Today is February 11, but by February 15 Arsenal’s season will be over if they lose at home to Leicester City the day before and fall eight points behind the league leaders. I believe that result would be fatal because Arsenal still have to play Man Utd, Tottenham, Everton, West Ham and Man City away from home, their away form is poor and usually atrocious against teams in the PL top 10.
Barcelona will whip Arsenal in the Champions League and that will be that, Wenger will have to pray for another lucky FA Cup run against Championship or relegation-threatened sides or get more jammy home draws.
I actually think Arsenal will beat Leicester. Even though it gets them nowhere in the long run, Arsenal play better when they have to win a match, and Leicester City had a bit of a nightmare against the Gunners at the King Power Stadium in September when they got battered 5-2.
Psychology plays a big part in football and that result may prey on the Leicester players’ minds. Should Arsenal score an early goal I think Leicester will get picked off, so the first goal on Sunday will be vitally important.
Having said that all that, it's still easy to underestimate Leicester and I thought Man City would beat them last weekend. Instead, they were easily beaten – partly due to the fact Manual Pellegrini lost the plot again with his line-up.
Like Wenger, Pellegrini is tactically clueless.
Against Sunderland last week he played 4-4-2 with Yaya Toure in the middle and City lost control of a game they were very fortunate to win. A few days later, he repeated the mistake and his defence were completely exposed to Leicester’s counter-attacks. They folded under pressure, particularly the ghastly Martin Demichelis who is so old and slow that his experience counts for nothing.
Without Vincent Kompany, City’s defence is nervous and always leaking goals, which upsets the rhythm of the team. Pellegrini’s answer is to over-commit players forward, but then City lose control of key areas of the pitch and are vulnerable against anyone.
Do you know anyone who thinks Toure can play in a deep-lying midfield role? Pellegrini brought him off on 52 but never should have started him. Next season, Pep Guardiola will not make such elementary errors.
If Leicester do beat Arsenal on Sunday, the penny will drop that they can actually win the title. At the moment, they’re playing without pressure and keeping a lid on everything – but if they beat Arsenal they will have to admit they are not only contenders but favourites to win the Premier League. That’s when the pressure starts to build and legs might start to buckle in front of goal.
Alan Shearer spoke of how when Blackburn Rovers shocked everyone and won the title in 1995, they collapsed in the last six games. At the finale, the title was there for Man Utd to take, but they failed to beat West Ham on the final day and Blackburn won the league despite losing 2-1 to Liverpool.
Media nitwit Piers Morgan speaks a lot of sense in relation to Arsenal, but claiming that Stan Kroenke’s $725m acquisition of a ranch in Texas impacted Arsenal’s transfer budget was daft. I’m no big fan of Kroenke, but I’ve yet to see a shred of evidence that he has not supported Wenger fully in the transfer market.
Let’s not forget that Arsenal made a £65m net loss on players last season. The reason Kroenke does not splash the cash is because Wenger refuses to touch his budget. And the reason Wenger refuses to touch his budget is because he knows his job is safe for as long as he keeps Arsenal in the Champions League and profitable.
Wenger does not put Arsenal first, he puts himself first. Unlike every other manager in the world, his lifestyle means more to him than the football club he manages. Winning is more of a by-product of his job than an objective he will ever risk his job for.
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