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    Can Arsenal Last the Pace in the Premier League?

    It's become a running joke amongst English football fans, the inevitable Arsenal crumble when the pressure ramps up in February and March. Even after signing super stars such as Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez the process is repeated, almost like a footballing equivalent of the seasons inevitable change, so Arsenal suffer from a sudden loss of form and confidence. Is this due to the players or will Arsenal ever get over this under legendary manager Arsene Wenger?

    Going into December Arsenal are already on the outside looking in, three points behind league leaders Chelsea despite a dominant 3-0 win against their London rivals. After vying with Pep's Manchester City for the early portion of the season, a tough November has seen them slip slightly off the pace of their rivals. Two successive draws against their biggest rivals Tottenham and Manchester United yielded relief to get points after lacklustre performances, but have allowed Chelsea, Liverpool and City to usurp them. 

    Granit Xhaka has struggled to show his talents so far in the Premier League, but his signing is another clear statement from Wenger that Arsenal are genuine title contenders. Photo copyright Catherine Ivill/ AMA/Getty Images


    In the past year Wenger has finally woken up to the needs for further quality in the overall squad depth, with a need for further defensive reinforcements a priority. In the January window he signed talented young defensive midfielder Mohamed Elneny from FC Basel, whereas in the summer he further strengthened the position with the signing of Granit Xhaka, a player who has struggled to adapt to the Premier League but is known equally for being able to break up play along with being able to pick out passes. 

    It wasn't just defensive midfield he addressed this Summer, with a glaring need at centre back filled with Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi and young Bolton defender Rob Holding, both of whom appear to be the future of the position for Arsenal based on their early season performances. So will this be enough for the big games? 

    Who can forget the ultimate humiliation of the 8-2 loss to bitter rivals Manchester United in 2011, in the past few seasons Arsenal have finally turned a corner against the top sides. Photo copyright AFP/Getty Images.

    For a long time Arsenal were known for struggling to beat the big sides, indeed in the five seasons prior to the 2014/15 season Arsenal had won only seven games out of thirty against the top four, with nineteen losses. In the past two and a bit season there seems to been a resurgence however. Beating Manchester City both home and away over the past two seasons has given hope, along with dominant victories against Manchester United and Chelsea also helping to cement a growing confidence around the club that they can compete with anyone in the league. 

    Despite a growing points total against the top sides, this hard work has been hampered but struggles against smaller teams. Last season for example, in January the team won one game out of four, drawing against Liverpool, Stoke and losing to Chelsea. Successive draws in April against West Ham and Crystal Palace proved the final nail in the coffin of any title challenge. Draws against Tottenham and Manchester United are unlikely to derail any title challenge, but the club needed to recover quickly, a 3-1 win against Bournemouth proving the perfect tonic even if they did ride their luck at times. 

    Theo Walcott celebrating a vital second goal for Arsenal against Bournemouth by dedicating it to his new born baby. Photo copyright Clive Rose/Getty Images.

    Everything is going roughly to plan at the moment for the club, but it will be in the slog of the Christmas and New Year period when Arsenal fans will finally know if their team has turned a corner in terms of the resilience to mount a sustained challenge for the league. In particular two away games in five days against Everton and Manchester City in two weeks time will prove a stern test of their credentials. 

    Football is so unpredictable that anything could happen between now and May, just look at last season as a perfect example. Arsenal fans have been encouraged by the recent upturn in the club's form after the frustrating years after the stadium move, but being so close for so long without winning the league has previously led some sections of the fan base to call for Wenger to leave. This season is arguably the strongest squad Wenger has had for a long time, but they need to perform consistently well all season to win the league against such strong opposition. 

    The club is in a great place right now, still in the hunt for the league, they simply need to raise their game against their title rivals and they will be in the pound seats. That's what makes champions. Some question whether Wenger still has the tactical acumen to win major trophies, and doing it this season would prove all the doubters wrong once and for all. At this stage of the season it's in his and the squads hands, can they finally do it? Only time will tell. 

    By Jordan Wilkins 
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