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Can Arsenal win the title?

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Phil McNulty | 21:27 UK time, Sunday, 14 November 2010

Goodison Park

Arsenal's team bus looked a happy place to be as it pulled away down Goodison Road. Sunderland were to make the journey back to London happier with every passing mile.

Arsene Wenger had not quite described Arsenal as winning ugly at Everton - but it was as close to ugly as it gets for the Gunners and this unabashed advocate of the beautiful game could not disguise his delight at the rough-edged manner of the victory.

Arsenal's weekend had already been a fruitful one even before the road back to London was smoothed further by Chelsea's surprise loss to Sunderland at Stamford Bridge.

By the time Wenger and Arsenal's players returned to the capital they had not only leapfrogged Manchester United into second place in the Premier League, but saw the gap between themselves and leaders Chelsea narrow to only two points.

Wenger needs no encouragement to talk up an Arsenal title challenge, even in his darkest moments, but there was cause for guarded optimism after a 2-1 triumph at the notoriously testing Goodison Park.

When I asked Wenger if Arsenal had shown a range of qualities in completing a task that proved beyond rivals Manchester United earlier this season, he reeled off a list the sceptics, including myself, often suggest are missing from his armoury.

He said: "The most important qualities were discipline, commitment, complete togetherness, desire and 100% effort for 90 minutes. If you come to Goodison Park without them you don't get the points."

Arsenal had these traits, and needed them because this was not Wenger's side at their silky best. It was patchy as opposed to polished, but nothing could temper his satisfaction because the end result was all, no matter how it was achieved.

Fabregas and Nasri

Wenger added: "I feel the performance today has shown I have something that is not only quality football, but we have spirit - fighting spirit."

Arsenal have responded well to the blow of losing at home to Newcastle United, with important victories at Wolverhampton Wanderers and then Everton.

Wenger, the eternal optimist even in the recent barren years, can see light at the end of the tunnel as Chelsea and United falter. The gritty style needed, and produced, to grind out three points at Everton will only lift his spirits.

Arsenal showed all their facets without ever truly flourishing, from the occasionally flowing football that saw them two goals up inside 48 minutes through Bacary Sagna and Cesc Fabregas, to the resilience required to survive a late Everton siege that brought a goal for Tim Cahill.

And, after being unemployed for around 70 minutes, it was the much-maligned figure of goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski who made a key late contribution with fine saves from Jermaine Beckford, Steven Pienaar and Louis Saha.

The mistrust of Fabianski does not apply only to forces outside of the Emirates. Remember the ironic jeers from Arsenal's fans when he safely clutched the ball shortly after his dreadful misjudgment gave Andy Carroll Newcastle's winner?

But here, along with an under-strength defence, he stood strong - as he did at Molineux - to ensure Arsenal held on for a triumph that gave them obvious elation.

Fabianski's error last Sunday revived the debate over Arsenal's failure to sign a goalkeeper, and means he must produce another spell of consistency for it to go away again, but at Everton he demonstrated concentration as well as quality because he was little more than an observer until a frantic late flurry.

So can Arsenal win the title? The unpredictable nature of this season's Premier League suggests there will be surprises along the way and they have every right to regard themselves as serious contenders.

Greater tests lie ahead than that posed by a lightweight Everton, lightweight for three quarters of this game at least, and I still require more hard evidence to be convinced Arsenal will remain a match for Chelsea and United over the long haul.

Arsenal have disappointed before, and results against Chelsea and United will be a more accurate measure of their aspirations, no matter how worthy the wins at Wolves and Everton.

And as further food for thought for Arsenal and their exultant travelling support, Everton were still able to carve out seven openings after they went two goals up - a cause for concern even with a reconstructed rearguard.

But there were signs of added mettle in Arsenal at Goodison Park, a willingness to mix it when the going got tough. And even if, whisper this, Wenger has sacrificed just a touch of his purist principles in exchange for pragmatism, it may be for the greater good when it comes to winning trophies, even if that trophy is not the title.

Alex Song was a tireless shield for Arsenal's back four, while Samir Nasri showed why he is an idol at the Emirates with another inventive performance. Cesc Fabregas was as influential as ever, although there was also an unsavoury side to his performance in his constant dialogue with referee Howard Webb and an ill-judged lunge at Sylvain Distin that earned him a booking.

Jack Wilshere's afternoon was cut short by 45 minutes because of fatigue as well as a few uncompromising bashes from John Heitinga, whose own mindless approach saw him removed by Everton manager David Moyes at half-time to avoid the prospect of Webb repeating the red card he showed the Netherlands international in the World Cup final.

Absent friends will also warm Wenger's heart as he plots for later in the campaign. The win was earned without the injured Thomas Vermaelen and suspended Laurent Koscielny. Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott were only on the bench while Nicklas Bendtner (who Wenger is keen to keep despite an unwise outburst about his exclusion from the side) was injured.

So Wenger has power to add to the squad that has closed in on leaders Chelsea. Outside contenders yes, but contenders? Why not.

As for Everton, manager Moyes was left frustrated by a performance that only sparked into life when it was too late. Everton had some justifiable complaints about another unconvincing performance from referee Webb, who was erratic throughout and received a barrage of abuse from Goodison Park at the interval and at full-time.

Everton felt particularly aggrieved when Sebastien Squilacci escaped a red card when he hauled Saha down as he went through, anger that was exacerbated by a general mood of perceived injustice around Goodison almost every time Webb blew his whistle.

The biggest problem for Everton in this unfulfilling season is not, however, officialdom. It is a powder-puff attack and the lack of performance from influential stars such as Mikel Arteta who was, and this is putting it kindly, awful.

Everton would only normally remove Arteta from the action as a last resort or through injury, but here it was as a merciful release from his struggles. The gifted Spaniard was slow to react when Sagna opened the scoring and was caught in possession when Fabregas doubled Arsenal's advantage.

Moyes did not sugar the pill, admitting Everton had not performed well. He requires funds to deliver the reliable marksman and injection of quality he needs, but chairman Bill Kenwright is unlikely to be able to find them unless there are dramatic developments in coming weeks.

So does he cash in on the likes of Heitinga or Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, not one of Moyes' finest moments in the market at an exorbitant £10m, in January or does he also part with the gifted Pienaar in that window, having admitted he is likely to leave for nothing in the summer anyway?

Everton are hardly at crisis point, but the season is not quite fulfilling expectations. Tough choices for Moyes because Everton need to find a spearhead, as well as a spark, from somewhere.

