The annual ‘this WILL be the year Arsenal fall out of the top four’ argument is occurring a little earlier than usual this campaign.
Their blind-man-galloping-by-on-a-wild-horse-at-midnight-would’ve-seen-it predictable loss against London foes Chelsea saw the Gunners plunge to eighth in the Premier League after seven matches.
Despite this, Arsene Wenger’s side remain 2/5 fancies to finish on the four-team top-tier podium, with only Chelsea and Manchester City ranked at shorter odds.
With as many points as Aston Villa, Swansea and West Ham so far though, the 9/5 about them failing to finish fourth or better for the first time in their French bosses’ 18-year reign looks well worth a dabble.
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Based on their early-season showing, it looks as though it could well be.
The ramifications of failing to address their two biggest squad issues in the summer – bolstering centre-back ranks and purchasing a holding-midfielder – have taken no time to take effect.
Those under the impression that Mikel Arteta is a suitable Premier League anchorman (an exclusive club which apparently only Wenger is a member) were presented enough evidence last season to polarise their opinion.
While, in the absence of Thomas Vermaelen, the Gunners find themselves one injury away from asking their Spanish skipper to fill in as a makeshift centre-half.
A lack of defensive depth and no suitable screen was responsible for the heavy beatings the north Londoners endured at the hands of the three teams to finish above them last term.
With just three points to show from four meetings with sides comprising last season’s top six, their inability to roll the fat cats looks to be just as prevalent 12 months on.
Manchester United and their revamped frontline are certain to finish higher this time, while the improvements Liverpool’s revitalised roster and Tottenham’s new manager were supposed to bring about will become more evident as the season unfolds.
The competition is stiffer, yet Arsenal have stagnated, which makes now the time to bet against them claiming top-four laurels.