Arsenal were once undeniably one of the top two powerhouses of English football alongside Manchester United. Arsene Wenger battled Sir Alex Ferguson for the Premier League crown and has won it on three separate occasions. He even led the first ever Invicible side to the title leading people to hail him and a team which seemed unstoppable… however his last Premier League title came in the 2003/04 season – over a decade ago!
What’s happened since then? Why haven’t Arsenal sustained their success? The first reason has to be the mentality of the side. They have a losing mentality. Take the game against Chelsea which they lost 1-0. On paper, Chelsea were 14th, struggling in the bottom half whilst high-flying Arsenal were 2nd with an opportunity to go top by taking the three points. Usually, a 2nd vs 14th is a no brainer with the former expected to walkover the latter.
However, despite having numerous clear-cut chances, Arsenal seemed to be afraid of Chelsea and as a result paid the price when Diego Costa struck from an Ivanovic whip. Furthermore, this idea of a negative, losing mentality is reinforced by the manner in which Mertesacker got sent off. As Costa broke through the Arsenal lines, Mertesacker should have been entirely focused on stopping the Spaniard and stealing the ball off of him. Instead of doing what a committed Captain would do and leading by example, he was preoccupied by watching the linesman in the faint hope that Costa was offside. The decision to not concentrate on the Chelsea striker was costly and effectively won Chelsea the game.
However, this negative approach to games isn’t simply existent in the team – it is also reflected within the fan base who haven’t seen their team win the Premier League for over a decade. On ArsenalFanTV, the Youtube channel which represents Arsenal fans, super-fan Claude stated that Arsenal didn’t “have the mentality to win the league.” The North London club are only 3 points off the top spot even after suffering the ignominy of yet another loss to Chelsea. Nevertheless, the obvious lack of faith from a dedicated fan such as Claude proves that Arsenal do not seem to have the grit and determination to win the title. This losing mentality isn’t created out of nothing – there must be a fundamental reason why the fans and the team don’t seem to have it in them that they believe they can win the league. Whether it be the barren run of Premier League titles or simply because they respect their rivals too much – this losing mentality could potentially cost them the Premier League.
Another reason why Arsenal could fail to win the Premier League is that they lack depth in their squad. Francis Coquelin has been one of the cornerstones to Arsenal’s success in the league this season however when he got injured in late November, it was plain to see that Arsenal were struggling to cope. They have only won 50% of their last 10 league games with the most recent being the 1-0 loss to Chelsea stretching back to a 1-1 draw to Norwich on the 29th November 2015. In the 10 games before the stalemate to Norwich, Arsenal had won 7 of their last 10 games which was impressive when considering the patchy form of all 20 Premier League teams in this extremely confusing season. This shows that whilst Coquelin has been fit, Arsenal play considerably better with added steel reinforcing the centre of the pitch.
It also proves that Arsenal rely too much on a core group of players meaning that if one of them become injured, it substantially hinders the team’s form and style in which they play. When Sanchez gets injured, Wenger’s side have noticeably less fight and grit within them and if Özil is taken out of the equation then Arsenal will create a lot less chances meaning Giroud will not have a hope of scoring against the opposition – we all know that if you don’t score you cannot win.
Finally, Arsenal cannot possibly hope to win the title due to tactical mishaps from Wenger which have repeatedly cost the North London club in the past. We saw a prime example in the Chelsea game, subbing off Olivier Giroud – their main goal threat – for Gabriel in order to instil some solidity at the back after Mertesacker’s red card left them in the lurch. This meant that after Costa scored, it allowed the English Champions to sit back and defend knowing that Arsenal hadn’t got anyone on the pitch capable of striking against them. Mathieu Flamini wasted a chance that Giroud would have gobbled up and finished it without batting an eyelid. It was only when Sanchez came on that Arsenal began to look threatening again albeit at too late a point in the game to recover.
Other tactical failures have led to embarrassing defeats for Wenger and Arsenal which only crush the morale and spirit of the side and its fans. The 8-2 loss to Manchester United is forever etched into their minds, whilst accompanied by humiliating defeats at the hands of Liverpool, 5-1 (with 4 scored in 20 minutes) and to Chelsea, 6-0, ironically in Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of Arsenal. How befitting.
Perhaps this is what has contributed to the losing mentality of the club and its continual failure to recapture the form of its glory days, a whole decade ago. These reasons are why Arsenal will shoot themselves in the foot again this season and most likely fail to win the Premier League… and they will never ever get a better chance.