Without looking at the calendar, how can you tell that it is February? The furore over Valentine’s Day? You find yourself eating a pancake for your tea? A bunch of talentless, manufactured acts win Brit Awards?
Quite possibly, but I always tell we’ve reached February when Arsenal begin their annual end-of-season meltdown. Like night follows day, the Gunners have spent the last seven seasons promising much until the business end of the campaign is in sight and then self-imploding under the weight of expectation.
Except this year, they haven’t even promised that much. They have promised nothing, in fact, and essentially crashing out of the Champions League and FA Cup in the space of four days last week is only what we’ve come to expect from Arsenal over recent years – they managed to exit three cup competitions in just over two weeks by the start of March last year and in truth, the club has never recovered.
Influential players have since left, replaced by those of inferior quality (or in some cases, lack of quality) and there are individuals – Theo Walcott, I’m looking at you – who continually flatter to deceive.
There was a real end-of-an-era feel about Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat at Sunderland last weekend as Arsene Wenger looked on helpless as a team bereft of ideas and, unforgivably, fighting spirit meekly surrendered. Again.
You can count the truly excellent Arsenal performances this term on the fingers of one hand and something has to drastically change this summer for the club to become a genuine trophy-winning force again, be it a major squad overhaul or, and this possibility draws ever nearer, a change of manager.
Like night follows day, the Gunners have spent the last seven seasons promising much until the business end of the campaign is in sight and then self-imploding under the weight of expectation. Except this year, they haven’t even promised that much.
Champions League qualification is the now the sole aim for Arsenal (although if all they are going to do is get spanked in the last 16 again you have to wonder why they bother) and if the lack of trophies wasn’t bad enough for Gunners fans, bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur are currently ten points ahead of them in the table.
There is a simple reason for that – Tottenham are a better team. And at 17/10, I think they are a knocking bet to prove it when the two sides meet at the Emirates on Sunday in the North London derby.
A free £25 bet is on offer for anyone joining bwin.com and placing that on Spurs to pick up all three points will provide winnings of £67.50 if they heap more woe on Wenger and his troops.
Arsenal are 29/20 with in bwin’s 3Way football betting market to get their campaign back on track with three points, while the draw is 12/5.
It’s been a long time since Spurs fans have been able to laud it over their rivals ahead of a derby match at Arsenal and they will no doubt relish sticking the knife in some more.
Illiterate and disorganised England manager-in-waiting Harry Redknapp has done a t’riffic job at White Hart Lane and the inferiority complex that suffocated Spurs when it came to face Arsenal has been lifted to the point where Tottenham will not fear a visit to their rivals.
And nor should they. Only the Manchester clubs have taken more points on the road than Tottenham (21) and their recent record against the Gunners is promising. Arsenal have won just two of the last ten meetings and one of them was an extra-time victory in the Carling Cup.
Tottenham have won four of those, including two of the last three. Their last meeting at the Emirates was a 3-2 Spurs victory after Arsenal led 2-0 at half-time – their lack of a backbone summed up in one match.
With the Gunners’ injuries in defence mounting, Sebastien Squillaci might get a game (honestly, I might turn up with a pair of boots) and Tottenham’s firepower, so quick and direct, will cause problems all match.
By contrast, if Robin van Persie doesn’t score, where will an Arsenal goal come from? The Dutchman has 22 league goals. The next top scorers, Mikel Arteta and Gervinho, have just four apiece.
Spurs have kept four clean sheets in their last six and were brilliantly resolute in keeping Liverpool out on their last Premier League trip and will again to be tough to beat.
I wouldn’t read too much into Arsenal’s good home record, either, as I think it is misleading. An 8-2-2 record is perfectly acceptable but a look at the fixtures tells a different story.
The Gunners have only played two games against the current top eight and lost them both, to Liverpool and Manchester United.
Many of those eight wins have been unconvincing, slender triumphs against the division’s poorer sides and as the last week has proved, Arsenal are there for the taking.
So is the 7/4 on a Tottenham win, and I advise you get stuck into this price.