There is still the genuine prospect for improvement in the league, but Moyes will be grimly aware that the FA Cup is now the only avenue open to him as a way of winning his first trophy in more than eight years at Goodison Park.

Arsenal's sights are set higher at home and abroad. And while they still have some way to go to suggest this really is the season the trophy drought will end, Wenger and his men can look back on this performance, and the entire weekend, with pleasure.

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Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    I think Everton fans are entitled to a sense of injustice when both the referee and BBC pundits completely ignore Alex Song palming away Louis Saha's goal-bound strike.

  • Comment number 3.

    Delighted with arsenal's "ground out" result, while Everton did make a number of good chances, they were always likely to at Goodison park and it would be naive to assume any team could easily shut them out at home. Oh and Denilson is underrated.

  • Comment number 4.

    Winning at Everton, no matter how it's done, is a massive & positive achievement.

    Given the weaknesses shown by Chelsea & Man Utd this weekend, one has to feel that Arsenal are in with a chance.

  • Comment number 5.

    Sorry Phil but this is a pretty bad article. It reminds me of the type of History essay I wrote as a kid: only answering the question in the last part. You seem to spend most of the final third talking about Everton - I thought this was about Arsenal?

    On the subject of Arsenal, I think that this is their year: they've been "kids" for too long, and I think this will be their year to grow up.

    This is coming from a United fan.

    ~Ap

  • Comment number 6.

    You absolutely MUST have a world-class keeper to win trophies, it's not an optional extra. Fabianski & Almunia are improving but are nowhere near world-class...look down the road and you'll see Gomes, Cudicini & Pletikosa -- all top-drawer stoppers!

    Their "squad players" are also inadequate - would you rather have Djourou, Denilson and Gibbs on the bench or Palacios, Bassong and Kranjcar? 5 years without a trophy will probably become 6. COYS!

  • Comment number 7.

    Surprised there's no excuse for Chelsea in this blog. They get turned over by the worst Liverpool side in 25 years and everything is still rosy, we win away where not even United managed and yet we still aren't considered title challengers? Something doesn't add up......

    Chelsea showed their titel credentials again today too.......

  • Comment number 8.

    "Arsenal have disappointed before, and results against Chelsea and United will be a more accurate measure of their aspirations, no matter how worthy the wins at Wolves and Everton."

    This statement is clearly not supported by the facts! While Arsenal have already lost to Chelsea this season, it is their failure to beat West Brom and Newcastle (both at home!) that has prevented them from being outright league leaders at the moment. Given that Chelsea lost to Sunderland in Sunday's other game (it appears you were in a hurry to finish this blog or you assumed a Chelsea win), I can confidently say that the head-to-heads amongst the top three contenders may not matter too much. The games against Chelsea and United may be important, but they are just four games out of 38 and each of Chelsea, United and Arsenal will need to be consistent against the so-called lower teams to stand any chance of winning this year's premiership.

    "And as further food for thought for Arsenal and their exultant travelling support, Everton were still able to carve out seven openings after they went two goals up - a cause for concern even with a reconstructed rearguard."

    What should we have expected - that the team playing at home and trailing by two goals would not make any effort to back into it?

  • Comment number 9.

    Nice article Phil, good to see you finally writing a positive piece about Arsenal.

    You question Arsenal being a challenge to Chelsea and United in the long term - to be honest I would rephrase that - are United a challenge to Chelsea and Arsenal in the long term? They have been very average this season but have got their usual late winning goals after having played without any creativity whatsoever for the other 80 minutes, see United v Aston Villa.

    Back to Arsenal though, I'm still unsure about the two new defensive arrivals, the defense still looks a little shaky in the absence of Vermaelen, and this has to be rectified for games like Chelsea and United.

    I believe Arsenal still need a natural finisher in the mould of someone like Villa, Torres or Eto'o, Chamakh wastes a fair amount of goal scoring opportunities, for example 3 yards out against Everton, and it's these sort of chances that could win or lose them the league.

    What do you think of this Phil?

    The midfield was brilliant as always, and Nasri is becoming one of the top midfielders in the PL for me.

    Great win, hopefully we can carry on grinding out results like that when the going gets tough.

  • Comment number 10.

    I'd just like to query the 5 years without silverware and then a standard Arsenal start to the season (with a temperamental squad - to say the least) and now they are going to win the title? A slightly un-Arsenal win (gritty and grinding football) and they're suddenly a changed team who can take on anything and anyone? Sorry Phil, not too sure i agree with your flitting judgements week-in, week-out and not take something like this with a pinch of salt

  • Comment number 11.

    @thismaytakeawhile

    I'm guessing you're a Spurs fan, but where are the trophies for them?

    Apart from the Carling Cup, which for I don't know how long Arsenal have played their reserves?

    Fabianski is a very good keeper, he just needs confidence, which he is gaining the more he plays.

    Arsenal definitely can win the league, for sure, whether they will is a different matter though.

  • Comment number 12.

    If Arsenal want to win the title, they need to keep winning these types of games. When I see people who say Arsenal will struggle to be in the top 4, I think how they could come up with an idea. And after a couple of minutes I still haven't got one reason why they will.

  • Comment number 13.

    Can't agree that games against your closest rivals are not important. If Arsenal had taken the points against Chelsea and ManU last season, we would have won the title; it's that simple. That's why it is so frustrating to drop points at home to newly promoted teams, like we have this season.

    Nonetheless, having questioned Wenger last week, I have to say he has pulled the team around superbly since then.

    Arsenal as EPL champions for 2011? Absolutely, and why not!

  • Comment number 14.

    @reubyreu

    We won the Carling Cup recently and were a penalty kick away from winning it twice in succession. Arsene is putting out stronger squads in it this year as he knows it's probably their only real shot of silverware.

    PS. We were also the first club in Britain to win the double, 50 years ago!

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    @thismaytakeawhile

    Arsenal are the first club to do the quadruple!!

    Also the carling cup isn't really a major trophy

    Tottenham are going to struggle this season as playing in the CL is so different from UEFA cup/Europa league alongside the fact you only play in it because you were lucky

  • Comment number 18.

    "Cesc Fabregas was as influential as ever, although there was also an unsavoury side to his performance in his constant dialogue with referee Howard Webb and an ill-judged lunge at Sylvain Distin that earned him a booking."

