relegation position, which is a decent enough gap at this stage of the season but not a safe one by any means and that cushion will quickly be eaten up if West Ham carry on as they are.
The Hammers have won just three of their last 15 games in all competitions, scoring just 14 goals in that sequence, and away from home Allardyce is struggling. West Ham have won just two of their 11 away games this term, one of which came at QPR in September, and they seem incapable of scoring a goal on the road.
Big Sam’s boys have notched just five times on their travels this term, drawing seven blanks, and have failed to register a goal in their last five away games.
It makes the 7/5 on an Arsenal win to nil the most appealing bet on offer, with winnings of £48 on offer for anyone successfully backing it with their free £20 bet after registering with bwin.
The Gunners can still be vulnerable from set-plays, but West Ham just don’t show enough ambition – or possess the necessary quality – to make inroads into the Arsenal rearguard regularly enough to make that an issue.
Arsenal have won five games at the Emirates without conceding a goal this season, including their last outing against Swansea in the FA Cup, and they should do enough to earn a narrow win without being breached at 7/5.