Two points from the last possible nine is far from good enough. The doubts about Arsenal’s credentials in the title race have now been confirmed following a sobering loss away to Chelsea and what felt like a disastrous draw at home to Swansea.
The character shown by Arsenal’s players in the second half against Manchester City was a mixture of frustrating and encouraging. It begged the question why Arsenal aren’t able to play in that way in every game, or at least every big game. They were similarly assured of their ability in the opening phases of the home game against Bayern Munich, but completely failed to turn up in other high-profile matches this season.
Manchester City could have been another disaster. Going into the game, very few would have predicted anything other than all three points going to Manuel Pellegrini’s side. But that a weakened Arsenal side were able to get back into the game and earn a point, rather than find it through fortune, will set them up well for the coming games.
It depends where the priorities lie. Arsenal fans have been told many times over the years that Champions League qualification supersedes the two domestic cup competitions. Though at present, Arsenal’s opportunity to end the trophy drought will leave most focused on the possible next two games at Wembley.
Instead of looking at what’s ahead of them, Arsenal will be looking over their shoulder at Everton, who continue to close the gap between fifth and fourth. Arsenal aren’t quite out of the woods yet, with a trip to Goodison Park this weekend likely to be decisive in the race for Champions League football. But what the result against Manchester City has shown is that hope shouldn’t be lost that Arsenal can finish the season on an extremely high note.
You’d have to wonder how instrumental Wenger was in his half-time address to his players on Saturday evening. If he changed the nature of his team talk, why was it different to what was said at Stamford Bridge and Anfield? If nothing changed, then why are the players selective in when they’ll respond to the manager’s instructions? Those questions stem off from the bigger question of Wenger’s future.
Nevertheless, Arsenal are not as ill-resourced as they initially appeared to be. There are goal scorers, with Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski chipping in against Swansea, and there is pace, not in abundance, but options are available.
Use the momentum gained from the point against City – which looks far more useful than that which was gained against Manchester United – and maintain the distance held between fourth and fifth. After Everton, Arsenal do have a relatively easy run of games until the end of the season. If Wenger has his team in the right frame of mind, replicating that which saw them head to the top of the table in the first half of the season, each of the remaining league games are winnable.
In comparison, Everton still have to entertain United and City, as well as travelling away to Southampton.
Arsenal’s point against City will do much more for the mentality of the squad than a win against Swansea would have. It allows the players to know they can perform on the big occasion, and whichever way you cut it, a draw, home or away, against one of the title contenders is far, far better than a 6-0 drumming and complete humiliation.
It wasn’t a big spark, but it is more than enough to light a fire. Based on the way things work out for Arsenal in their remaining seven, possibly eight, games, the result against Manchester City could prove to be this season’s Bayern Munich away.