Arsenal looked scared of losing rather than taking the game to a poor Manchester United side at the Emirates and the dropped points may prove costly.
Arsene Wenger believed it was nerves. The fans inside the Emirates Stadium, which threatened to turn into a cauldron upon the final whistle, believed it was the lack of a bona fide world class striker added in January that is contributing to what seems an inevitable Arsenal slump as the spring approaches.
Wenger will undoubtedly point to Arsenal's last two late-season surges as evidence to the contrary but the Gunners certainly have previous when it comes to imploding as the season nears its climax.
And on last night's evidence, there was little to suggest it will not happen once more. Arsenal toiled against a United side visibly there for the taking last night and on current form do not look like champions.
With that said, Chelsea are hardly in imperious form while Manchester City's clash with Sunderland was postponed due to the storm that engulfed the north west of the country.
Liverpool's surge looks ominous given their wealth of match winners and, while Arsenal's defensive quality is admirable, their form in the final third has taken a hit at the same time. Not because of their renewed confidence at the back, but due to a combination of injuries, burnout to Olivier Giroud and loss of form from the likes of Mesut Özil.
In fairness to the German, he looked up to the task yesterday evening but simply could not orchestrate the type of opening required to break United down, something Wenger attributed to a nervousness about his side.
Would-be champions do not do nervousness. Look at the list of former Premier League champions and show me players who approached a match with such a mind-frame.
Patrick Vieira, in helping to secure two Premier League titles for this team, showed no signs of nervousness in his commanding midfield performances during that time while the likes of Tony Adams, Sol Campbell, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp would equally scoff at such a word and its association with a side battling it out for a title.
Last night was Arsenal's opportunity to lay down a marker and they quite simply blew it. Their record against the bigger clubs in the Premier League is well-documented and they came up short once more but this time, it was arguable they were not facing a big club - at least in the context of this campaign - given the woes of David Moyes and his United outfit.
The idea of nerves invading the Arsenal players smacks of excusing the issue his side were not able to bounce back from humiliation at Liverpool on Saturday in the desired fashion.
The Gunners consolidated similarly after their thrashing at Manchester City before Christmas with a 0-0 draw immediately after against Chelsea but the same reasoning has been fed out by an increasingly weary Wenger in back-to-back games now, with the Liverpool debacle also supposedly the result of nervousness amongst his players.
It shouldn't and doesn't sit well with Gunners fans who need to see more from players that need to stand up and be counted rather than be able to fall back on Wenger's bed of excuses.
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