Monday, 16 December 2013

Can Arsenal win the League?


I could leave it there, but that hardly seems worth it.

Arsenal can win the Premier League.  Will they?  Well, that remains to be seen - but I don't understand why everyone's been so quick to write them off.

Arsenal suffered a big defeat at the weekend, when they lost 6-3 away to Manchester City on Saturday.  I'm not denying that this is a setback for them, but is that really the big, season-defining moment people seem to think?  I'm not convinced it is.

For a start, Manchester City have been famously impervious on their home ground this season - Arsenal are not the first team to be given a serious hiding at the Etihad Statium, and they certainly won't be the last.  In the end, was it a huge surprise that Manchester City won at home?  No.

But most importantly of all, this was just one game, in a whole season of Premier League football.  In my opinion, so-called 'big games' between so-called 'big teams' are always over-hyped and are never all they're cracked up to be.  Remember that the same number of points are on offer no matter who you're playing; what makes winning this match any more urgent than winning any other game - especially at this point in the season?

Sure, being the first team to beat Manchester City on their home turf would certainly have sent out a strong message, and that would've been a big boost to morale as well - but to suggest that losing this match means Arsenal's title challenge is already over is surely nonsense!

Premier League titles aren't won just because you beat your closest rival (or lost because they beat you); ultimately, it is consistency which shows through, over the course of a full season.  With thirty-eight games to play, it is highly likely that even the strongest teams will probably lose one or two - the team who comes out on top at the end of the year will be the team who's dropped the fewest points overall in that period.  It doesn't matter against whom you get those points - just that you have more than anyone else.

At the moment, Arsenal are the most consistent team in the Premier League; in sixteen League matches so far, Arsenal have lost just three times.  As I said before, it was unsurprising (even expected, perhaps) that Arsenal lost to Manchester City when they travelled to the Etihad - but for me, that doesn't automatically make City the favourites for the title.  The Manchester club may have an impressive unbeaten home record in the League this season - but, unlike Arsenal, they have been shaky on the road, and they have dropped points to several teams lower down the table (losing to Sunderland, Cardiff and Aston Villa, for example, as well as drawing eminently winnable games against Southampton and Stoke).

It may yet prove that Arsenal will falter, all the critics and pundits will proved right and Man. City (or Chelsea?!) will win the Premier League this year.  People might point to this game (or Arsenal's match with Chelsea next week, depending on how that goes for them) as a turning point in the season.  But in the end, winning one game (any game, against anyone) does not win you the League - winning lots of them does.  If Arsenal can carry on doing that, I think they'll be OK.

And, for the record, I hope they do!  Since it now seems unlikely that Norwich City will be Champions come May, I am backing Arsenal to win the Premier League this season - if only to confound and frustrate everyone who seems so completely sure that they can't possibly win it.  They can.

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