Well at least they delayed the traditional February collapse until March this time.
Knocked out of the Champions League by the imperious Bayern Munich once again, Arsenal‘s title bid has begun to seriously unravel in recent weeks. Humiliation at Stamford Bridge was followed by home draws to Swansea and Manchester City. The Gunners currently find themselves seven points adrift at the time of writing.
With City’s games in hand, Arsenal’s challenge for the title is fading fast. Although there is still time for this situation to change, most punters would not bet on the Gunners to make up this difference.
The more pressing concern could be the club’s place in the top four. Following the Gunners’ recent indifferent form, Roberto Martinez’s Everton side have closed the gap significantly and are now breathing down the necks of Arsene Wenger’s side. The upcoming clash between the two at Goodison Park could be pivotal in determining the identity of the final qualifier for the Champions League.
Despite all this talk of doom and gloom however, Arsenal’s season still has the capacity to be considered a success.
Obviously, the minimum that is expected is Champions League qualification. Having led the league for so much of the season, it would be a backward step for the Gunners to end the season out of the top four. But with Wenger’s impressive record over the last decade, one wouldn’t bet against Arsenal repeating this feat once again.
With this minimum requirement in the league, lifting the FA Cup would ultimately define this as a successful campaign for the Gunners. Although its a trophy that may have lost its appeal in recent times, it would end a dreadful barren spell for the club that extends back to 2005. This trophy-less run is a burden that has increased over time and needs to be ended sooner rather than later.
The semi-final line up for the competition shows Arsenal to be clear favourites. As long as a potential banana skin with Wigan Athletic is successfully negotiated, the Gunners should fancy their chances in the showpiece final against either Hull City or Sheffield United.
Obviously, it goes without saying that complacency needs to be avoided at all costs. Arsenal cannot really afford another embarrassment similar to that devastating Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham City. But if the Gunners perform in a professional manner and to their potential, their fans should be fairly confident that the club’s barren run will come to an end.
It is difficult to accurately predict just how big of an impact a trophy could have on Arsenal’s immediate future. The club has become the punchline to too many jokes. An FA Cup triumph would lift an unbearable weight that has been choking the manager and players for years.
While the competition may be considered small fry in comparison to the riches of the Champions League and Premier League, who knows what greater success it could lead to? Manchester City’s triumph in the competition in 2011 proved to be a springboard for the Citizens to claim the title just a year later, for the first time in forty four years. Their victory over Manchester United in the semi final en route to lifting the trophy provided the club with the confidence to usurp their dominant rivals to the crown.
This isn’t to say that FA Cup success this year will naturally lead to a Premier League triumph next year. But it is a good example of how a club that hasn’t won a trophy for some time can use success in the competition as a springboard for bigger and better things.
Combined with the fact that Arsenal now seem willing and able to spend big, the future could be brighter than many would believe right now.
The record signing of Mesut Ozil coupled with the early season promise means that there is currently an inevitable sense of disappointment surrounding the club following the recent results. The Champions League and Premier League crowns continue to elude them, but Arsenal fans shouldn’t be so despondent just yet.
The FA Cup could still make their season a success and who knows what impact that could have in the long term.