With just three games gone, writing off the Premier League is a mad concept. Arsene Wenger is not doing it, so what is needed to end a title drought?
Any club can win the Premier League. After what Leicester City did, it is always correct to say this. Chelsea’s victory last season was unexpected too, with the Blues coming from a disappointing previous season and Antonio Conte being new to English football. They weren’t favourites, to say the least. So hearing Arsene Wenger claim that Arsenal can still win this season’s Premier League is less crazy than it sounds.
The Gunners started the campaign with the victory in the Community Shield over Conte’s men, then grabbed an emphatic win over Leicester City in the opening game of the season, before ‘doing an Arsenal’ – losing 1-0 away – at Stoke and crumbling at Anfield against Liverpool (4-0 to the Reds). To believe in the title after such a start is difficult, to say the least.
Arsenal haven’t won the Premier League title since their best season ever. The Invincibles under Wenger went a whole season unbeaten in the Premier League, to lift the trophy in 2004. The likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires were at their best. The North London club haven’t won it since, and to be honest they haven’t even gone close.
Only Liverpool fans – out of the traditionally big English clubs – have been waiting for longer. Arsenal are in a bleak tunnel that doesn’t seem have an end. Every season there are moments of great football against relatively small clubs, only to crumble when it matters. Players don’t feel the pressure of playing for a big side like Manchester United, Wenger is unable to refresh his football philosophy, and Arsenal are never really a threat.
Many say, if Wenger didn’t win the 2016 title when all other big sides failed to deliver, then when can he win it? But the French manager promised a new era this summer, after being just a step away from leaving, but then renewing his contract for another two seasons. Alexandre Lacazette is the centre forward Arsenal needed, but the whole team needs to step up in mentality.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) September 8, 2017
Something was needed in the middle, something Arsenal have looked for since Vieira left. But Wenger was unable to buy that kind of player again. Granit Xhaka looked like he could be the one, but didn’t demonstrate it last season: could he recover this year?
If Arsenal can start delivering their best football every single week, then at least fighting for a top-four finish can become a concrete objective again, after missing out on Champions League football last season.
A step-up in winning mentality is needed. Understanding humility needed, fighting every week, putting the result ahead of useless aesthetics. These are all points Wenger needs to work on to develop a squad able to actually win the the Premier League. And then, of course, being on a par with the big sides.
Last season Arsenal were unable to ever worry any of the top six, bar beating Chelsea in the first game, before Conte understood what was needed, corrected his mistakes and marched on to win the league.
If all these things come together at the same time, then Arsenal can believe in winning the title again. It won’t be an Invincibles season, but already jumping out of mediocrity could be a big step. And from there, Arsene’s “we can still win the title” will sound a little less crazy.