Arsenal could’ve hit top 4 already

OPINION: When will the slavish superfans of Mikel Arteta see that he has no answer to the top-three teams?

Thursday, 17th March — By Richard Osley

EMIRATES

IT gets a little patronising after a while, being told that “Arsenal are really flying” or “something’s happening at the Emirates”.

Then you look at the table and see that the Gunners are actually just shy of 20 points behind the league leaders.

That’s not flying, that’s padding around with all the other clueless clubs toiling to try and make the top four.

Despite the same thing happening every year, fans – and pundits – are still surprised by the same course of events.

So, let me explain it one more time:

When a team plays opponents that it is generally better than, it normally wins.

When a team plays a side that it is generally inferior to, it normally loses.

There are the odd shock results, some draws but – sorry to be boring – basically that’s how it works.

Now take Arsenal, who are apparently reborn and brilliant in 2022.

What has actually happened is that they have beaten the teams they are generally better than and lost to the teams that they are generally inferior to.

It’s just that if you have a run of matches against the teams you are generally better than – à la the last few weeks – several games in a row will be won and suddenly the team will look like they are championship contenders.

Then comes Liverpool, a side that Arsenal are generally inferior to – and, bosh, there you have it: the penny-drop moment, the smell of coffee, QED.

When will the slavish superfans of Mikel Arteta see that he has no answer to the top-three teams and that everybody below that trio just simply isn’t very good.

Arsenal are swimming in the same lukewarm pool as Spurs and Manchester United – capable of looking great against anybody who is around 16th in the league but nearly always brittle against clubs who might even only pack a moderate punch.

With different decisions at the top, Arsenal could have already booked a front-four finish.

A more astute manager would have found a way to beat Burnley at the Emirates, and not struggled to score more than one at home to Norwich, Watford and others.

A more experienced manager would have been able to deal with ego – yes it’s unpalatable but when you have a superstar like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang you calm him down rather than send him away; it’s still amazing that somebody can be good enough for Barca, but not good enough for Arsenal.

A more thoughtful manager would find a way to beat at least one of the big boys this season; it’s a task he may have to tick off if he really wants to get to the Champions League.

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