This weekend it was Michael Owen, last week it was Gary Lineker, last month it was George Graham and this week even Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has dismissed his side as title winners but is the boss bluffing and are the naysayers doing Arsenal a favour?
I often feel a bit sorry for Arsenal fans when I watch Match of the Day or Sky Sports and listen to pundits and commentators dismiss them and disregard them in terms of the Premier League title.
To be fair, it has been a decade since the Gunners won the league and eight years since they won a trophy at all but, up until recently, they’ve been there are there abouts ever since the arrival of Arsene Wenger in 1996.
Former England and Liverpool striker Michael Owen and Match of the Day's Mr Charisma asserted his belief that Arsenal don’t even look like a ‘top-four side’ this season, despite the fact they have a two-point lead at the top of the table so far this term and have never fallen out of the top four since Wenger arrived.
Meanwhile, when Gary Lineker recently discussed his thoughts on who would win the title, he paid lip service to 12th place Manchester United, 6th place Manchester City and 4th place Chelsea but didn’t really even mention Arsenal as possible contenders this term.
Over the summer, prior to the signing of Mesut Ozil, all and sundry were dismissing them entirely and, with reference to the Luis Suarez transfer saga, claiming they weren’t a club of top stature or a club of that quality to challenge for titles whatsoever.
Ozil’s signing boosted the whole club, the fans and, clearly, the players who play for the manager week in week out and, whatever it is they’re smoking over there at the Emirates, it’s a winning formulae that’s working.
Wenger himself has played down talk of winning the title this week, despite his side’s five wins on the trot in the league, taking 15 points from 18 games so far, and asserting his belief that, whilst Arsenal will be in the race, it is ‘absolutely ridiculous’ to call it so early on.
He’s right, it is early days, but if Arsenal can keep their cool until Christmas perhaps, I would expect the naysayers to slowly begin to watch those pigs flying past the window with their mouths agape and their words firmly deposited into their gobs for them to have a little chew on.
On the one hand, by dismissing Arsenal altogether the ‘naysayers’ do the Gunners and their manager a disservice but, on the other hand, they take the pressure and expectation off them – the kind of pressure that is at the root of the failures and inconsistencies we currently see in Manchester and across town at Stamford Bridge. The spotlight is firmly fixed on the genuine ‘title challengers’ this term but, meanwhile, it’s Arsenal who are shining.
images: © zongo