Can Arsenal Maintain Title Challenge?
At the start of the season, few were predicting that Arsenal would be genuine Title contenders this season but they lead the race going into the crucial December fixtures. A stunning 3-1 home defeat against Aston Villa on the opening day of the season appeared to confirm the view of the sceptics but The Gunners have hardly looked back since.
Their only subsequent League defeat came at Old Trafford in a game decided by a goal from former Arsenal legend Robin van Persie. A clinical 2-0 victory over high-flying Southampton ensured that Arsenal remain four points clear of Liverpool and Chelsea at the top of the Premiership.
Following games against Cardiff and Hull, Arsene Wenger’s side play Everton (home), Manchester City (away) and Chelsea (home) in a tricky run up to Christmas. The return to the squad of Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski has given Wenger greater options as he also bids to maintain a Champions League challenge.
Do the Gunners Need More Fire Power?
Much of the attention has been on striker Olivier Giroud with Arsenal having failed to fill the void left by their skipper since his transfer to United. The Frenchman has been leading the attack manfully this season but there is no doubt that he has been less effective without the pace of Walcott.
Many pundits felt that Wenger’s vain pursuit of Luis Suarez in the summer and failed attempts to lure Gonzalo Higuain and Demba Ba to the Emirates had left his side woefully short of attacking options. The sparkling form of midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshire along with that of record signing Mesut Ozil have so far compensated for any perceived weakness in attack, but can they sustain a title bid without buying a new striker?
Chelsea’s failure in the Premiership in recent seasons has, at least in part, been due to the lack of goals from Fernando Torres and a shuffling of strikers. Arguably, the Blues may still fall short this season for the same reason. Wenger is reportedly undecided about whether he really needs to bring in a new striker in the January transfer window but the December fixture list may force his hand.
Arsenal: A Close 2nd According to Bookmakers
The site of Thierry Henry training at Arsenal’s Hertfordshire base has sparked rumours of an imminent return for the 36-year-old but Wenger has quickly ended speculation. The Manager confirmed that both Henry and Robert Pires (40) are simply using the facilities to maintain their fitness and will always be welcome at the club.
Arsenal are now second favourites with all the main bookmakers (William Hill, Ladbrokes, Bet365) behind Manchester City whilst reigning champions Manchester United have been pushed out to around 8/1 (odds from Betfred). It remains to be seen whether or not they have the fire power to go the distance.