    Comments like this actually make one wonder if you actually watched the game at all. Fabregas went in to block the ball (it's his style and he's already got a goal from such closing down re Sunderland) and Sylvain Distin landed on his ankle. To say his was a lunge is ridiculous, not to talk of it being ill-judged. I guess Webb gave the card more in response to the reaction of the Everton supporters than anything else. Because Fabregas mistimed his tackle against Ward (who has since clarified the event) does not mean that every time he makes that kind of tackle it is reckless. This stereotyping is bad.

  • Comment number 19.

    @didr09

    we were NOT lucky at all -- we worked our socks off as our man would say, outclassing champions Chelsea, the millions of Man City and some team in red...

    our bench is the envy of most EPL teams and we have real strength in depth now. would arsenal massacre the champions of europe so ruthlessly? doubt it

  • Comment number 20.

    Phil I'm sure you were hoping Arsenal would slip up so you can continue your Wenger-bashing from where you stopped last season!

    You talk of Everton testing us with 7 shots, what do you expect? Vermalaen and Koscienly (who arguably will be our first choice pairing) out and we are away to Everton!

  • Comment number 21.

    @ thismaytakeawhile;
    Yes i would rather have Djourou, Denilson and Gibbs on the bench than Palacios, Bassong and Kranjcar who barely make it into the Spurs team these days!

  • Comment number 22.

    Very good result for Arsenal. I have been surprised at how light weight our rivals have seemed in some games - not that we've been perfect at all. So, from that point of view, we do have a decent shot at the title if we continue to grow.

    I can't really be bothered to get into the comments from thismaytakeawhile, but I guess I will say this. I do agree that our goalkeeper situation is a bit volatile. The performance today was pretty decent, but I'm just hoping we don't lose too many points from the errors that will inevitably occur.

    However, to state that we don't have world class keepers and then point out that Spurs have Gomes is just a joke. We may have issues in that area, but PLEASE!! There are some class goalkeepers in the league - Gomes is not one of them.

  • Comment number 23.

    I've always wondered why arsenal fans get so annoyed by lippy spurs fans giving it large.

    I can pretty much see why after reading this blog.

  • Comment number 24.

    @Mr Chelsea

    not a word about lippy arsenal fans, or, heaven forbid, lippy chelsea fans! of course, gooners are perfect and they never give us any lip at all.

    time to join the real world!

  • Comment number 25.

    ok thismaytakeawhile

    1. Your bench is terrible
    2. You were lucky Man City and Liverpool did terrible

    Mr Chelsea

    1. And you wonder why we hate them

  • Comment number 26.

    @Sean

    Gomes has played a dozen times for the BRAZIL NATIONAL TEAM!!! he was even in their world cup squad. he conceded just 10 goals in 19 home games last season, and is in a different class to Almunia et al.

  • Comment number 27.

    Lol im kidding @ thismaytakeawhile

    you've got a good team but so have arsenal but remember arsenal qualify for the champions league year in year out. That takes some doing.You have done it for one year but your league form has suffered a bit.

    Plus Arsenal pretty much last about 3/4 of the season challenging for the title, then they just kinda fade off..

    Would you swap Bale for Anelka, Ferreira, Ramires & Zhirkov

    @didr09

    Yeah liverpool had a rubbish season last year, im not complaining :D

  • Comment number 28.

    If tottenham are so good, then explain how the hell you are not in the top 4!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 29.

    First off, thanks for the Arsenal piece that doesn't mention "men versus boys" and "lack of plan B" Phil, felt like every write-up in the press had to include that somewhere and it was getting a bit tedious...

    After reading your blogs for a while now I was fairly surprised by the upbeat tone of the blog until I got to this part...

    "Greater tests lie ahead than that posed by a lightweight Everton, lightweight for three quarters of this game at least, and I still require more hard evidence to be convinced Arsenal will remain a match for Chelsea and United over the long haul."

    I feel that Everton deserve a little more credit than you're giving them as not many teams will go to Goodison Park and come away with anything so I wouldn't call them "lightweight" and dish dirt at players like Bilyaletdinov (who did well against Man UTD last season) etc, just because they lost one game to us. They had almost the same amount of chances on our goal and kept us under a lot of pressure coming down to the end.

    I think we are outside contenders though, because after Sagna scored, the team seemed to relax, thinking that they did enough to win the game, which is worrying....

  • Comment number 30.

    @didr09

    "your bench is terrible" hmmm let me see....our best bench:

    1) Pletikosa = Croatia's #1 GK, and they're ranked 9th in the world
    2 & 3) Gallas & Bassong/Kaboul = all accomplished quality defenders
    4) kranjcar = genius, can change a game in an instant with his trickery, 60 apps for croatia
    5) palacios = steely, tough-tackling, determined & 71 apps for homduras. single-handedly took them to the WC
    6) bentley = excellent crosser and free kick specialist
    7) crouch/keane/pavs = all proven goalscorers with 181 int'al caps between them

  • Comment number 31.

    Theres something annoying about everton. I made a article on it before.

    They got good players. arteta, cahill, jagielka, baines, pienaar but they perform probably once every few weeks.

    plus they havent had a proper striker for years

    imagine if they had a 20 goal a season striker like darren bent

    i think arteta needs to step it up to the next level and start scoring more goals and get more assists

    he should be the fabregas of everton but he just seems to sit in midfield playing simple passes to cahill etc etc and sitting back.

    wasting his talent just sitting deep in midfield.

  • Comment number 32.

    Mr Chelsea

    in all fairness i would rather have bale because he is young,

    Still i agree that if the other clubs want to boast that they are the best, they need to compete with teams like barcelona and inter milan for 3-4 years, win the league in the last 10 years and make profits from fans.

    Man utd, I'm looking at you

  • Comment number 33.

    @thismaytakeawhile

    We know how the Spurs stack up against Arsenal in terms of squad depth: Arsenal winning 4-1 at WHL when the second string sides were fielded for the League Cup showed who has the better back-up resources. And before you dispute whether Arsenal played a second string side that night, Nasri was the only player in the Arsenal starting line-up who was a first choice, it was definitely a night for comparing the depth of the squads (even if Spurs did field a significantly older side than Arsenal). All of the players you named, Bassong, Palacios, Kranjcar, Djourou, Denilson and Gibbs played, so you would have to accept that it was comparing like with like. And the ones in red won easily, so no need to wonder about which side has the better squad.

    Spurs are obviously better than they were but in truth, it is still Chelsea and United that we compare ourselves with. Spurs have three genuinely world class players now (Modric, van der Vart and Bale) but they remain weak in defence. Given our own defensive weaknesses, next Saturday could be a high scoring North London derby.

  • Comment number 34.

    Anyway i will leave you arsenal, spurs and EVERTON fans to it.

