Arsenal are top of the Premier League – does it really matter how they got there?
There are 20 teams in the Premier League. If the basis of an argument against a title challenger is that their wins against the lesser teams in the league are worthless, then why not put into motion the concept of a European Super League and rid ourselves of such banal discussion?
It seems Arsenal can do no right. Yet they’ve fared better than the other “heavyweights” in the title race who have tripped up multiple times by teams well below their class.
Arsenal were said to be just about where they deserved to be over the past three or four seasons: the club’s spend and quality of player placed them round about fourth in the Premier League, third at best. Now that they’ve invested heavily in a star name and have the base for a consistent title threat – albeit with one or two short – isn’t top of the league, or at least serious title contender, about right?
Manchester City and Chelsea, conversely, have fallen against the smaller teams in the league. Had it not been for a mistake by the officials – another one – Chelsea would have lost at home this season to West Brom. Manchester City, imperious at home with a record branded as something for the entire league to show off against the powers of Europe, were incapable of holding their lead against Cardiff City – a team, recently promoted side from the Championship, whose future is arguably uncertain with Vincent Tan as owner.
Instead of questioning Arsenal’s credentials, or lack thereof apparently, shouldn’t we be hammering Chelsea and Manchester City for falling behind a team who, without logic, are incapable of winning the Premier League?
Liverpool’s situation in comparison to Arsenal is strange. Both teams share similarities, both taking a huge leap from where they were last season, but also a case could be made that they are indeed quite dissimilar.
It’s not entirely correct to say it’s a criticism of Liverpool; rather they’ve benefited from a lack of midweek fixtures, enabling them, for much of the first half of the season, to keep key players fresh for weekend Premier League games. Brendan Rodgers’ handling of certain spiky situations has been first class, and his faith in Daniel Sturridge has been greatly rewarded.
But Liverpool are still in a building phase. The squad is short of quality in certain areas, notably with a need for more goals beyond just the two primary forwards. Arsenal, arguably, are not the complete package yet either, but they’re further along the road than Liverpool. Arsenal are short by one or two; in Liverpool’s case, it wasn’t too long ago that Brendan Rodgers bemoaned the lack of depth following a loss at Hull. That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be in the mix as contenders and at the very least one of the favourites to finish in the top four.
But the larger point is that teams shouldn’t be questioned how they got to where they are now. Why boast of the strongest or most competitive league in Europe – of which there is great irony because many seem to loathe the idea of a different title winner in Arsenal – when the next minute small teams count for very little when beaten by a title contender? If we’re going to put so much emphasis on the worthlessness of points picked up from, say, Cardiff, who Arsenal beat with late goals on New Year’s Day, then why not make it two points from a win from those teams and three for just the top four or five in the league? A ridiculous idea, right?
Arsenal are top of the Premier League at present. It’s January. Questions about their legitimacy could have been asked in October, as they were, but surely it’s now time to throw them out the window. Yes, Arsenal may not finish first because of the unpredictability of this season, but they are currently leading the race. There should be absolutely no doubt that they are firm title challengers.