Premier League: Arsenal still value to make top three, even as their beguiling character frustrates

Alexis Sanchez has been Arsenal's stand out performer this season
Alexis Sanchez has been Arsenal's stand out performer this season

Andy Brassell feels Arsenal fans' pain and frustration, but he still thinks that with players returning from injury they're a good bet to beat Manchester United after the international break and eventually make the top three...

"The season is by no means lost, despite Arsenal now having led and then gone on to draw or lose in six matches in the campaign to date. They remain 1.9110/11 to finish in the top three, and with good reason."


It is impossible to deny that it has been a pretty poor week for Arsenal. Leads have been frittered away against Anderlecht and Swansea, and the slips could have consequences in both situations. The failure to close out a draw at Napoli at the end of last season's Champions League campaign, certainly, was something that shaped Arsenal's future (or lack thereof) in the competition when it came to the subsequent difficulty of draw incumbent with losing group top spot.

Yet it is the Swansea result that is the main source of handwringing for the faithful. Had Arsenal held onto the lead given to them by Alexis Sanchez at the Liberty Stadium, one senses that the carelessness displayed against Anderlecht five days before would have been half-forgotten as an irritant, rather than capitalised as the symptom of a deeper malaise.

Yet they didn't, and it hasn't been. The enduring brilliance of Alexis through these pratfalls has only served to highlight the shortcomings in other areas of the side. Nevertheless, some perspective is required. 

The oft-quoted statistic when Arsenal are going through a rough patch is the distance between Arsène Wenger's side and top spot. While an inability to genuinely compete for the title might be a sense of immense frustration for their supporters, it's not really a calculation that means anything in the real world. Did anybody really expect a title shot?

What is far more relevant than the 12 points between Arsenal and Chelsea - who are already quite clearly the division's best side - is the one point by which the Gunners trail fourth-placed West Ham, and the four points less which they have compared to champions Manchester City, the current occupants of third spot. 

The season is by no means lost, despite Arsenal now having led and then gone on to draw or lose in six matches in the campaign to date. They remain 1.9110/11 to finish in the top three, and with good reason.

City's own struggles underline the fact that outside Chelsea, places in the top four really are up for grabs this season. Arsenal's problems are clear. Even given their patched-up defence, a lack of protection is perhaps a greater concern (as it has been for a while), with Mathieu Flamini lacking the requisite discipline to shield them at Swansea.

Yet midfield and attack will be reinforced to counterbalance that very soon. Olivier Giroud is set to return, and Theo Walcott is close to a first start of the season. Returning to the backline, Laurent Koscielny will soon be able to help Per Mertesacker recover his best.  

Besides backing Arsenal to finish in the top three, you might consider they're even better value to beat Manchester United at the Emirates when the Premier League resumes on November 22nd, at 2.3211/8. United are yet to win away in five attempts and despite the perception of Louis van Gaal's side as some crazy, Keegan-esque rollercoaster of a team, they have scored just six times in those five games (three of which were in defeat at Leicester). The Gunners have the quality to pick apart their ramshackle rearguard.

Arsenal may be flawed, but their routine over the seasons is like clockwork. Back them to show us the beguiling side of their character - which kids us that they're capable of better than they actually are - sooner rather than later.  

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