    Just remember who's still 1st :D

  • Comment number 35.

    Is your name 'thismaytakeawhile' in reference to Spurs' FIFTY year spell without winning the league?

  • Comment number 36.

    1) Pletikosa = Who?
    2 & 3) Gallas & Bassong/Kaboul = all terrible
    4) kranjcar = Doesn't matter how many games you play for country, its on the day that counts
    5) palacios = Havant seen anything good about him this season
    6) bentley = Tje best on the bench so far only because he is british
    7) crouch/keane/pavs = only like one of those, because of the robot

  • Comment number 37.

    @George Burn

    arsenal fielded almost their 1st team that night; we had youth team players on the field! they also dived twice to get 2 penalties...

    we might be defensively weak right now but 3 CBs are injured - King, Dawson & Woodgate. the sooner we get them back the sooner we'll tighten up at the back. can't wait for next saturday lunchtime!!!

  • Comment number 38.

    @mightypooner

    you can talk with a username like yours! interesting.....

  • Comment number 39.

    Are you sure that those "dives" wernt because of a weak defence

  • Comment number 40.

    @ @thismaytakeawhile

    You seriously cannot be comparing Spurs team to Arsenal's mate. Apart from Van der Vart and Bale, no Spurs player will make it into the Arsenal team, even Modric! Take five minutes and reflect and i'm sure you'll agree with me.

  • Comment number 41.

    Of course Arsenal can win the title!!!

    A couple of weeks ago chelsea lost to liverpool, the headlines were taken by liverpools so called resurgence, but not a lot was made of chelsea's terrible performance - it really was awful, the same as their performance yesterday. If they carry on like that it's far from being a one horse championship race. realistically this leaves man u, arsenal, and man city. Man u really aren't looking 100% this year, this could change if rooney finds form and man city don't look consistent and I'm not sure if they will this season, so of course arsenal have got a good chance.

    This is much the same as liverpool a couple of years ago, everyone else was so poor it was theirs for the taking without actually improving. Arsenal this year don't look any different to last year, but the other teams around them don't look strong.

    Oh and I don't want to sound pedantic - but to comment 14 the double was first won 120 years ago by preston, not fifty years ago. Spurs were the first team in ENGLAND to win the double in the 20th century, and I'm sure in britain both rangers and celtic did it in the 20th century before 1961. At least you seem to acknowledge that there was football before 1992, I heard someone (probably on sky) say that man u were the first team to win the double and no one corrected him!!!!

  • Comment number 42.

    @thismaytakeawhile

    Would you rather this article have been titled: 'Spurs to win title: A study in delusional thinking within football fans'...?

  • Comment number 43.

    I think thismaytakeawhile has been outsmarted by a few average joe's who talk sense

  • Comment number 44.

    @thismaytakeawhile:

    What are you on about? You say you have a better bench then say injuries are the reasons why you're underperforming. Doesn't make sense...
    King, Dawson and Woodgate are really bad with injuries and we sent Gallas to disrupt the dressing room so expect defensive performances to dip even more than usual ;)

    I have to admit that Bale, Pav and VDV are class players but I'm satisfied with Djourou (faster and stronger than Squillaci), Gibbs (better than Clichy) and Denilson (underrated imo)...

    Bentley is crap otherwise we wouldn't have sold him to you guys either...

  • Comment number 45.

    @mightypooner

    it took fergie a good few years to get things right at mufc, and with a fit CB, quality LB and prolific CF (I say Suarez, Dzeko or Fabiano) we can mount a title challenge.

  • Comment number 46.

    @jetlifari

    gallas came to us because he wanted to play for a team who are reaching new heights and making things happen, rather than one who are a perennial work in progress. every year there is talk of arsenal potentially winning the league, but it never happens in reality!

  • Comment number 47.

    if you want a fit centre back then you have wasted alot of time on king

  • Comment number 48.

    @thismaytakeawhile

    You're a glutton for punishment aren't you. The Arsenal line-up that night was: Fabianski, Eboue, Koscielny, Djourou, Gibbs, Denilson, Wilshere, Nasri, Rosicky, Lansbury, Vela

    Our first choice team at that stage in the season (a couple of players have now fought their way into the first team): Almunia, Sagna, Vermaelen, Squillaci, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Nasri, Arshavin, van Persie, Chamakh. So no question about that being our first choice side, though I agree with you, it was clearly superior to what Spurs fielded.

    And you ignore it but the team we had out in the League Cup game was YOUNGER than the Spurs side. You might be right that our young players are more experienced than yours but that's the advantage of Wenger having done what he has done while we've had no money for transfers - these are experienced but young players.

    As for your suggested best Spurs bench, Palacios looks half the player he was a couple of years ago, Bentley is so inconsistent Harry is going to flog him, Keane is a shadow of what he was, all the centre backs are almost permanently injured, and Pletikosa has only played one Spurs game (that 4-1 defeat to us!) and you have to wonder why Spartak Moscow have sent him out on loan if he's so good. Crouch, Pavlyuchenko and Kranjcar are ok once in a while, I'll give you that.

    But our optimum bench is better than Spurs': Szczesny, Squillaci, Gibbs, Ramsey/Denilson, Rosicky, Walcott, Arshavin. You're right to question our keeper situation but Szczesny is better than any keeper you've got, and will be the Arsenal number one within a few years. A legend in waiting.

  • Comment number 49.

    "gallas came to us because he wanted to play for a team who are reaching new heights and making things happen, rather than one who are a perennial work in progress. every year there is talk of arsenal potentially winning the league, but it never happens in reality!"

    This is classic, so Gallas left because he wanted to play for a team where there wasn't any talk of potitially winning the league, whoop! Good for u guys.

    Also love ur comment that the team we fielded in the Carling cup was our first 11, as pointed out Nasri was the only first 11 player in it. The fact that u percieved it to be a full strength side simply illustrates our truly superior strength in depth where our second 11 is now a roster of internationals making it hard to comprehend that they're not 1st choices.

  • Comment number 50.

    Phil, can you do us a favor and find out why BBC completely failed to mention this in the match report and MOTD?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqqR-Yxrar4

    Thanks.

  • Comment number 51.

    @thismaytakeawhile

    I can't deny we are a work in progress but I feel cautiously optimistic :)
    As for reaching new heights, I can't deny that either as Sp*rs have improved. I'm glad though, because it's going to make derby day much more exciting this time around!

    I can't want to see Bale and Walcott cross swords, should be a good match-up, like Olympics come early,lol

  • Comment number 52.

