Arsenal - genuine title contenders - or just pretenders ?

Arsenal have failed to win any of their last four games in all competitions. Are they buckling under the pressure ? Is the squad big enough to cope with life at the top ?

Of course, we've seen it a few times before - when Arsenal self-destruct and kiss goodbye to the season in the space of a few short weeks (or sometimes days).

Like that time Arsene Wenger's side lost the Carling Cup final to Birmingham and then dropped out of the title race thereafter. Or last season, when Arsenal lost to Blackburn in the FA Cup before also being knocked out of the Champions League by Bayern Munich.

Is it simply that time of the year again ?

Arsenal went into their toughest period of the campaign firing on all cylinders - they had won five of their last six games in all competitions, sweeping teams aside with considerable ease. Then things got difficult.

First, Everton visited the Emirates and scared the living daylights out of Wenger's men before leaving with a 1-1 draw - and very nearly more. A messy 2-0 European defeat to Napoli followed in the Champions League, before Manchester City tore Arsenal apart with a 6-3 win at the Etihad Stadium. The final game of the tough run came on Monday night, when Wenger's side were unable to score at home against a resilient Chelsea side and drew 0-0. In the end, most Arsenal fans were glad to have got a point.

The Gunners have certainly looked tired in recent weeks (not as much player rotation as rivals could be the reason for that), while Olivier Giroud has struggled to lead the line all by himself, having not scored in six games in all competitions now.

Tiredness is, of course, a factor. But could the problem be more mental ? After all, whenever Arsenal have come close to competing for trophies in the last few years, they seem to have shot themselves in the foot.

Whether Arsenal can compete in the title race this season remains to be seen, but Wenger will certainly need to get his team performing better against other top sides. 

Although Arsenal have lost a 7 point lead at the top of the Premier league, the north London club outfit remain joint-top and should get their campaign back on track Boxing Day when they face an out-of-sorts West Ham.

The next few games are key for Arsenal, but a few more dropped points (together with little action in the transfer window) could mean that the fans will turn once again on a manager who continues to insist that his way is the right way.

Arsenal - title contenders or just pretenders ?

image: © Matt and Kim Rudge

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