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    A Minor Concern, Or Something More For Arsenal?

    Whilst the headlines after Tuesday will have centred on the various transfer deadline day deals, for Arsenal fans it was a somewhat worse day. They watched their team put in a poor performance as they lost 2-1 to Watford, with the inevitable questions following soon after? Is this purely a one game blip in a long season or is it indicative of a loss of form for the North London club?

    Whilst it may seem dramatic to question whether Arsenal's season is about to crumble purely based on one game, there is logic behind the seeming madness of Arsenal fans. The last six league games have seen the club struggle to beat West Brom 1-0 on Boxing Day, salvage a 3-3 draw with Bournemouth on the 3rd January and of course lose 2-1 to Watford this week.

    The resilience of the team to grind out points when the team are not at their best is one of the key quality of champions, however the fans are right to feel nervous going into this weekend's huge game against runaway leaders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. If any fans were not nervous at the beginning of the week the loss on Tuesday is likely to have created some doubt in their minds.

    Watford's Younes Kaboul celebrating the opening goal on Tuesday night, with the dejected look of Mesut Ozil saying it all about this game. Photo sourced from SkySports.com.
     
    Whilst it is true that in the return fixture at the Emirates in September Arsenal were dominant as they easily brushed aside Chelsea 3-0, a lot has changed in the past four and a bit months, with the clubs heading in opposite directions. Since that game Chelsea have regrouped and produced a sensational run of form, as they produced 13 wins in a row, one away from the Premier League record held by Arsenal, as they established themselves at the top of the table. They currently sit nine points ahead of the rest and looks odds on favourites to run away with the Premier League title.

    On the other hand Arsenal have struggled to keep up the pace, which has not been helped by numerous games where they will feel they dropped points. Drawing 0-0 with Middlesbrough at home and the Bournemouth draw along with losses to Everton away when 1-0 up and Watford most recently are games that genuine Premier League champions find a way of winning. A lot of football fans hold up the example of Manchester United during the Sir Alex Ferguson era  as how to win the title, as they always managed to find a way to get the three points even when they played poorly. This tenacity and grit is not something Arsenal are associated with, likely to their cost.

    The biggest knock on Arsenal and Arsene Wenger in the last decade has been a lack of perceived backbone, with many fans and pundits in recent years questioning whether this is why the club has not won the Premier League since the 2003-04 season.  The club has primarily been known for have the flair and skilful players, however they have not been known for having tenacious players since the first generation of Wenger's squad. This included the likes of Tony Adams, Nigel Winterburn, Lee Dixon and Patrick Vieira.

    Theo Walcott celebrates scoring the second goal in an eventual 3-0 defeat for Chelsea at the hands of Arsenal. If they play like they did in this game they will have a great chance of getting points from Stamford Bridge. Photo copyright Arsnealpics.com.


    This is something it appears Wenger has tried to rectify in recent years, signing the likes of goal keeper Petr Cech along with defensive midfielders Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka in recent seasons. With a new centre back partnership of stand out Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi the squad has definitely improved in this respect, however the same questions remain after every game in which they appear to have dropped points.

    Of course there is another reason Arsenal fans will be nervous with their latest case of dropped points. It has become almost a ritual in recent seasons for the club to crumble on the pitch between January and March, something which has cost them dearly in the past. Whilst the squad improves every season the curse seems to remain and this is something that will have the fans worried. Whilst they will be hoping this is the year to break the curse, the statistical probability doesn't look good.

    The slip up against Watford could also not have come at a worse time, with the club facing several very important fixtures in the coming month. After Chelsea this weekend they have to face Bayern Munich twice in the Champions League and also have to travel to Anfield for a crucial league fixture against Liverpool. 

    For Arsenal fans they will likely feel a mix of anxiety and optimism heading into the game at Stamford Bridge. The odds are not in their favour, especially after Tuesday, however they can take optimism from their performance in the return fixture. So far that game is the only time this season Chelsea have been embarrassed and whilst it's unlikely this will be repeated, hope can be taken from that game. If the team play to their highest standard they have every chance of getting points from the game, however if they play like they did against Watford it will be a long 90 minutes for them, myself included.
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    Item Reviewed: A Minor Concern, Or Something More For Arsenal? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Jordan Wilkins
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