    6. At 11:59pm on 14 Nov 2010, thismaytakeawhile wrote:
    You absolutely MUST have a world-class keeper to win trophies, it's not an optional extra. Fabianski & Almunia are improving but are nowhere near world-class...look down the road and you'll see Gomes, Cudicini & Pletikosa -- all top-drawer stoppers!

    Their "squad players" are also inadequate - would you rather have Djourou, Denilson and Gibbs on the bench or Palacios, Bassong and Kranjcar? 5 years without a trophy will probably become 6. COYS!

    --------------------------------------------------------------------

    those are world class stoppers? :L gomes is the worst keeper in the league, almunia is a close second ;)

    goodluck keeping hold of your 4th place, and goodluck gettin through the group stages xD u need it

  • Comment number 53.

    Wow that must have been really hard to write but considering Arsenal have the BEST AWAY FORM in the league with wins against Liverpool*, Sunderland*, Blackburn, Man Citeh, Everton, Newcastle*, Wolves, Spurs* it really isn't that surprising. We may have substituted some style recently for substance but we're winning ugly and at whatever cost to silence those critics who are insistent on damaging the true style of footballs philosopher!

    UP THE ARSE!

  • Comment number 54.

    @thismaytakeawhile
    can i just say that tottenham DID NOT!!! win the 1st english double they won the third!
    Preston North End won it in 1889
    and Aston Villa won it in 1897.
    Arsenal have won 3 that a record by the way.
    Also i take objection to your comment about how you brushed aside the european champions!!!
    1) you beat them once at home by 2 goals!
    2) they are 5th in Serie A much like bolton in the premiership
    3) they are currently managed by the most overrated and clueless manager in european football! blackpool could of beaten a team managed by benitez!
    4) inter are nothing without Jose!!!
    if spurs were soo much better than Arsenal and had a MUCH better squad why are you struggling to get out of the group in europe and currently floundering in 7th in the premiership and were knocked out of 1st round in carling cup.
    where as arsenal only need a point to qualify for knockout in europe 2nd in the prem and in the 1/4s of the carling cup...
    the truth is tottenham will ALWAYS play second fiddle to Arsenal
    When you have 13 league titles, 10 FA cups and 2 league cups your name then you come back to us and tell us you have a better team than us!!!

    G4L

  • Comment number 55.

    @IanSteele

    "the truth is tottenham will ALWAYS play second fiddle to Arsenal"

    thats why we beat you when we last met in the league. as for all your trophies, 5 years....and counting....

  • Comment number 56.

  • Comment number 57.

    @thismaytakeawhile
    was that not last season?
    this season we have played you once and beat you 4-1.
    on saturday we will play you again and put you in your place AGAIN
    yes you are good going foreward but you have one of the most suspect defense in the league!!! can i remind you, you have conceeded the same amount of goals as birmingham (17) who are in the relegation!

    pretty sure we have 7 trophies in the last 10 years to your 1!
    and before your 2008 league cup win when was the last time you won something 1999 (9 years!!!) and before that 1991 (8 years!!!) nice flow of trophies... I THINK NOT!

  • Comment number 58.

    @IanSteele

    A) we are missing 3 quality centre backs!!!
    B) you beat our reserves 4-1 and had to dive to get penalties
    C) We have an English manager and several English players in the CL, so we are doing great things for the ENGLISH GAME. more than can be said for your lot, 1 english player who isn't even that good anyway

  • Comment number 59.

    Goodison Park is a tough place to go but I'm suprised Everton aren't playing well with the kind of players they have especially as the Arsenal midfield didn't play that well.

    Tim Cahill is their top scorer while their strikers have only scored twice it tells you alot, Howard looks dodgy and Arteta isn't performing well either.

    Oh and BTW we've drawn away Liverpool and Sunderland, as a Arsenal fan I'm not convinced we are consistent enough, our defending looks nervous at times and we still miss too many chances.

  • Comment number 60.

    Are there any Everton fans on here? You would swear the NL derby was yesterday or something!

  • Comment number 61.

    Here we go again....
    @thismaytakeawhile

    a) you talked up your deep squad so not having defenders is irrelevant isn't it?
    b)stop crying over spilt milk, Keane was offside for your consolation goal anyway
    c)Your ENGLISH manager is ruining your club. You're already in red because you spent the same amount of money as Man City for players that sit on the bench but still aren't that good. Don't want to sound mean but he'll spend and spend, then leave to become England manager and before you know it the administrators will come calling. That's the Redknapp way. Nobody brings it up because he's English but the writing is already on the wall.
    Furthermore, we're on a budget and we don't believe in overpaying for substandard players. We do have loads of English players at the Emirates but they're still young and better than your English players anyway. Quality over quantity. We make our players and that takes a while. The next crop of English footballers will be better than the ones we pay to see now and most of them will be at Arsenal or Arsenal academy products playing somewhere else...

  • Comment number 62.

    thismaytakeawhile is an idiot. Typical delusional spurs fan.

  • Comment number 63.

    Lovely London rivalry. Go ahead and worry about who's better--Spurs or Gunners. Neither of you will win the league. That said you both have good teams--just not great.

    Gunner fans will have a go at anybody at the drop of hat. Sounds like a bunch of kids in the school-yard.

    I don't think Chelsea's bench is all that. The Blue's season depends on all the old guys staying healthy. Is there anybody who really thinks that their first XI isn't the best in the league?


    Everybody writing off United because of all the draws, but we're only 3 points back and we haven't even hit stride yet. Want to bet we don't turn it around soon?

    The road to the title is a long way in front of us. The best team always wins over 38 matches. Whoever wins it will deserve it. I just can't see Arsenal holding on over the entire season.

  • Comment number 64.

    "B) you beat our reserves 4-1 and had to dive to get penalties "

    At least we didn't make a DVD of beating our rivals League Cup youngsters and B team.

  • Comment number 65.

    thismaytakeawhile (for spurs to win anything he means)

    Arsenal challenge for the Premier League title and Champions League season after season.

    Spuds challenge for the Carling Cup season after season.

    And lets put this behind us thismaytakeawhile. You can keep your bench and we will keep ours. Oh and we'll stick with Fabianski over Hillarious Gomes too thanks. I will not defend Almunia though. He is diabolical!!!

    I also applaud jetlifari's comment that we sent Agent Gallas to disrupt the Spuds dressing room..

    But in reality, he was a great defender at Chelski, pretty good one for a while at Arsenal, but after his sit down at Birmingham, I am more than pleased we passed his antics onto Spuds. Good luck with that one Harry.

