Arsenal players have been tripping over themselves throughout the second half of this season to state how their side’s impressive form promises a successful campaign once the music restarts.
Jack Wilshere labeled a now impossible to attain second-place finish as a sign of the club making ‘massive progression’, while Gabriel Paulista has observed from his berth on the bench that the Gunners have ‘everything needed’ to win the league next term.
These sentiments have also been echoed by manager Arsene Wenger and were sparked by the surge of wins the north London club sparked following a New Year’s Day reverse at Southampton.
Since losing 2-0 at St Mary’s, Arsenal prevailed in 11 of their next 12 league games to solidify their standing in the Champions League qualifying places, but is this consistent streak an indicator that the team has got better?
Their lengthy stretch of victories was curtailed by a goalless draw against Chelsea and that bagel bonanza has sparked a downturn in results.
A defeat and three draws have been recorded in the five to follow the deadlocked inter-capital affair – the latest being a 0-0 against Sunderland in which neither goalkeeper was beaten – leaving the Gunners clinging onto third spot and an automatic seat at Europe’s top table next term.
Fourth-place is typically reserved for Wenger’s troops – it’s been theirs in six of the previous nine seasons – so a rare foray above this particular watermark is, in theory, an improvement.
Yet had Manchester United, who currently sit one spot outside the podium places, not lost three games in a row between mid-April and the start of May, they would’ve since sailed past Arsenal into third on account of their springtime tail off.
Post-Christmas rich veins are nothing out of the ordinary for Arsenal; last season they signed off with five straight wins, while 2012/13 saw them prevail in 12 of their final 16 league fixtures.
Returning from holidays and reciprocating this form has been their problem and it would appear that luck, not judgement, is responsible for their near-guaranteed claiming of Premier League bronze this time around.
Just like last season, the Gunners are in the FA Cup final where they face another grossly inferior outfit whom they’re heavily fancied to beat; odds of 53/100 about them toppling Aston Villa without recourse to extra-time quantifies this theory.
Failure to appropriately dispose of the underdog, which could well happen based on current form, would surely be a sign of devolution, not evolution, especially when their recurring Champions League travails are taken into consideration.
For the fifth season in succession Arsenal were ejected from the competition at the first knockout stage following a third consecutive second-place group-stage finish and despite landing the plum last-16 draw of Monaco in this season’s instalment.
Even if the FA Cup is won, the fortunes of the previous term are remarkably similar to those of the current, suggesting those professing Arsenal progression have been blinded by the smokescreen of a mid-winter winning spree.