The Gunners have earned a reputation over the last decade of bottling it against the big teams in the Premier League but this season.
After leading the league for long periods this season, Arsenal lost their place in pole position after disastrous demolition jobs against Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
Arsenal have lost six games this season but the manner in which three of those defeats especially have occurred has brought back the doubters who remain convinced Arsene Wenger’s side cannot compete with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City for the title.
But hold up, Arsenal have lost just three games against teams in the top six this term, four against teams in the top seven (Manchester United) and they’ve played each of them twice if you include the FA Cup tie with Everton.
Arsenal lost 1-0 to Manchester United at Old Trafford in November, lost 6-3 to Manchester City at the Etihad in December, lost 5-1 to Liverpool at Anfield in February and lost 6-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in March with all the other results against the top seven teams draws or wins – is anyone noticing a pattern here?
There is one thing those defeats all have in common – they were all away games.
Conversely, Arsenal beat Tottenham 1-0 at home in September (and away at White Hart Lane in March), they beat Liverpool 2-0 at home in November, drew with Everton 1-1 in December, drew 0-0 with Chelsea at home in December, drew 0-0 with United at home in February, and drew 1-1 with City at home last weekend.
In fact, in the FA Cup they have beaten Everton 4-1, Liverpool 2-1 and Tottenham 2-0 at the Emirates.
Arsenal simply do not have a problem with beating or at least matching the top teams in England, they have a problem playing away from home against the very best.
In fact, the Gunners have lost just one at the Emirates this season and that was on the opening day against Aston Villa. They have lost five times that many games away from home.
Those who assert with such certainty that Arsenal cannot compete with Manchester City and Chelsea or Liverpool or last season Manchester United reveal only their own ignorance of the Premier League – Arsenal are unbeaten at home since August 17th 2013 in the Premier League. That’s a longer unbeaten home run than Manchester City and Liverpool.
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s away record isn’t as shabby as you’d think either – Arsenal have lost the same number of games away from home as Chelsea have this term which is just one more away defeat than both Liverpool and Manchester City and, furthermore, Arsenal won more games away than any other team in the top four and drawn two fewer than their rivals to boot. It's just been against their rivals they have struggled.
Next time anyone tries to tell you Arsenal can’t compete when it comes to the big games, or the Gunners just don’t have what it takes to win the league, or they always get exposed at the top level – whether that person is in the pub, in the supermarket, on the telly or in the papers, refer them to the league table and the list of results this year.
Arsenal have been beaten (away from home) by a massive score line on three occasions this term but they’ve kept five clean sheets against the top seven teams which is so far a 45% record of clean sheets against the top teams, as well as being unbeaten in 63% of their games against those teams so far.
They have lost only 27% of those ‘big games’ by a margin more than one goal. At home, they have an unbeaten record against the top seven.
Arsenal are certainly capable of matching and beating the big teams in the big games, so long as they play them at home, apparently.
More than anything, their results this term prove they have not a problem with their squad depth or quality or their tactics in big games but a psychological problem on the road when it comes to facing their rivals.