    Spuds' season should fall apart soon. They might scrape through their group in Europe only to be hammered by whoever they draw in the last 16.

    They certainly have NO CHANCE of challenging for the Premiership though.

    It may have been 5 seasons without a trophy for Arsenal, but in those same 5 seasons, Arsenal has finished above Spuds in each and every one of them, and also been in the Champions League knockout stages every season too.

    However, Spuds have been in the knockout stages too...of um....well the Carling Cup ; )


    Are all you Gooners looking forward to St.Totteringham's Day 2011 ?

    I know I am.

  • Comment number 66.

    Cesc Fabregas was as influential as ever, although there was also an unsavoury side to his performance in his constant dialogue with referee Howard Webb and an ill-judged lunge at Sylvain Distin that earned him a booking.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Phil, are sports writers not given the luxury of instant replay; I ask because from what i saw, and im pretty sure what everyone else saw. Fbaregas tried to block the clearance and Distin accidentally stamped on his ankle. I am not sure if getting stepped on warrants a yellow card. but im not the lead Football writer for the BBC. I suppose if i had your job i wouldnt let facts getting in the way of writing something that would get the people talking.

  • Comment number 67.

    @LivingForFootball:
    Don't be like that mate, this is how we show our love to our neighbours ;)

  • Comment number 68.

    There was only room for one spanish midfield maestro at goodison today! The team all around played their socks off, very impressive game, but will these types of performances remain constant, who knows, lets just watch and see

    LETS GO GUNNERS!!!

  • Comment number 69.

    Good read Phil. Even if I do enjoy most of your blogs, it's not that often I agree with you. This blog, however, was spot on for most part!

    It's early days to say anything based on two good and well deserved points. There is a big derby game coming up the following weekend against Spurs and we will see how well we will do and whether we will continue the good run of form. At the moment the wisest thing is to just take one game at a time and see where we ended up. Reason for that is because we did not expect to loose to either of the newly promoted boys and we still did.

    I do hope we will win the title this year, but there is a long, long way to go!

  • Comment number 70.

    Somehow I was expecting this. Every time Arsenal win 2 difficult games in a row the media and bloggers in particular rave about Arsenals title credentials and when they loose a game say against West Brom, the same bloggers are back with all sorts of criticism.
    Obviously Wenger has changed his approach in the last 2 games from the horizontal play to a more vertical and direct way.
    About the title challenge it will be more a matter of consistency and how the other contenders perform. As at now not even Wenger can give you an answer as regards winning the title. Ask him that question after they have played 37 games and even then, from the way things a shaping up, it may not be clear.
    What happened at the bridge yesterday is not going to happen frequently if at all. You can consider it in the same happenings as Argentina loosing 6-1, or Spain loosing 2-0 to the U.S.A.

  • Comment number 71.

    "Arsenal have disappointed
    before, and results against
    Chelsea and United will be a
    more accurate measure of
    their aspirations, no matter
    how worthy the wins at Wolves
    and Everton."
    i seem to remember a liverpool side dat trash man u and chelsea home and away but stil ended the season in 2nd place. It is results and consistency against the smaller teams that matter most

  • Comment number 72.

    4) kranjcar = genius, can change a game in an instant with his trickery, 60 apps for croatia
    5) palacios = steely, tough-tackling, determined & 71 apps for homduras. single-handedly took them to the WC
    6) bentley = excellent crosser and free kick specialist

    ------------------------

    This made me laugh :)

  • Comment number 73.

    Arsenal are doing better...Chamakh while I like his play hardly makes up for the strength that Arsenal so badly need to sustain a clear challenge to Chelsea....all they need is one Michal Essien in midfield and they can match any team around...

    anyways sorry for going off topic but can somebody plz plz plz tell what is the song that they play @ the city of manchester stadium just before kick off...it was being played for derby game as well just before kick off...cant remember the name and i know i have heard it enough times...help plzz....:( :(

  • Comment number 74.

    Blue Moon

  • Comment number 75.

    The Spurs - Arsenal rivalry is very evident here. No matter what criteria one uses to measure success Arsenal will come tops. On the short term though there is a derby coming up on Saturday and I thing the argument can be settled then.

  • Comment number 76.

    I wouldn't count the silver just yet. Arsenal played well, and showed some grit where it hasn't always been the case. They are no more or less likely to have some villains in their team, but Song's handball, and Fabreqas constantly trying to get other players sent off, or penalized more heavily, will eventually catch up with them. There's been a noticeable trend of refs being less tolerant to the whiners and cheaters, the more the season continues. I think this is a good thing, and if we have 1 or 2 games where there's multiple red cards to wipe out this behaviour, then i'm all for it. Players will learn quickly enough if they start getting smacked in the wallet for missing games through their childish petulance.

    Arsenal deserved their win, Everton needed to turn up earlier in the match, and refs need to continue to heavily penalize those players that get in their faces all the time, and try and get the opposition sent off, or carded. (cue Fabregas.)

    Worthy to note that teams that get after Arsenal early, and put them under constant pressure tend to get better results, particularly when their defence continues to look fragile in patches.
    Nasri was my MOTM, and if he stays in shape for the entire season, then Arsenal have as good a chance as any other team of getting a good result at the end of the season.

    (and i'm a neutral.)

  • Comment number 77.

    Did you ask if Bendtner is suffering from a 'big mouth' injury?

    It's dangerous to train after mouthing off to the Press you know...........

  • Comment number 78.

    @Chelsea_Bull---Dozer: I think it's "Right Here, Right Now" by Fatboy Slim...

  • Comment number 79.

    We are certainly sure shots for the title, but I certainly regret losing to Newcastle United. We could have been toppers.

  • Comment number 80.

    Congrats to the gunners. They are gradually becoming title contenders. Hey Phil, is it just me or is it that Ancelloti is flat as a couch. I think he lacks what it takes to turn games around. His formation yesterday was bizarre. How do you justify playing 4:3:3 with weak midfield and defence against a physical team like Sunderland. You don't need a Uefa license to know that.He made that error against Liverpool and repeated it yesterday. 4:4:2 or better still 4:5:1 would have been pragmatic. We lost from the bench yesterday. Chelsea forever.

  • Comment number 81.

    66. At 04:34am on 15 Nov 2010, InsaneGOONER wrote:

    Cesc Fabregas was as influential as ever, although there was also an unsavoury side to his performance in his constant dialogue with referee Howard Webb and an ill-judged lunge at Sylvain Distin that earned him a booking.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Phil, are sports writers not given the luxury of instant replay; I ask because from what i saw, and im pretty sure what everyone else saw. Fbaregas tried to block the clearance and Distin accidentally stamped on his ankle. I am not sure if getting stepped on warrants a yellow card. but im not the lead Football writer for the BBC. I suppose if i had your job i wouldnt let facts getting in the way of writing something that would get the people talking.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Fabregas didn't aid his cause when he tried to have Distan carded for that accidental trodden foot. It's an unsavoury part of his game that i think prevents many from seeing him as a popular, and the gifted footballer that he is.
    Perhaps the refs can help him mature, and card him every time he starts whining. I'm fairly sure he'd quickly change his tune then. It's a shame, as he's undeniably talented, but the game is bigger than any single player, and that's more important than the petulant whining of a few, who would benefit from some extended benchtime, loss of earnings, and time to reflect on their childish and unsportsmanlike behaviour.

  • Comment number 82.

    Fabianski is a very good keeper, he just needs confidence, which he is gaining the more he plays.

  • Comment number 83.

    This may prove to be a pivotal weekend in the title race with Chelsea's squad brutally exposed twice in a week, and Arsenal finally showing they can grind out a result.

  • Comment number 84.

    82. At 07:46am on 15 Nov 2010, resshiei wrote:

    Fabianski is a very good keeper, he just needs confidence, which he is gaining the more he plays.

    ------------------------------------------------------

    Agreed. When you consider the defence he has in front of him, and their varying degree of reliability game to game, he does pretty well. I think he gets more flak from fans, and the media in particular, than he deserves.

    Worth noting that the allegedly best left back in the EPL, Ashley Cole, hung his allegedly best goalkeeper in the EPL out to dry yesterday, with a hospital pass that resulted in a Sunderland goal. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. Fabianski hasn't had that many errors. I thought he had yet another good game, and is slowly but surely cementing his place in the side. He gets slated by the pundits week after week, but the "errors" or "uncertainty" they highlight are certainly true of many other keepers as well, week by week.

    It's always the case keepers errors are viewed as more obvious than other players, but one only has to look a little further up the field to see where the problem generally started in the first place. I would think ANY keeper, no matter how good, would be nervous about the current Arsenal back 4, and which version would turn up on the day.

  • Comment number 85.

    Another shocking exhibition of refereeing from Webb his bias towards the big teams is becoming more and more obvious. How this guy keeps hold of his job is a mystery, in any other job he would have been sacked for incompetence ages ago. This isn't a go at Arsenal, they deserved their win but as soon as Ref's start getting marked for their performances the better. Webb would then be a certainty for relegation, how he was awarded the World Cup final is mind boggling.

  • Comment number 86.

    AT LAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The " main man " goes to a decent game and returns to offer his veiws about ARSENAL! as opposed to all the other stuff we have had to read over the past months concerning only man u and Liverpool.


    Well Done PHIL!! keep its up please it realy does make a refreshing change to read different Blogs about " different " teams.

    Well, obviously as a Gooner I am delighted we won! but before i wallow in great pride at such an important and hard fought victory I would like to pay tribute to David Moyes. His post match comments were very laid back and full of understanding as to why the Toffee's did not get anything from the game. he did not spend time moaning about the REF " got it wrong " ( stand up TONY PULLIS and Alex Ferguson ) instead he accepted his side were perhaps not good on the day to win. Both Mangers agree that niether side performed to thier normal best and on this Ocassion Arsenal come away with the three points. So congrats to Everton etc and a look at the table suggests you are indeed well in the running for honours this term.

    as for the victory, well congrats to the Gunners and AW, it was a good result and by no means easy to achieve. But a word of caution; complancency and poor disipline could cost us dearly! and Mr Wenger needs to ensure that niether of these two factors creep into the team and certain individuals. Great work and we 2 points of the top( smiles )

    anyone know how Chelsea got on?? ( big big cheesy GRIN )

  • Comment number 87.

    Mr McNulty, as usual an interesting piece, but at the end of your bet-hedging article, I think you're saying that the League title is beyond Arsenal ?

    Serious Football

  • Comment number 88.

    " So can Arsenal win the title? The unpredictable nature of this season's Premier League suggests there will be surprises along the way and they have every right to regard themselves as serious contenders.

    Greater tests lie ahead than that posed by a lightweight Everton, lightweight for three quarters of this game at least, and I still require more hard evidence to be convinced Arsenal will remain a match for Chelsea and United over the long haul. "

    I agree 100% with the 1st paragraph, but take some issue with the second:
    Arsenal in the past, showed it was against the other sides that let us down, not the performances against the two you mention. I do not see either as a problem, as they also are now slipping up against the so called " lesser " teams. the media in general like to hype up the sagas and antics of these two clubs this gives the impression they will run away with it? well I think not, both chelsea and man u are stumbling to get results! what happened to chelseas " impressive " start? when they played all the little boys and were " scoring for fun " that has been exposed as a flash in the pan now they are playing teams who realy realy want to give them a game and not roll over and die because the media says " its a forgone result "

    Arsenal need not fear man u or chelsea, Arsenal only need to fear complancency and lack of due and proper effort in ALL! games.

    can we win the Title? yes we can but wait a mooment I think there are at least 7 other teams who could as well and the rest will certainly play a big part in the fortunes of the top lot. I only hope that the men in black, do not, as they have done on many occasions, spoil the level playing field which most teams play for and to in the PL.

    as for fabrinski? tis true he has these past matches kept us in the game and ensured victory, but he must show this over many many games! not just the odd one here and there. the performances he has shown thus far will do his confidence the world of good and he should take great heart from sticking in there and proving he can indeed be a top keeper thereby saving Arsenal a great deal of money and searching for a " top " keeper.

  • Comment number 89.

    88. At 08:41am on 15 Nov 2010, HAHA CharadeYouAre wrote:

    as for fabrinski? tis true he has these past matches kept us in the game and ensured victory, but he must show this over many many games! not just the odd one here and there. the performances he has shown thus far will do his confidence the world of good and he should take great heart from sticking in there and proving he can indeed be a top keeper thereby saving Arsenal a great deal of money and searching for a " top " keeper.

    ---------------------------------------------

    And that's where you gooners can help. Try singing some encouragement from the stands, and watch "Fabbers" grow in stature and maturity. Imho,he's a good goalkeeper, and if the fans get behind him week after week, he has the potential to be great for the club long term.

  • Comment number 90.

    I have been really impressed by Arsenal this season. They have a real depth in terms of players who can step up and 'play the Arsenal way' as they showed when they took us apart at the Lane in C Cup. Chelsea and Man U have both - in my opinion - good first teams but look a bit fragile beyond the first eleven. Utd in particular have been lucky as heck in securing an unbeathen record. I know I'm supposed to hate them, but Wenger's teams play lovely football and with RVP returning, blips like WBA and Newcastle might be a thing of the past.

    Spurs will beat them on Saturday, though

  • Comment number 91.

    I think I have read all this before in seasons past... I am not at all convinced by Arsenal and their credentials. I think they will falter against teams that will play better than Everton on a bad day.

    You mention United have faltered this weekend, I disagree, United have not started firing yet, and it remains to be seen if they will.

    However, frequently I read posts on here that are just rubbish, some of them laughable, but this ones wins the Homer simpson comment of the year......

    " 5. At 11:58pm on 14 Nov 2010, ayushfm wrote:
    Sorry Phil but this is a pretty bad article. It reminds me of the type of History essay I wrote as a kid: only answering the question in the last part. You seem to spend most of the final third talking about Everton - I thought this was about Arsenal?....................."

    Now who is going to tell him, that Arsenal were playing against Everton?


  • Comment number 92.

    Maybe the race for the Premier League title will be interesting this season afterall!


    By the way, Phil, I see you completely failed to address the 'strongest team' farcical rule, which surfaces again between Villa Blackpool. Just to remind you, here's what you said about Wolves:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/philmcnulty/2009/12/no_white_flag_for_burnleys_coy.html

    Shall we just assume it's the same?

    For the record, I still see nothing wrong with it, Holloway was well within his rights but consistency is missing!!!

  • Comment number 93.

    This is Chelsea's title to lose which is gradually slipping away. Arsenal has the best chance but their title credentials will be tested against the best Spurs side in modern times. Over the last couple of years Arsenal tend to lose points against promoted teams so I would say I'm not yet impressed with them cuz Phil you like many other journalists might be singing a different tune come next week.

  • Comment number 94.

    Only just started reading the article and found it interesting to learn that ''Sunderland are making the journey back to London'' - didn't realise they'd relocated! You might want to edit that

  • Comment number 95.

    Given the depth of Arsenal's squad you would expect them to win the title. Together with City and Spurs they appear to have more depth than Chelsea or United. They will fail at critical points in the season though
    I said it last week. Chelsea and now City players are, to a large extent, lazy. It's the money you know.
    Gareth Barry is the most over rated player going.
    I also said it during my banned post last week. It may be exciting in England but the 'best' players are in Spain

  • Comment number 96.

    Arsenal have always been there or there abouts when challenging for the title. But always seem to run out of steam come March/April time.

    But I think they have a better chance this season though because they have finally got some steel back into their side. I know they have only made a couple of additions in defence mainly but they seem ready for a fight now.

    They are showing steel and fight not seen since the days of Viera and Petit. Campbell and Keown. Even Bergkamp was ready for a fight back then.

    It seems there mentality has changed are they are being told to go out there and get stuck in.

    Having said all that I still think Chelsea will win the league. Utd are finished. Its here for all to see.

    As for the spurs fan from the earlier posts...I can kind of see where he/she was coming from if the rest of you/them couldnt.

    Spurs have a very strong squad now. Which I think is stronger than Arsenals on paper. I just dont think there manager is strong enough to win the league this season.

    Next season, you never know.........

  • Comment number 97.

    i dont really like criticising you phil even though its usually justified but youll be writing a blog in about 3-4 weeks about how arsenal cant back their slick play up and that they havent got what it takes to win the title. and we all know it.

    on to arsenal, brilliant football however they havent got what it takes and by march itll be a 2 horse race again and everyone knows it. they've lost to chelsea already and they will again just as they will get a maximum of 1 point against utd home and away.

    sorry gunners fans but its the truth

  • Comment number 98.

    Good and interesting blog, but SURELY the big story here is Sunderland shredding Chelsea at the Bridge. Their performance was arguably the best by any team in the league this season. We have to recognise this, but i guess seeing as they are not a 'fashionable' club, we must ignore it. Dont want them having any glory or anything. Tragic.

  • Comment number 99.

    #95 colinbell wrote:

    'I also said it during my banned post last week. It may be exciting in England but the 'best' players are in Spain'

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Give over. The prem is the place to be!

    Whose going to win the league in Spain this season?
    Is it going to be Barca or Madrid?
    Or Barca? Or maybe Madrid?
    Maybe for a change it will be Barca?
    Or maybe Madrid?

    Every season Barca and Madrid start as joint favourites for the title and no other team gets anywhere near them.

    Why? Because they're just not good enough!
    All the best players are playing in the prem!

  • Comment number 100.

    The first thing I have to take umbrage with in your blog, Phil, is the description of Fabregas' 'ill-judged lunge' on Sylvain Distin. There is no doubt you would alter your opinion of that challenge had you seen a replay of the incident, in which Distin's momentum carried him into the Spaniard and the Arsenal skipper ended up coming off worse because the defender accidentally trod on his ankle in the follow through. That's quite a poor oversight.

    That said, I can't disagree with the rest of the piece. As an Arsenal fan I'm delighted we've ground out two vital victories on the road this week and that Chelsea have slipped up to open the door for us. But away days seem to suit us nowadays, as teams are more likely to come out and have a go on their own turf; the exact tactics we enjoy playing against. But at the Emirates, as has been seen in some fairly dismal displays recently, a lack of urgency combined with a stubbornly-arranged opposition makes for some less than unconvincing performances and even worse results.

    I can't argue with the fact there is still a lot of convincing to do for Arsenal to mount a genuine challenge to rival Chelsea, but I genuinely think your assessment of Manchester United is over-stated. Yes, they've been there and done it and they will no doubt be there or thereabouts come May, but their squad looks shallow. To rely on Gabriel Obertan and Federico Macheda to dig you out of hole...you must be clutching at straws. I know he did it against Aston Villa on Saturday, and I'm aware it's the 'never say die' attitude that sees them through so often, but they can't rely on late shows to salvage them points every week. They're a fading force and I think they will finish third or fourth this season.

    One final point @ thismaytakeawhile... I love a deluded Spurs fan. Cudicini and Pletikosa world-class stoppers? Please. We may not have it so rosy between the sticks over at the Emirates, but we won't be taking anything you say seriously until Tottenham are seven points ahead of Arsenal in the table.

 

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